Mardi Gras Indian Orchestra
10 p.m. Thu.-Fri., Nov. 26-27
Hi-Ho Lounge, 2239 St. Claude Ave., 945-4446
Thanksgiving evening at the Hi-Ho Lounge won't be the typical "Pilgrims and Indians" affair, says Mardi Gras Indian Orchestra organizer John Driver.
Although there will be fried turkeys and everything else befitting a Creole Thanksgiving, the summit between tribes and travelers is the third pairing of Mardi Gras Indian singers with a large crew of local musicians, this time including Reggie Scanlon and Camile Baudoin of the Radiators, sousaphonist Kirk Joseph, cellist Helen Gillet, saxophonist Tim Green, guitarists Sam Hotchkiss of Juice and Papa Mali, drummer Kevin O'Day and many others.
"We can only do this on the high holidays," Driver says. "They can't get together except for certain times of year because of their touring schedules." Driver organized similar shows earlier this year during Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras.
The Orchestra is scheduled to perform Thursday and Friday night, and Driver will record both sessions and plans to release a CD. Mardi Gras Indians have been releasing albums since the mid-1970s. In recent years, groups like 101 Runners have incorporated Indian music in more of a club-friendly hybrid, combining Indian percussion and songs with New Orleans funk, adding electric guitars and horns. This project fills out the instrumentation.
"It has the street funk, but it's a lot more musical because it's layered with strings," Driver says, who has produced concerts locally via his company Family Fish Productions. Besides multiple guitars, he's added cello and violin. "You get the same kind of ass drop (of the street beat), but at the same time, it's a sweet amalgam of touring musicians playing Mardi Gras music."
On the streets, Indian tribes use only the instruments they can carry. Drums, tambourine and call-and-response chanting carry the songs. The Orchestra tries to conjure that raw spirit and combine it with a full band.
Trail Chief David Montana of the Yellow Pocahontas Mardi Gras Indians is one of the featured vocalists. The show is a tribute to his father Edward Montana and uncle, legendary Big Chief Allison "Tootie" Montana, both members of the Yellow Pocahontas. David learned Indian music at home and following his father's tribe in the streets. While he attends some Sunday night Indian practice sessions, he's always approached the music as a spontaneous expression.
"I do my thing," he says. "The band has to cook with me."
Other Indians scheduled to perform include Monk Boudreaux of the Golden Eagles, his brother Eric "Yeti" Boudreaux, Big Chief Roddy Lewis of the Black Eagles and Juan Pardo, Trail Chief of the Golden Comanches and also a vocalist with 101 Runners.
"When you're doing it on stage as a performance, it's for the audience," Pardo says. "In the street, there's the tribe. (Singing) comes more from the spirit of it. It's to send your tribe into battle. I'm trying to get my tribe to be willing to walk through fire."