Mardi Gras Time Down at the Big Amoeba!
Yes it’s the olde tyme holiday of Mardi Gras once again, a pagan carnivale of fun & frolic where you get all the good times out of your system before you gotta fast for Lent. They celebrate it all over the world but mostly in New Orleans, with their famous parades and parties, and every year Amoeba declares our kinship with that great city by celebrating it here in the store! This year Shrove Tuesday fell early in February, but despite the chilly weather we did it up right, with decorations, floats, masks, horns, beads, and the biggest, craziest parade this side of the Mississippi!
The decorations started creeping out a week before… soon everywhere you looked there was purple, gold and green streamers and the anticipation was getting hot! Many of our customers did ask, “is there some kind of holiday?” We tried to explain. But really there’s no way to explain… you just gotta be there.
The night before we had a little pre-party with our Vampire Weekend in-store… we had a mega-capacity crowd for this much-hyped young Brooklyn band, and everyone had a blast. Meanwhile the krewe was out in the loading dock working on the floats for the big parade…
Tuesday morning we broke out the beads and the costumes, and put some Mardi Gras mambo on the stereo. The parade was hours away but the mood was good. It was Super Tuesday in more ways than one… Democrats had much to celebrate and ample reason to vote in the morning’s California primary for either the first woman president or the first African-American president in our history, which was reason to celebrate in itself!
Many folks came to work a bit sluggish with the not-quite-winter, not-quite-spring blahs – and then brightened up when they remembered what day it was. “I need this right now,” was spoken with relief. It’s that kind of holiday. There were many newbie folks in the store who had never experienced a Mardi Gras parade, who were ready to see what was gonna happen.
Plenty of attendees from the neighborhood were on hand to enjoy the fun, including several young folks (who always add to the fun). One early arrival was a bit startling in appearance – a 10-foot tall being who looked like a giant leafy tree walked at around 2:00 and announced that his name was Lucius Amphibious (I think) and that he was here for the parade! We told him to come back at 4:00 and he said OK and walked off down Sunset… didn’t even get too many stares. That’s Hollywood for ya!
At 3:30 the festivities officially kicked off with our own professor of New Orleans musical history, DJ Crisceaux spinning a hot selection of rare vintage vinyl, including many old-tyme parade songs. He got things jumping while we ran out back for the floats. Right around then the Eddie Batos band showed, trumpets tubas sousaphones and all, and started making some noise. Eager paraders started getting on robes and masks, and confetti-throwers got their confetti slingshots limbered up…
Right before 4 the floats came rolling down the aisle! There was a disco chicken, a Yellow Submarine, a float declaring the death of the Bush Presidency (not really worth the wait, but gladly welcomed at last), and our newest creation… a giant purple pyramid with a golden Sphinx emerging from the front!
We all congregated at the starting line and waited for the King of Mardi Gras, Amoeba’s own Terry Smith, to come down the stairs and lead us onward to victory. Finally he emerged to a massive cheer! This year he was masked in a mysterious theatrical happy face, which made for a dramatic entrance and seemed to be a good omen.
He led our giant band of revelers on a merry ride around the store… we were so intent on frolicking that we almost forgot the Yellow Submarine! And the Death of Bush float took off without Baron Samedi, the Lord of the Dead, who had to be reattached to the top! This year’s parade group was the longest ever! It was so long that when we tried to parade through the Jazz Room, the head of the parade ran into the tail! But the King of Mardi Gras knew exactly what he was doing… he led us twice around the store and through the Hip-hop section and out onto Sunset Boulevard…
This is always our favorite part and our chance to show the neighborhood what we’re really about… we danced around on the street corner and rolled our psychedelic floats around and threw beads into the hands of rush hour commuters, and got many appreciative honks! Somebody’s gotta get the Mardi Gras spirit out there eh? I think lots of folks stuck in traffic were pleasantly surprised. We didn’t stop there… the King of Mardi Gras rolled us all the way down Cahuenga, through a back alley and up Ivar street, floats, band and all! Just like the real Mardi Gras down in New Orleans, that is how we do it. Freaks on the streets with floats, horns and beads, ringing out the old and ringing in the new!
We made it back to Sunset Boulevard and cut loose again… Lucius Amphibious, the 10-foot tall tree man, was swinging kids around (that guy really knows how to move on stilts, whoever he was). We hooted and hollered and finally took it back to the store. The band hit the stage for a closing rendition of “Shake Your Body Down to the Ground” second-line style, and that was that. DJ Lee “Flash” Gordon took us out with a tasty set of New Orleans R&B and rock & roll.
We got our full dose of partying this year and threw our best parade ever. It was the most enthusiastic group of paraders I’ve ever seen, from our immediate and extended family! Don’t miss it next year… if you love Mardi Gras or if you just love a good parade, come to Amoeba and party with us! Laissez les bon temps roulez!
Amoeba Hollywood donated a portion of profits to the Tipitina’s Foundation and the New Orleans Music Clinic. We have supported these organizations in the rebuilding of New Orleans since Katrina struck nearly 2 ½ years ago and we continue to do so through our weekly Amoeba Auctions.
San Francisco Makes It the Fattest Tuesday Ever!
Amoeba San Francisco
Every year the staff at Amoeba San Francisco looks forward to the Fat Tuesday Celebration, and this year something was added to the mix: the parade would involve children from the Boys And Girls Club, from around the corner on Page Street, making it an honest-to-goodness community event. The idea of bringing kids in to augment the parade brought some added anticipation and excitement from the staff, as we'd hoped.
With the store decked out in beads, and the traditional colors of purple, green and gold adorning the aisles, the staff was treated to Cajun food as a steady stream of music -- from New Orleans to Brazilian Carnaval --was provided by DJs in the afternoon. Costumes, headgear and decorations had already started to proliferate, and the festivity started to become infectious.
Just before five o'clock, the children arrived, bearing homemade signs and costumes, many of them relishing the opportunity to hide behind colorful masks and brandish noisemakers. They lined up on the ramp, eagerly waiting for the parade to begin. The staff started to gather at the info booth, next to the giant crawfish on the rolling cart, feeding off the energy of the spirited kids. With the invited guests, it really did feel like a celebration.
Finally, Big Ant, adorned with the crown and cape indicating his status as Parade King, led the restless crew down the aisles, once around the store and into the street, joined by other costumed employees and staff. Kathy held up a big MARDI GRAS sign to alert the onlookers, and for the first time the Amoeba Fat Tuesday parade greeted the public and crossed Haight Street. The young krewe snaked around the block to Page, passing the Boys And Girls Club and curved back towards the store.
After three contestants were judged winners in the costume contest and awarded Amoeba gift certificate prizes, the King Cake was served and the party people dispersed. The music continued as Joe Goldmark spun New Orleans oldies, and the sunlight faded into Ash Wednesday, ending this year's Carnaval.