Gris Gris Gumbo Ya Ya! It's carnival time again!
Mardi Gras is always a wonderful time at the old Amoeba, but this year the festivities were truly "marmalade!" More people attended than ever before, the floats were crazier, the music was funkier, and the Mardi Gras spirit was so strong some folks still haven't recovered. I saw a guy stumbling down Cahuenga covered in beads two days later... if it ain't the real thing, it's the closest you can get outside the French Quarter. If you were there, we love you; if you weren't, we wanna see you next year!
As usual, it snuck up on us again... we were still coughing from the flu and getting soaked with weeks of rain when we realized it was coming up on the calendar. Preparations kicked into high gear! We decorated the store in purple, gold and green, and then we redecorated it, and then we decorated it so much it was ridiculous. The PURPLE NURPLE krewe flung itself headfirst into float-making... the Yellow Submarine float made a battered but beautiful return, a sphinx & purple pyramid was set in motion, a tribute to recently deceased punkabilly pioneer Lux Interior of the Cramps (1948-2009), as well as an inexplicable float involving a space chicken surfing on a huge Dali-esque piano... at the last moment Karen dropped off a giant psychedelic timbale which this chicken was made to play like Tito Puente, and the floats were complete!
MEANWHILE... secret preparations were underway for the first ever Amoeba Irregular Marching Band! Led by Kim Pryor on trumpet and avant-garde sax player Becca, this motley ensemble worked up the spookiest, freakiest version of "When The Saints Go Marching In" we've ever heard! Augmented by the banjo of Matt Polley, a wheelchair-riding accordionista (Jada) and a second line anchored by Tom Wunder, Kris Konrad and Edythe, a truly celebratory zu-zu sound was pounded forth! It was left only to the Witch Queen of New Orleans, Mama Elicia, to howl wildly through a homemade megaphone and several feet of aluminum tubing and the sound was "ice cream."
Take Fo' Records is a little known (outside of New Orleans) music label that truly broke ground with its motley roster of artists and progressive attitude, yet it's never received adequate recognition for its pioneering role in music. Whereas New Orleans's other big labels: Big Boy, Cash Money, Mobo, Parkway Pumpin', Untouchable, Tombstone and No Limit all seemed to consciously project a hard-as-nails image with tales of slangin', bangin', head bussin' and wig splittin', Take Fo' welcomed gangstas but also ball busters, dancer-cum-rappers, party starters and probably the first openly gay rapper. Despite the possible negative associations that might come with being part of this hip hop Island of Misfit Toys, the rappers on Take Fo' seemed unbothered and showed up on each others' albums in a show of courageous support.
2008 The Year in Review
Well, first of all, I’d like to point out what 2008 wasn’t. I mean, probably 2000 and 2001 are the most famous years of the oughts in speculative fiction. However, 2008 also piqued the imagination of Science-Fictionalists. Silent Running didn't resemble my 2008 much, although something kept knocking the ficus in my back yard over which did make me angry. I didn't hear about anything that fit in with the prophecies offered in Jason X. But perhaps no speculation about what 2008 would be like was the 2006 film, The Lake House. I mean, come on. They really thought that in just two years we'd have magic mailboxes that would allow us to send love letter to the past. People get real!
Cassandra moaning about something I don't know
Reading yesterday's great Eric Brighwell Amoeblog about New Orleans rapper Lil Slim reminded me of another great and oft slept-on New Orleans rap artist -- Fiend, whom I first met back in the nineties when he initially hooked up with Master P's No Limit label, and with whom I last talked around this time last year when he released his recommended career retrospective CD on Priority Mr. Whomp Whomp: The Best of Fiend (look for it and other Fiend releases at Amoeba Music).
That best-of collection, which features collaborations from the likes of Master P, MIa X, Snoop Dogg, Mac, and Kane & Abel, ably displays Fiend's trademark gruff, growling, gravelly Nawleans rap drawl and the rapper's edgy lyrical style, coupled with his skill for creating killer hooks (often behind-the-scenes, fueling others' success including Silkk the Shocker, Snoop Dogg, and Master P for whom he heavily contributed to the runaway MTV/crossover hit "Make Em Say Uh").
Fiend initially earned his Rakim inspired name (as in "Microphone Fiend") coming up as a distinctive young hip-hop voice in both New Orleans' 3rd Ward and 17th Ward Districts. Born Richard Jones, he grew up in what is known as the Hollygrove area, where, from his early teens onwards he spent any free time, "Making music whenever and wherever I could. I would record all over...at people's houses," he told me, citing as among his early influences: Rakim, Con Funk Shun, Earth Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Big Daddy Kane, and Public Enemy. However even more profound an influence on his craft and his life was the sudden death of his younger brother Kevin, who was killed when Fiend was only sixteen years of age.