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."
Let me not forget to mention the Amoeba Flag Corps, the standard-wielding dervish that is Mama B. Brooke!
All morning we gobbled candy for nutritional fortification, donned sparkly garb and tried out the noisemakers. Every hour on the hour we let forth a preparatory blast of noise to count down the clock to our parade at 4. A big meal of rice, beans and jambalaya was our final indulgence before the madness began. DJ Lee "Flash" Gordon warmed up the turntables with some funk, soul and handa wanda, and folks and floats got into place. The hour was at hand!
A mad, rising wail of music, stomping and cheers rumbled through the main floor... we all looked to the stairs from the mezzanine for the appearance of our sovereign, the Sun King, Terry Smith... at last the royal sun shone forth! We all cheered wildly as the great man stomped down the stairs to a massive explosion of confetti, and the parade was afoot! King Terry led the revelers through the world music section, down the oldies aisle, through rock vinyl and into the jazz room. We wound all the way through the classical section and back, stomping, singing and playing all the way. Our destination... Sunset Boulevard!
King Terry led us out onto that great urban artery, a paved path of psychedelic dreams leading from downtown to the sea. The rain had gone and the sun smiled down upon us, and we made a joyful noise for the rush hour traffickers, who stared in amazement. By this time a great crowd of onlookers and revelers had joined us, many of them young'uns. We all marched down to the corner and then turned down Cahuenga, a startling and colorful scene to behold! Folks in cars whistled and honked and we distributed beads to one and all. Surely not everyone realized what a Mardi Gras parade was all about, but they got the idea pretty quick!
We somehow staggered and stumbed all the way over to Ivar and back up the eastern side of the store. But was that enough? No! We went around again! The horn players were getting red in the face, the floats were disintegrating, my short shorts were falling down but we marched on with true New Orleans resiliency! We treated Los Angeles to a true taste of Mardi Gras and a true taste of Amoeba weirdness and creativity like they'd never seen. Finally we re-entered the store in triumph and marched up to the stage... the floats came to rest and then the band took over!
Leaping onstage in a frenzy, the Amoeba Irregular Marching Band made a joyful noise and freeform racket that truly ended things in style. All eyes were transfixed by the insane voodoo dancing of the Witch Queen of New Orleans, Mama Elicia, face painted garishly, feathered hat flouncing, feet flashing! She challenged Becca and Kim to wilder and wilder flights of Albert Ayler-like screeching, and finally wound up writhing around on her back like a dying snake. As she explained to me later, "the only way I could figure out to end the whole thing was to play dead, which I finally had to do." The crowd erupted in cheers and Mardi Gras at Amoeba finally came to a satisfactory close. DJ Lee Flash Gordon kept spinning the records, treating us to a bounty of New Orleans grooves until long after the sun went down.
As we say at Amoeba, "Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez"... let the good times roll and we'll see you next year! Don't miss Mardi Gras 2010, the year we make contact!!!