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The Annual Mardi Gras Ball in Boston & Cambridge

Two decades strong, Wolf's Annual Mardi Gras Ball is both a showcase of the quirky and seductive R&B from 1950's New Orleans, and of the diversity of the Boston rock scene. Indeed, specials guests of the Mardi Gras Balls read like a who's-who of Boston rock (including everyone from Tanya Donelly to Gary Cherone; Holly Brewer to Barrance Whitfield; and Casey Desmond to Willie Loco Alexander).

Praised by both local media and national outlets like the New Yorker and Spin Magazine, Cambridge's own Mardi Gras Ball is great fun and a great benefit to boot. Contact information.

All proceeds from the Mardi Gras Ball go to help musicians without health care. We donate proceedings of the show to a cause. In the past shows have benefitted the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic. Most recently we raised money for the ACLU via Boston Stands

The music

The Legendary Vudu Krewe focuses on weird old rhythm and blues music from New Orleans and vicinity. Once upon a time there was an explosion of small regional recordings from all over America. Musicians straight out the juke joints, dance halls, or churches—seemingly not at all self-conscious about their particular individual or regional styles—marched into small recording studios to set their music down in recordings. This was the original era of underground indie pop music.

The music to come out of New Orleans was one of the more distinctive of those regional scenes. A collection of artists began to blend Rhythm and Blues music with Caribbean-styled dance music already native to the city. The result is an amazing collection of songs, ranging from Professor Longhair's piano boogies to Lee Dorsey's smooth funk-soul in the 60's.

At its core it's often irreverent music—copping an attitude compared to garage rock. More often than not New Orleans R&B of that era is way more ragged ("country") than the black music from other parts of the country, and is often bursting with dark double-meanings and otherwise quirky (ok, sometimes downright bizarre) lyrics. It's awesome!

Many musicians are aware of this stuff (and many fans are as well) but other folks generally don't know about it, or tend to confuse New Orleans rhythm & blues music with Cajun or zydeco music—both of which have very different grooves and use the accordion as the main instrument. In my experience most music fans outside of Louisiana are not familiar with Professor Longhair, Ernie K-Doe, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, et al., never mind the more obscure acts like the early Hawks, Pelicans, Sugarboy Crawford, the Party Boys, and so on.

So it's our great privilege—as serious fans of this music—to try to bring a pretty damned good version of NOLA R. & B. to the Boston rock scene, and to introduce this irreverent, wonderful music to new audiences.

-SWW

(Photo: Jim Curran)