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The Annual Boston Mardi Gras Ball

Three decades strong, the Legendary Vudu Krewe does R&B from New Orleans. Their Annual Boston Mardi Gras Ball is a Boston music tradition, with special guests that read like a who's-who of Boston rock (Tanya Donelly to Gary Cherone; Holly Brewer to Barrance Whitfield; and Casey Desmond to Willie Loco Alexander).

All proceeds from the Mardi Gras Ball go to some worthy cause. Shows have benefitted the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic, the ACLU via Boston StandsRespond Inc., Girls Rock Campaign Boston.

The Music

Once upon a time, there was an explosion of small regional recording studios from all over America. Musicians, out the juke joints, dance halls, or churches—and seemingly not self-conscious about their distinctive way of playing—walked 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 fun 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 R&B masters The Hawks to Professor Longhair, to Lee Dorsey's smooth funk-soul in the 60's.

At its core, it's often irreverent—copping an attitude compared to garage rock. More often than not New Orleans R&B 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 fans of NOLA are as well) but some folks don't know about it, or tend to confuse New Orleans rhythm & blues music with Cajun or zydeco music. So, as many 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) it's our great privilege—as real fans of this music—to try to bring a pretty damned good version of NOLA R. & B. to Boston.


(Photo: Jim Curran)