The smell of newly lit cigarettes and Rosey Baby's Crawfish Cajun House swirled around the heart of Hollywood this past Saturday night as New Orleans smooth jazz and funk filled the chilly air.
Families and friends sat on blankets and chairs on the lawn of Hollywood Arts Park to enjoy the free five-hour Mardi Gras concert and festivities. Not really what you picture when you hear Mardi Gras, right?
This was less boobs and Jager bombs, and more getting grandmama out the house and your baby's face painted. Not to mention gorge on fish and chips, crawfish, Rosetta red potato fries, and Jambalaya with catfish.
Children scrambled around the front of the stage to catch beads thrown by the Thor and Fat Tuesday crews -- who are older folks with steamy memories of past New Orleans nights they'd rather save for happy hour, at least according to Cathy, a.k.a. Fat Tuesday, a.k.a. the Mardi Gras Queen.
They also just happened to be the liveliest people at the concert. Each crew member, who appeared to be over 40, was decked out in a shiny colorful costume with a big grin plastered on their faces, endured the repetitiveness of just throwing beads and bumping their rumps to the beat. They also gave a big shout out to an older lady dressed as a queen in red named Lil Alice, or Grand Mamou who was celebrating her youth on her 91st birthday; she's been with the Mardi Gras people since she was five. That's a long, long time.
The concert, organized by the Rhythm Foundation, was scheduled to feature three Louisiana style bands: Bonerama, T. Broussard and the Zydeco Steppers, and Bad Apples Brass Band. But only Bonerama and Bad Apples Brass Band performed. Their music varied from renditions of popular songs like Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" and Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" to slow jazz that warmed up the night. T. Broussard and the Zydeco Steppers were expected to bring some Cajun party music to spice up Hollywood, but they didn't make it.
"We haven't heard from them all day, but the party is happening anyway," said Gene De Souza, the development director of the Rhythm Foundation, who hosted the concert. And De Souza was right. Everyone just kept jamming to the music and eating their piece of New Orleans till their ears and bellies were full.
Overheard in the crowd: "They have... red potato fries... whatever that means."
Funniest part of the night: As I was moving closer to the stage, I noticed an older woman doing her version of the Wu-Tang, as her arms and head swayed from side to side.