Saturday, January 23, 2016

Sending them off easy

Last night in the Bywater, the 800 block of Lesseps Street was rocking. When we arrived at Vaughans, on the corner of Lesseps and Dauphine, there was a band playing in the front room. The band was fronted by Butch Trivette, an older man in a wheelchair, playing some serious roots music, country and blues. He was getting a little down and dirty with the tune "Who were you thinking of when we were making love last night?"

Butch Trivette at Vaughan's
The flyer stuck on the wall next to the juke box called the event "Raise 'em High - Fifth Annual Mike Aaron Billy Ding Lesseps Street Block Party and Feast" - a memorial to two men who had passed on, and also to celebrate the birthday of two men very much alive.

Sometime around 8:45 we all grabbed our go-cups and piled out of the bar to join what the flyer called the "World's shortest Second Line" - a block long parade between Vaughans and BJ's Sports Bar on Burgundy Street. Led by the brass band Egg Yolk Jubilee, we stumbled on the pot-holed street and along the uneven brick banquettes, under the dark cypress trees and the almost-full moon. My friend Becky came out on her front porch and gave me a hug.

The band stopped mid-block and, after a brief pause,cranked up a slow, ponderous and respectful version of "A Closer Walk with Thee."

"That guy Billy was killed right here in the street outside my house," said Becky.

I learned later, that in 2008 during Jazz Fest, two musicians Billy Ding and Mike Aaron were walking from Vaughan's Lounge to BJ's when a truck jumped the curb and hit them, killing Billy and injuring Mike. Mike recovered, but died of heart failure in 2011.

Each year, the neighborhood has held a block party in their honor, with bands playing in both bars. In addition to Egg Yolk Jubilee, the lineup included Little Freddie King,Meschiya Lake, Happy Talk Band, Butch Trivette, R. Scully's Rough 7,Guitar Lightnin' Lee and His Thunder Band, John Mastro, Bacon, Super Silence, and my nominee for the BEST BAND NAME EVER, Lauren and Her Resting Bitchface.

Sylvia and Chris at the jukebox
My friend Sylvia from New York City joined us. Her lucky decision to visit us in New Orleans came at the right time - a monster blizzard has shut down New York today. Another friend, Brooke, is in town with a show at the Saenger Theatre, and taxied downtown from her hotel.

The intersection at Burgundy Street was better lit, and here the crowd assembled in front of BJ's, as the band wailed on the Beastie Boys' "You Got to Fight for You Right to Party" - a tune much improved by the audacity of a rocking sousaphone bass line.

Last night was cold - damned cold, at 43 degrees with a wind chill dropping it to the 30s. Everyone was bundled up, hats pulled down low over ears, coats zipped up to chins, but, truth be told a little alcohol and some fine music does a lot to spark a warm glow. A couple more drinks at BJs didn't hurt, either.

When I heard writer Chris Rose read his work on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, he'd said, "They call it the Big Easy, but it's neither big nor easy."

Last night New Orleans felt like a small world. I hope, though, that the Bywater community all made it a little easier, for the memories of Billy Ding and Mike Aaron.


smalltownme said...

I'm following Lauren on Facebook now just because of that name.

David Duff said...

Dos anybody get any sleep in N.O.?

Glennis said...

Not between 12th Night and Ash Wednesday, David.