“Dear Nola: A Concert for New Orleans”

New Orleans brass-fueled sensations Bonerama team up with Cody ChesnuTT, DJ Spooky/That Subliminal Kid, Grammy Nominated Helen Bruner + Terry Jones, Jenny Toomey & Kristin Thomson of Tsunami, M1 of Dead Prez, Mirah, Sage Francis, Shawn King of Devotchka, Sunpie Barnes and Zach Rogue to celebrate New Orleans, her community and its musical ambassadors for “Dear NOLA: a Concert for New Orleans,” at Blue Nile (532 Frenchmen Street) on Thursday, February 17th.

Doors are at 9:00 pm and admission is $10 in advance and can be purchased online at the Blue Nile website; $15 at the door.

Proceeds from the concert — the seventh since Hurricane Katrina — benefit Sweet Home New Orleans and Gulf Restoration Network, two New Orleans-based nonprofits working to support and sustain the region’s unique musical and cultural traditions and to protect and restore vital environment and community resources for future generations. The show serves as the celebratory finale of the seventh three-day activist retreat hosted by Air Traffic Control and Future of Music Coalition.

Over the years, these shows have become a tradition and bring visiting musicians together with local musicians to present these talented artists both on their own and in unique combinations. Past shows have included performances with J. Tillman and Nicole Atkins backing Will Oldham, R.E.M.’s Mike Mills and Bonerama joining Corin Tucker on a Depeche Mode cover, and Wayne Kramer and Saul Williams partnering to perform “Kick Out The Jams.” The camaraderie established continues well after participants have left the city, as evidenced by the critically-acclaimed compilation, Dear New Orleans. The album was produced by Air Traffic Control to mark the 5-year anniversary of the floods and features 31 New Orleans-inspired tracks from retreat alumni. The compilation can be purchased at http://www.dearno.la.

Air Traffic Control and Future of Music Coalition have been co-hosting a series of artist activism retreats in New Orleans since 2006. Artists are given the rare opportunity to connect directly with the people of New Orleans, the tradition bearers and community leaders who are on the frontlines of rebuilding and sustaining this vital city. After the three-day retreat, artists leave feeling that their lives have been changed by what they have experienced in New Orleans and with a sense of empowerment for what they can accomplish through their music and activism.

“New Orleans is one of the most unique cities on the planet and a place where I have had the good fortune to spend time both as a musician and an activist. The artist-activist retreat provided valuable perspective and insight into a post-Katrina New Orleans. My experiences with local musicians and the people working for the recovery and betterment of the city have been some of the most important experiences of my career." -- Tom Morello.

Past retreat and concert participants include Steve Earle, Tom Morello, Mike Mills (R.E.M.), Boots Riley (The Coup) Nicole Atkins, Damian Kulash (OK Go), Erin McKeown, Nick Harmer (Death Cab for Cutie), Wayne Kramer (MC5), Martín Perna (Antibalas, Ocote Soul Sounds), Jim James and Patrick Hallahan (My Morning Jacket), Jon Langford (Mekons, Waco Brothers), Vijay Iyer, and many, many more.

The efforts of many groups and individuals — including Sweet Home New Orleans, Future of Music Coalition and Air Traffic Control — have had a major impact on Big Easy musicians like Mardis Gras legend Al “Carnival Time” Johnson. Funds raised by retreat participants helped Al buy a new Habitat for Humanity home after having lost his property and belongings in Hurricane Katrina. The concerts and the retreats are part of an ongoing commitment to helping musicians like Al get back to their communities where they will help sustain New Orleans music and culture for generations to come.


About Sweet Home New Orleans

Sweet Home New Orleans is a nonprofit agency that offers social services and financial assistance to the city’s musicians, Mardi Gras Indians, and Social Aid and Pleasure Club members.

About Gulf Restoration Network

Gulf Restoration Network is a 16 year-old environmental group committed to uniting and empowering people to protect and restore the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico. Since the storms of 2005, they have worked for a national commitment to the restoration of the coastal wetlands of Louisiana, the region’s natural storm protection, which are disappearing at the rate of an acre an hour. The BP drilling disaster has greatly increased threats to this ecosystem, and GRN has provided independent monitoring and advocacy since the first days of the disaster.

About Future of Music Coalition

Future of Music Coalition is a national non-profit education, research and advocacy organization that seeks a bright future for creators and listeners. FMC works towards this goal through continuous interaction with its primary constituency — musicians — and in collaboration with other creator/public interest groups.

About Air Traffic Control

Air Traffic Control (ATC) exists to help musicians play an effective, unique and vital role in the promotion of social justice. Musicians and managers established ATC five years ago to assemble an experienced and trusted team of leaders, resources and tools that would help them to create more effective social change collaborations with each other and with social justice organizations. As a result, ATC became an artists’ air traffic control—one that develops capacity, efficiency, and coordination to produce stronger and more creative social change partnerships.

Thoughts On Katrina

My friend Aaron had some interesting thoughts on the situation in New Orleans: 

"If you were a organization that hated the USA, wouldn't you start flooding your men into New Orleans?  Think about it... get some pipe bombs exploding, add to the chaos, the fear level, and get some local thugs all fired up.  Blow up some cars, attach some cops, etc."

"It's crazy to think of how exposed that town is right now.  Ripe for the picking so to speak."

"There is potential to overtake the town for at least a little while.  Yikes."

"Just think as people start getting hungrier and thirst increases... so will the tension and the violence.  Freaking crazy!"

"Gaia is getting ready for the big global flush.  We could seriously go the way of the dinosaurs and any day now."

"Let's face it, New Orleans is now just a big shit filled ghetto, loaded with impoverished black people... and once again, they get the shaft."

"Good thing all our federal money, supplies, personnel, and equipment are all over in the Middle East."

"We can't even take care of one big town in the USA right now."

Wow, he may be right, though it is probably tougher than it sounds...and I bet terrorist entry to the US is more why the National Guard is there than to help get people out...the reports and footage that show Guard personnel at a local junior high playing basketball and relaxing...five guardsmen hunting down one looter, guns drawn, etc...prove that the feds don't care about whether anyone gets out alive (in fact it probably helps out the welfare budgets), but they put guardsmen in place to keep out foreigners and terrorists...

Personally, what I have gathered from seeing this catastrophe, and what seems to be revealed above all is how much finding someone to blame seems essential to human nature.  We need this to focus our anger and frustration.  The Lefties are all blaming the Neo-cons and bad government, and global warming...the neo-cons are blaming the looters, as if they are really a problem (did any of you see the footage of the Wal-Mart that was mostly empty, and the looters actually, when asked where are the cops, said "they are in THAT aisle..."  and the cameras zoom in on cops looting the Walmart, on duty, with no idea if their families were ok or not, etc, thinking, "I'm going to take advantage of this...it is about survival now, not morality...")

Anyway, it seems to me that Katrina (as well as the Tsunami) has revealed how much terrorist attacks really pale in comparison to the devastation that Mother Nature can dish out.  In fact, it should shift our priorities to back off on the terrorist threat (as i argue there would be much less terrorism if we weren't fighting a war on it...creating the threat in order to fight it)...and focus on learning to live in harmony with Gaia, as  Aaron called her...learn how to cope with her ferocity when she's pissed off (and it appears she is pissed off right now...is it becuase we are assuming our superiority to her?  Disrespecting her?  Ignoring her? )

If we are wasting our energy fighting each other, we miss out on the opportunity to learn about and explore Gaia's awesomeness...in every way, her awesome beauty, her awesome power...we should be focusing our lives on simply living harmoniously, but we instead need to find someone to blame, and damn it, it sure makes me feel better to blame someone here.  (Of course Bush in particular is not fully responsible for this, but there are plenty of things he represents and and crimes that his kind has committed against Gaia that he can be a nice scapegoat for us as the proud, cocky, sociopathic, American yahoo with no real concern for humanity.)  Bush and Co. have fostered the fallacy of demonizing a particular group as someone to focus our anger on, "the terrorists"...which we have painted a very particular picture of with turbans and robes and their, "Durkah, Durkah, Allah!  Muhammed, Durkah, Jihad!"  Osama, our terrorist poster boys...ugh...it is a lot easier to demonize and hate a particular "threat" than to learn to be afraid of Gaia, which I don't propose, but rather learn to love and respect the planet, her spirit and science, and its potential for beauty as well as her destructive power...again, find the harmony, not the blame...It is funny that when I was in catechism classes as a 9th grader,  we were told that we should "fear and love God", so that we would follow the commandments...anyway, I never understood the fear part, a "healthy respect for" seemed better wording, but, how apropos it is that we should fear and love Gaia so that we learn to live in harmony with her and one another.  As I said before, respect her potential for destruction and honor her rightly, as opposed to bogging ourselves down in self-destructive terrorism and "anti-terrorism" tactics...

Ahhh...so i am exposed as a blamer, myself...a whining liberal...in fact I'll go a couple steps further, now...I have seen some folks say things like, "Those looters are the lowest form of human life...we should drop a nuke on each of those projects..."  What? Of course I know this person never "truly" meant to use a nuke per se on them, but it certainly reveals the prejudice in such a statement...and how easy it is to simply lump a whole diverse group of people into a cardboard cut out of "looters" or "bad people" or "garbage" that needs to be disposed of.  There are many truly sweet and caring and wonderfully amazing people in those projects that suffer from our generalizations, and now in turn, those generalizations marginalize them into those that aren't worth saving...

It was interesting to see pictures of old white people getting airlifted out while scores of blacks wait endlessly for busses...if you look at comparisons of 9/11 and Katrina, we can see that terrorist attacks are nothing compared to Cleaning up the Mississippi coast and NOLA.  9/11 was a nicely controlled explosion in a white-collar, rich area, that was "easy" to clean up, easy to keep order in, since the survivors could just run a few hundred yards away to safety and receive immediate care, whereas with Katrina, it is pure chaos.  A very poor areas, spread out and extremely messy...It is taking forever to just get started...Clean up is not contained in anyway and the effects will linger for a long time. 

Yet we can't say, "Terrorists! In the name of all that is holy and American, DIE!"  Or can we?  The Environmental Terrorists currently headed by GW Bush and friends may be to blame in a blameless situation.  The global warming (that really doesn't exist, right?) and the lack of preparation and response, and the "cost-effectiveness" reports against the building levees that hold back a greater than Category 3 storm, the long vacations, the scientific witch hunts against scientists that have "evidence" against the Bush mind frame, and on and on...

I really don't want to say it that way...I don't want this to be a blame fest...the whole situation got away from the authorities (and if they purposely meant to withhold care, then that is their problem for the karma they'll face...the Hell they'll pay...)  What I'd like to think is that the lesson of living in harmony is what we all take from this first and foremost.  Harmony with nature as well as with each other.  I truly feel that we are paying a price for our extreme hubris, for our extreme prejudice...for living out of harmony. 

We NEED to change our priorities and perspective.  We need to stop the blame game (I swear, from now on, no more blame, starting...NOW).  We need acceptance and gratitude.  We need to start being proactive in living harmonious lifestyles with Gaia and in turn one another.  We need to be aware that the demonizing of others is part of our problem.  We can become more aware through simple experience of living as opposed to living vicariously through the TV...We  need not to accept "the media" as truth, but to seek truth as an essential part of experiencing life fully, in and of itself, and therein see what is truly important, rather than fitting our experience into our favorite theories about life...We need to help where we can, when we can...Let's use Katrina to help us learn and love and live BETTER, more fully and in harmony with the world and each other...in each moment...always.


(Thanks, Aaron, for setting me off, I feel better now...)