By Invitation Only

14 March 2007

Last night E & I went to the showing of By Invitation Only at Loyola. If you’re not familiar with the film, Rebecca Snedeker made it with Tim Watson. She is a member of one of those old-school big-money families in New Orleans, and she decided that she didn’t want to come out, debut, whatever.

In the movie, she follows a cousin through the process (scepter and curtsy coach, 5 parties/day, mysterious old guys kissing you congratulations, etc), and, because she grew up in school with these folks, they trust her and allow her to film some stuff an interview some of them. Many of the faces are blurred if they didn’t give permission or if their membership is supposed to be a secret.

I have a strange fascination (not admiration or envy, but fascination) with this kind of super-rich person.  The film gives a pretty rare look at those circles and their functions, as well as some nifty historical footage.  I also enjoyed the footage of the city council debates the decision to require diversification.

I was worried that the movie would make me feel guilty about enjoying Mardi Gras, but it doesn’t, mainly because most of what these people do isn’t MG.  Snedeker risked the wrath of her family and friends in exposing much of this, but the film doesn’t really play like an expose, more like a rationale for why she wanted no part of the scene.

Required viewing for anyone interested in the history of the city.

My Letter to Quint

14 March 2007

I am one of those people who truly loves JazzFest.  I get a brass pass every year and go every day, even if it’s late after a final or something.  It’s just one of my favorite things.   Quint gets crap from people for his scheduling, and I certainly have my beefs, but I think they do a hell of a job most of the time.  But here’s the deal:

Cyril Neville has forfeited his choice to play the Fest.  Here’s the letter I wrote (had to be paper; can’t find an email address for him) to Quint Davis, the president of Festival Productions, Inc, and the guy who wields most of the power in scheduling:

Dear Quint et al.,

Cyril Neville should not be allowed to play JazzFest.  You guys put on the greatest musical event in the world, and this guy, who has profited for years from the New Orleans mystique, has turned his back and insulted our city with no remorse.  Please remember this excerpt from an interview (

There’s nothing there. And the situation for musicians was a joke. People thought there was a New Orleans music scene — there wasn’t. You worked two times a year: Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. The only musicians I knew who made a living playing music in New Orleans were Kermit Ruffins and Pete Fountain. Everyone else had to have a day job or go on tour. I have worked more in two months in Austin than I worked in two years in New Orleans.

A lot of things about life in New Orleans were a myth.

This is from another interview (

“New Orleans is dead, man. It’s dead,” the singer-percussionist says, sitting on a red couch in an otherwise drab South Austin apartment complex where he has lived for the last month.

“Don’t get me wrong. I love New Orleans. But the New Orleans I loved was gone long before the storm hit.”

“I like it here in Austin; musicians here look out for each other and people treat us the way we were supposed to be treated in New Orleans but weren’t. The good thing that’s come out of all this is I’m now in a city that actually cares about musicians.”

This member of the Neville Brothers has gravely insulted our city and, by extension, your superb work in the New Orleans music scene.  When people like Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, and Dr. Michael White are still spreading the gospel of New Orleans and its soul, Cyril says the place isn’t worthy of his efforts (at least until now that so many have poured so much into the recovery).  He’s entitled to his opinion, but he sure as hell shouldn’t be invited to play the Fest.

I never miss a day of the Fest, and I’ll be hitting a different stage during his set, to be sure.  But I’m just disturbed that the guy even gets to be there.  I’m inclined to put on some kind of protest to remind people what he really thinks of us, but I don’t want to kill the great positive vibe that the Fest always has.  I hope you’ll think about rescinding his invitation because his presence there will have just that negative effect.

Thanks, and I’m looking forward to another phenomenal festival!