ICMC late concert on election night

Imagine yourself an ordinary New Orleans bus driver, doing your normal night route on St. Charles. Just two or three passengers, quiet. Maybe even a little quieter than usual given that many people are home watching election returns. Then suddenly you come to stop where twenty or so weird people with laptops and beeds get on the bus. That’s what happened to a bus driver last night when participants at the ICMC conference boarded to attend the offsite late-nite performance at the aptly named Columns Hotel.

The election so far went as well as one could expect at 11PM, with headlines suggesting things are about to change for the better – a takeover of the House, Virginia is the new Florida (with George “macaca” Allen trailing), and social conservatives (i.e., the littering religious right) lost a trifecta on abortion, stem cells and gay marriage. Plus, I get to watch all of this from the home (and district) of William “Frozen Assets” Jefferson.

So what better way to celebrate than with experimental electronic improv music in an old hotel parlor? First on the program was Pink Canoes, who hail from the Bay Area. I was acquainted with several members of the group by name only (and vice versa), so it was quite ironic to meet in person in New Orleans. Musically, they played free improvisation with guitars, effects pedals, analog synths and circuit-bend instruments, similar to some of the group improvisations I have done with friends in Santa Cruz. I get the sense that many of the academics at the conference hadn’t heard much of this sub-genre of electronic music. Personally I would like to see more hybridization among free electronic improv, traditional computer music, and even things like the jazz duo that was also playing in the hotel at the same time.

Pink Canoe was followed by the due Andre Castro + Martin Aeserud, featuring laptop and “prepared” acoustic guitar. I found the guitar quite interesting to watch as well as listen to, and gives me some ideas for projects with the guitar that’s sitting in pieces on the floor back home.

More on the conference later.





Weekend in New Orleans Part 1: Zip visits the French Quarter

Before the start of the ICMC Conference today, I spent the weekend exploring a bit of New Orleans. Zip of course came along for the ride and photo ops.

In this first article of several, we make the obligatory trip to the French Quarter. This area largely survived the devastation last year and was quick to reopen as the “adult Disneyland” that people associate with New Orleans. Just outside the quarter on Canal Street, damaged downtown buildings being repaired and closed businesses are a common sight – a little eerie in spots. but inside things have the appearance of being back to normal. The bars and restaurants are mostly open, music and neon lights are everywhere. Tourists are in abundance (perhaps not as many as before, I have no way to gauge this), and there were plenty of people and vendors around the major sites, such as Jackson square and the cathedral(?) of St. Louis:

Churches are fine, but there are also monuments a plenty to one of the town’s real religions: jazz. Here Zip poses with famed jazz clarinetist Pete Fountain:

We also took in some live jazz at the New Orleans Jazz national park in the French Market along the rivier:

The famed architecture of the quarter is exactly as one would expect:

Again, most places seem to have weathered the storm or been repaired quickly, and many that are not hotels or business are up for sale as condos. There are still plenty of signs of the last year’s events, such as ubiquitous blue dog, here decked out for Mardi Gras (or pretty much any day here, it seems):

A few pleasant breaks from the stereotypical tourist fare could be found in some of the small specialty shops sprinkled throughout the neighborhood, including a rather intruiging shop dealing in occult products, including “black cat fur.” No cats were harmed in the collection of this fur, one hopes… Also some craft stores, a modern art gallery that didn’t give in to insipid tourist tastes, and a cool little shop that used the mason’s “Pyramonster” as it’s logo.

Another welcome addition to the day was a performance art troupe Wild Animus, who performed part of their piece on the riverfront near Jackson Square:

Apparently, the artists responsible are part of a San Francisco art collective, go figure. Several performers were handing out free DVDs, which I have yet to review, but I am curious about this work.

There was a particularly surreal moment as a wedding processing, complete with Dixieland-style band crossed paths with Wild Animus. I have a little bit of that on a video, which I will post as soon as I get a chance.

Having had enough of the French Quarter, I went in search of what is apparently one of post-hurricane New Orlean’s best kept secrets: where to get tour passes for the bus system. After several attempts, I finally found a tourist info agent who pointed me in the direction of a kiosk in one of the shopping centers, but when I got there I was met only with a sign that said “Back 30 minutes after the hour.” I believe it was about 2:45 at this time. A little annoyed, I headed back to Canal Street anyway to catch a streetcar (and pay full fare) towards the city park, where the city’s main art museum and sculpture garden is located. Of course, the streetcar would be out of order when I got there, and the busses running in its place were nowhere to be seen. The changes of making it out to the park before the garden closed to visitors at 4pm seemed pretty slim. But instead of stewing in my frustration, I headed with Zip back into the quarter for a more local kind of stew and a local brew:

This is definitely following the traveler’s rule “When in Rome…” In addition to gumbo, we sampled some of the ever popular oysters, cooked in this case:

And with this, the first of many tasty meals and refreshing beverages to come (too many?), we conclude this part of the story.

Be nice or leave.