The last week has brought to StLJN a steady trickle of visitors searching for information on the Mardi Gras celebration in St. Louis. For the basic rundown, I'd suggest checking the Soulard Mardi Gras celebration's official Web site and this article by Dianne Toroian Keaggy from last week's Post-Dispatch.
That searchers would come to a jazz site for Mardi Gras information makes a certain amount of sense, if for no other reason than that both jazz and Mardi Gras originated in New Orleans.
However, don't expect to see a lot of jazz bands (or blues bands for that matter) at St. Louis' official Mardi Gras events, because, regrettably, once again organizers seem to have gone in a different musical direction. According to the Post article linked above, the headlining band for Parade Saturday (February 2) on the main stage in Soulard will be...Evolution, a Journey tribute band.
Because nothing evokes the spirit and traditions of Mardi Gras like a Journey tribute band.
Further sarcasm seems inadequate to the task here, so I'll just note that since last year's headlining act was a Kiss cover band comprised entirely of little people, perhaps this year's booking actually represents a step back on the "cheap gimmick" scale.
True, there will be some opportunities to hear jazz, blues and Louisiana music around the area over the next couple of weeks. For example, the very entertaining group Gumbohead, who play Zydeco, funk and New Orleans R&B, are doing a bunch of gigs over the next couple of weeks, including co-headlining the Mayor's official Mardi Gras ball. As mentioned here a couple of times already, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band will be in Alton this weekend to play the Argosy Casino. And a few of the Soulard spots will likely have a blues band or two over this weekend and next, although the most vibrant blues in town now is heard not in Soulard, but in the so-called "South Broadway triangle" to the north.
Just don't expect to go to the official events in Soulard on parade day, and expect to be able to hear a lot of jazz and blues with roots in New Orleans and/or St. Louis. Further evidence that we're a long way from the French Quarter: In addition to the outdoor stage spotlighting 1980s hair-rock, on parade day the official Mardi Gras organization has also sanctioned a tent sponsored by motorcycle maker Harley Davidson that will feature a number of local rock and hip-hop acts, missing another opportunity to showcase Mardi Gras' signature sounds.
As someone who's now a member of the "hey, you kids get off of my lawn" generation, at least demographically speaking, I don't expect organizers to cater exclusively to my musical tastes for an event that seems geared mostly toward hard-drinking twenty- and thirty-somethings.
Still, it's not only a shame that organizers don't see fit to include culturally appropriate music like jazz and blues in St. Louis' Mardi Gras celebration; it also seems like a missed opportunity to appeal to those potential celebrants who don't want to hear generic rock. I'd think a tent or indoor venue featuring a smartly-booked selection of jazz and blues acts would do great business on parade day, but I suppose we'll never know.