Big Easy Express

Thousands of miles of train track from Oakland to New Orleans covers some of America’s most scenic views, taking one through beautiful sights you’d all but miss on the more efficient plane ride. In 2012, three bands, folk-rock, indie, and bluegrass – Mumford and Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show – rented a vintage train in California, creating the musical tour of dreams, playing shows along the way as they took the infamous train journey from Oakland to New Orleans covering four thousand miles.

The Big Easy Express is a cinematic music experience that combines a concert movie with a roadie documentary, bringing you in and behind the action of incredible music being made. The quality of the sound makes you feel as though you’re one of the spectators, tagging along at the train stops, dancing in the vibrant crowd at the shows and having a front row seat to their late-night jam sessions as the train speeds through the backcountry.

Baffled by the fact that such a movie could pay homage to New Orleans and I hadn’t yet seen it, a friend and I rented the movie and watched it two times through, and if you haven’t seen it I implore you to do so.

The three band’s sounds collaborate perfectly; in fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find three bands who so humbly and beautifully respect and enhance each other’s music in such an inspiring setting. There’s a fleeting scene where the Ed Sharp guys are singing “All Wash Out” in between train stops, and you begin to notice the crowd of musicians encircling the band is also strumming along, adding their notes and rhythms to the song.

At the concerts along the way, the bands take turns performing their own songs for crowds jumping with excitement and anticipation, but the finale of the show is worth watching even if you don’t consider yourself a fan of any of the three bands. Mumford and Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, take the stage together to cover Jonny Cash’s “This Train was Bound for Glory” which so perfectly captures the spirit and message behind the “tour of dreams” as the bands refer to it as. The energy on stage when the all of those talented people are together on stage is nothing short of magical – a symphony of country instruments all playing their hearts out.

Often you think of music as being the brainchild of one musician or at best an impressive feat of collective imagination, but sometimes it’s easy to forget how great music can come from anywhere. The closing scene of the film shows the bands sitting in a train car strumming a melody and brainstorming lyrics about the train experience. Seemingly out of nowhere the poignant lyrics come to fruition – “on a train to New Orleans, and all that country in between. Friends you and I, playing for our lives singing sweet dreams forever on a train in the sky.”

After watching the film, all I can say is how much I wish I was in New Orleans in the summer of 2012.

Voodoo Fest

Halloween festivities are in full swing in New Orleans, with Voodoo Fest happening just this weekend, right before the real deal on Tuesday night. Voodoo transforms City Park into a Halloween themed festival with amazing artists, vendors, food, and attractions.

Some of my favorite artists were performing this weekend, so I went with a group of friends on Friday and Sunday, seeing headliners Kendrick Lamar and the Killers. Some of my favorite moments though were earlier in the day, when the sun was brighter and the crowds were softer.

At 3:30, the Cold War Kids took the Altar Stage and played a few hits from their newest release, and a lot of their old songs too. Nathan Willet, the lead singer, asked the crowd if they could play a cover, before going into Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain”, and the crowd lovingly agreed.

 

 

My absolute favorite band, the Head and the Heart, performed at the same stage two hours later. The six-person, indie-rock band played songs off all three of their albums, beginning the show with the premier single “All We Ever Knew” off their newest release “Signs of Light”, and closing with “Rivers and Roads”, a classic fan-favorite from their debut album “The Head and the Heart”. The sun was setting just as they were finishing up their set, creating the perfect atmosphere to take in the music and energy of the crowd.

 

 

Unfortunately, my phone died shortly after those two performances, so that’s all I can show you. Right after the Head and the Heart finished, we ran to catch Post Malone perform. The crowd was enormous, and the squishing and pushing was all worth it when he performed “Feeling Whitney” – a song that plays on loop in my suite; that my friends and I all agreed he likely wouldn’t play since it is more unplugged and slower than the rest of his music.

The Killers closed the festival on Sunday night, opening with an electrifying performance of “Mr. Brightside”. They paid tribute to the late Fats Domino, an early Rock ‘n Roll singer from New Orleans, by covering “Ain’t That a Shame”, complete with trumpets, saxophones, and trombones.

After always regretting missing the festival my freshman year, I’m so glad I got to spend two incredible days this weekend seeing some of my favorite bands in my favorite city during the best holiday of the year.

 

 

Halloween Over Midterms

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House on Saint Charles and State street

Usually, college students anticipate the ever-dreaded, bi-annual midterm week by staying in, studying, and getting rest. Unfortunately for me, my midterm exams have been strategically placed over three weeks, falling before and after our fall break. Finding the balance between school and social life for me has never been much of an issue, that is until I decided to continue my education in a place that is just begging you to go out and have fun.

Next week is Halloween, which of course for a lot of college students is an even more anticipated and exciting week than midterms. In New Orleans though, we do Halloween bigger and better than anywhere else.

Each year, Halloween in New Orleans, or Nolaween as I lovingly refer to it as, draws tons of visitors, students, and locals to the city, particularly Frenchman Street for one of the biggest Halloween parties in the country. The street is overrun by folks in costume, people selling food, and playing music, but the real excitement is in the bars that are gleaming with energy, music, and dance.

Bands stocked to the brim with horn and string instruments rock the night away while pirates, vampires, and cowboys drink and dance. The Blue Nile, and the Maison are personal favorites that never disappoint and always have a great band playing.

Halloween also draws one of New Orlean’s biggest music festivals to the city – Voodoo Fest. From October 27th-29th big artists like Kendrick Lamar, Post Malone, and The Killers will take the stage at City Park, and bring New Orleans a little extra Halloween charm.

A personal favorite band of mine, The Head and the Heart, will be wrapping up their fall tour at Voodoo Fest on Sunday. Their excitement and energy during their set will instantly put the band on your radar and make it a live performance you won’t want to miss and will definitely never forget.

These treats of the Halloween season are keeping all Tulane students motivated, myself included, until the weekend when we can relax and enjoy some wonderful music all while masquerading in costume.

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Band Performing at The Blue Nile, September 19th

 

Would you believe me if I told you the name of the band was Rainbow Kitten Surprise?

Last Thursday night I checked something off of my Tulane bucket list that was regretfully long overdue – I went to a show at Tipitina’s. Tipitina’s is a famous venue for live music that has been around since 1977 hosting popular New Orleans artists such as Professor Long Hair. The venue pays tribute to him by naming the venue after his song “Tipitina” and the poster of his face that remains center stage. Now Tipitina’s is a home to artists big and small looking to find their place in the New Orleans music scene.

I was walking to class, listening to “Devil Like Me” a song by the band Rainbow Kitten Surprise, when a little banner popped up on my phone, announcing that the band was playing in my area. With a flutter of excitement, I opened the link to find that Rainbow Kitten Suprise would be hitting the stage of Tipitina’s the following day.

Who would I possibly get to accompany me to this random show? My one friend who even knows of the band’s existence lives in New York, and so I knew I would have to persuade my friends to come with me. “Tickets are only $15”, I emphasized.

After a few stressful hours of texting everyone I knew with a moderately good taste in music, and after getting a series of “What Band?” and “Who?” I was ready to go to the show solo. Until two of my suitemates texted me that they wanted to vibe to the live music, regardless of knowing the band or not.

So, we went. The venue was as cool and intimate as I imagined, and the sound of the opening act as we walked in made me only more excited to hear the band we came to see.I knew this act would only sound better live and was so impressed by the energy they carried on stage.

During the encore, the lead singer, Sam Melo, leaped into the crowd, and crowd surfed back for the last song. It was the closest I’ve ever come to being in the action of a performance, and the excitement and vitality rattled my entire body.

Heres a clip of that insane moment in time. If you’re ever in New Orleans, go to Tipitina’s. Even if it’s a band you don’t know, the excitement of the venue and the energy that it inspires will make it a show you won’t forget.