New Orleans-style Mardi Gras celebrations have begun to pop up in the local area. This year is the fifth year of a celebration in Venice that includes a costumed stroll down Ocean Front Walk and live New Orleans-style music.
“Venice is the last spot for ideas and culture, the last melting pot of Western Civilization,” says celebration co-organizer Johann Stein, a New Orleans native and current Venice resident.
“Mardi Gras is a very special part of American culture and we wanted to bring it westward as far as we could,” says Stein, explaining the significance of bringing the tradition to Venice.
Stein plays guitar and sings in the New Orleans style funk band The Gumbo Brothers and organizes the Mardi Gras celebration in Venice with Jessica Long.
Festivities begin at noon Saturday, February 25th, with a costume walk that will include live drumming and music by the marching band the Critical Brass Brass Band, starting at Rose Avenue and Ocean Front Walk. Revelers will make their way down to the Venice Bistro, 323 Ocean Front Walk, Venice.
A celebration will be held at the Venice Bistro with live music by The Gumbo Brothers, Critical Brass Brass Band and percussive Brazilian group Sambe de Ouro. Admission is free to the celebration and all ages are admitted. The theme of this year’s festivities is “Tiki Gris Gris,” adding a Polynesian flare to the customs of the French Quarter.
“There will be grass skirts mixed with voodoo garb,” says Stein.
Traditional Mardi Gras garb includes feathered masks, beads and an abundance of purple, green and gold clothing. Traditionally, purple represents justice; green represents faith; and gold represents power.
The celebration will culminate with a concert by New Orleans funk guitarist forefather Leo Nocentelli of The Meters at 14 Below, 1348 14th St. Santa Monica. Tickets are $12, and ages 21 and older are admitted.
Information, (310) 451-5040.
The concert will begin at 9 p.m. with The Gumbo Brothers as the opening act.
New Orleans-based The Meters are progenitors of the funk music movement that emerged in the 1960s along with James Brown. Their songs include “Sissy Strut” and “Fire on the Bayou.” The Nocentelli concert is intended to be a costume party.
The Gumbo Brothers play originals and New Orleans funk classics. The group describes its music as “bayou-influenced psychedelic swamp funk.”
Over the past few months, the group took part in fundraising efforts to benefit Hurricane Katrina victims at Baby Blues BBQ in Venice, The Farm in Beverly Hills and the Temple Bar in Santa Monica.
Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans are still intended to go on despite the devastation brought by Hurricane Katrina, although on a smaller scale. The French Quarter was not among the worst damaged parts of the city due to its being on relatively high ground. Some of the traditional parade routes, however, are said to have been hit hard.
Scott Simoneaux, who runs a club and concert promotion under the name Infectious, and who organized the Nocentelli concert at 14 Below, relocated to Los Angeles from New Orleans after the hurricane. Nocentelli intends to promote New Orleans-style music events in the area.
SHROVE TUESDAY — A Shrove Tuesday (also known as Fat Tuesday) Mardi Gras celebration with pancakes and live music, with proceeds going to benefit victims of a devastating earthquake in Pakistan, is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Holy Nativity Church, 6700 83rd St., Westchester. Admission is free.
Information, (310) 670-4777.
CAJUN MARDI GRAS — Mardi Gras West VI, a festival with live jazz, blues and zydeco, and cajun cooking including a crawfish boil, is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, March 4th, at Uncle Darrow’s Cajun/Creole Eatery, 2560 Lincoln Blvd., Venice. Proceeds will benefit the nonprofit group ReUnite America.. Admission is free.
Information, (310) 306-4862.