While other cities were recovering from excessive consumer spending and holiday overeating, hundreds of New Orleanians found another way to celebrate the holiday at Tipitina's Christmas night with Marva Wright, the so-called Blues Queen. Tipitina's Uptown was packed with a standing-room-only crowd, literally hanging from the balconies. A dozen top-flight local performers did two songs apiece in 20-minute sets to celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus and the rebirth of New Orleans. I got choked up more than once as musicians gave thanks to be home again, performing and together.
It is so great to see a band enjoying themselves, fully engaged and appreciating the soloists. Marva ticked off the years her band members have been with her - up to 28 years. They're multicultural - black, Asian and Native American - with Marva at the front, like a soulful Oprah, her hair in pin curls and wearing a sparkling white top, she hurled pralines at the crowd, Mardi Gras style. I'm still having trouble imagining her singing at the Ritz Carlton, but she said she tones it down!
The performers were clearly her friends - and relatives - all well known to her with the exception of a rapper she'd met on MySpace. Trombone Shorty held a few notes so long, he risked passing out. And Irvin Mayfield played riffs that elicited howls. Amanda Shaw, dressed in a short, leopard-print dress and heels, looked like a baby doll, but played like a banshee. Just another amazing night in New Orleans' music scene, all for $10.
I had a neat conversation with a couple standing at the bar who have lived here all their lives and still love it. He said he'd visited Chicago in the 70s and thought, "This is the real America." New Orleans is someplace else.
The thought that kept coming to me was how authentic it all was - the enjoyment, the music and the love.