Pandemic Carnival has been upon us for a while now. There've been bright spots (the ingenious Krewe of House Floats) and last-minute twinges (citywide bar closures). We've had plenty of time to accept that this year is different, but that doesn't make it easier. It's true that curbing the spread of COVID-19 is the priority, and it's also true that New Orleanians miss Mardi Gras. We can hold both truths at once while Fat Tuesday looms tauntingly all weekend. Or, we can join Tipitina's in refusing to wallow. Instead, they'll be streaming the glory of Mardi Gras straight into your home. All you have to do is tune in.
King Cake & A Movie: A Virtual Mardi Gras Film Festival is a free, three-day event that will be absolutely brimming with music. Beginning Saturday, February 13, at 10 a.m., the movie marathon won't stop until 2 a.m. the next day. The packed schedule alternates between feature-length documentaries and original Tipitina's content. There's so much to watch that the schedule only pauses long enough to let you sleep. On Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday, you can flip to Tipitinas.TV at any time or virtually never turn it off!
Included in the lineup are Bury the Hatchet and All On A Mardi Gras Day. Both documentaries were film festival darlings, with the former winning Best Louisiana Feature Award at the 2010 New Orleans Film Festival and the latter having screenings at more than 40 fests. Both documentaries focus on Mardi Gras Indian Big Chiefs and their elaborate costume process — but that's where the similarities cut short. Bury the Hatchet takes a five-year journey that delves into the community and philosophy of three Big Chiefs. Meanwhile, All On A Mardi Gras Day follows Big Chief Demond Melancon of the Young Seminole Hunters crafting his striking, 100 pound, beaded garment.
James Booker, the self-proclaimed "Black Liberace," is the subject of Lily Keber's directorial debut Bayou Maharajah. Told through interviews and previously unseen footage of the R&B and jazz keyboardist, the documentary won the #1 Must-See Music Movie at SXSW. It's an incredible story with an equally fascinating backstory. Keber told Rolling Stone that she was introduced to Booker's music by way of a jukebox while bartending at Vaughan's Lounge on Dauphine Street. She was shocked to discover that an artist who excited the regulars so much was practically non-existent on a Google search. By putting this movie in the program, Tipitina's is making sure Booker doesn't escape through the cracks of history again.
For fans of Rebirth Brass Band and Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Tipitina's will show Never a Dull Moment and Tuba to Cuba. Never a Dull Moment is the closest you can get to a complete history of Rebirth, while Tuba to Cuba goes to Cuba with the leader of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in order to trace the roots and musical connection between the two locales. The energy and exuberance on display in these two films feels like St. Charles on parade day.
History, culture, and music collide in American Patchwork and Up From the Streets. Both documentaries tell the story behind the soundtrack to the city. Catching both will definitely make you want more New Orleans ethnomusicology.
While most of the films on this lineup focus on the musicians (this is a Tipitina's event, after all), Buckjumping is about an equally important type of performing artist: dancers.
And, finally, the list wouldn't be complete without a look into the world of swamp pop. The Promised Land tells the story of the members of Lil' Band O' Gold, a band whose eclectic sound and quippy sayings like "eight members, 25 egos, six livers" earned them a cult following.
As if that weren't enough, Tipitina's announced on its Instagram account that the venue "will also be sharing some of our favorite select shows and clips pulled from the extensive Tipitina's archives, including Dr. John, Henry Butler, Anders Osborne, Bruce Daigrepont, and more!" Do yourself a favor and set a reminder by going to Tipitina's YouTube channel. While you're there, watch interviews with Big Freedia, Samantha Fish, and other NOLA culture creators on the Alright, Alright Broadcast. It's the perfect way to pre-game.
To fully turn this film fest into a Mardi Gras celebration, Bywater Bakery is partnering with Tipitina's. Order a king cake online and use the promo code SAVETIPS at checkout to make sure a portion of the proceeds goes to Tipitina's. Take your pick of enticing flavors like Bouille King Cake (made with stove-top cooked Cajun custard), Cheesecake King Cake (a New York-style cheesecake literally overflowing from a traditional brioche king cake), or savory king cakes stuffed with crawfish or boudin. No matter what flavor you choose, it'll pair wonderfully with the programming.