Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Happy Mardi Gras

If there is a day in the Carnival schedule best suited to rest and recuperation it is Lundi Gras.  The long Thoth/Bacchus Sunday is typically the height of the second weekend's mania. Fat Tuesday itself has its share of abandon. But it's an early day and requires a lot of planning and rest to pull off properly.   The best way to deal with Monday is to make sure you don't do too much.

We spent our day indoors prepping tomorrow's food and making sure we had enough party supplies at the ready.  In the evening we walked out and took a quiet casual look at Proteus.

Proteus CXXXV

The 135 year old Shepherd Of The Sea's procession is put on by an "old line krewe" but the parade is larger and more varied than those unfamiliar with it may expect.  Its floats ride on the old wooden chasis seen here below the signature "Dawn of Proteus" float so they have that distinctive wobble as the move down the street.

1881 The Dawn of Proteus

The design of these floats is nothing short of stunning. Proteus's theme this year depicted a selection of Hindu Gods. Below are Agni and Kali.



Between the floats, Proteus places more flambeaux than any parade I watched this year and as many marching bands as any of them.  Here is Roots of Music.

Roots of Music

The Ninth Ward Marching Band has been a fixture in Proteus since that band's creation.

Ninth Ward Marching Band

Other elements like this brass band

Brass band and flambeaux

Or these stiltwalkers

Proteus Stiltwalkers

As well as this drumming group from Switzerland, who I'd seen in several other parades, called Guggen Kamikaze Monthrey give Proteus a more diverse feel and sense of fun than what the club's genteel status might lead us to expect.

Guggen Kamikaze Monthey

The parade is almost a deliberate review of every type of thing we might have seen in any parade during the season. That and the almost minimalist staging of the thing make it a great moment for (not quite) quiet reflection on the night before the big Tuesday finish.

But then Proteus doesn't close the evening on Lundi Gras. Orpheus does.  Maybe it's time to change that.

Trojan Horse

Orpheus, the most unnecessary "Superkrewe" of Carnival is an amazing parade. It has all the elements of a marquee event.

It has Celebrities. Here are Harry Shearer and Nathan Fillion.

Harry Shearer

Nathan Fillion

It incorporates dance groups like the Pussyfooters and 610 Stompers. It has great marching bands. Talladega College led Monday night's parade. Mississippi Valley State was sort of a co-headliner. It also includes some of Carnival's most iconic signature floats such as the Smokey Mary and Leviathan.

Smokey Mary

Smokey Mary



At the same time, there's also something about Orpheus that feels less BIG than the other superkrewes.  Despite its impressive glitz, it isn't as insanely garish as Endymion or as loud as Bacchus. Orpheus is big but accessible. Orpheus is just right. 

But maybe it isn't just right for Monday. Orpheus is still a big elaborate event. And a big elaborate event is probably wasted on what is naturally the season's most chill evening.  A parade like Orpheus deserves to be seen by a crowd ready to let loose more than the fairly small group assembled but barely even drinking more than a beer or two on Monday night.

Tonight as we went through this lukewarm experience yet again we started asking whether or not it's time to move Orpheus to Fat Tuesday. The evening slot on Mardi Gras has been empty long enough.  Orpheus came into being at roughly the same time that slot was vacated by Comus. Over the intervening two decades, the parade has more than earned the right to fill it.

Besides even if Comus decided to parade again, the stuffy dismissive dash those blue bloods made in their haste to get to their Very Important Private Event was already a relic in the New Orleans of the 1980s and it certainly would not provide a fitting end to the Mardi Gras of the 21st Century.  What Tuesday night needs is an opportunity for residents and visitors to see one more impressive.. but not too overwhelming... event before the lights go out. Tuesday night needs something like Orpheus. Luckily we have one of those.  All we have to do is ask it to wait one day.

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