February 06, 2005
BY JASON SONGE
Davis Rogan arrived first carrying a WWII-era bass drum with a cowbell on top. He found it at an East Coast thrift store for $6. Once, a guy offered him a few thousand dollars for it. Rogan refused.
At 1:50 a.m. he was ten minutes early for the meeting of marchers in the seventh annual Mardi Gras bass parade. It was Monday morning outside The R Bar. Not too cold. Not too hot. The breeze had a crispness and peacefulness that is only manifested in early morning air.
I talked with Rogan as we waited on the corner for others to arrive. First to show was Other Planets bassist Joe Butts, who carried his electric bass. So, the obvious question:
How did all these bassists march without amplification?
Dr. Jimbo Walsh brought battery-operated mini amplifiers that would be attached to the bass strap. Like years previous, the amplifiers wouldn't be able to compete with accompanying percussion later that morning. Walsh was a leader of the parade, along with Jonathan Freilich and John Worthington.
Musicians and non-musicians alike arrived steadily until everyone huddled into the bar at 2:30 to see a documentary by Worthington about the parade. If a person arrived without a bass, well then they were on percussion--snare drums, cowbells, shakers, etc. Astral Project bassist James Singleton made a grand entrance dressed in drag. His girlfriend wore a suit and a mustache(fake). Singleton's costume was scarily convincing. He looked like the version of somebody's grandmother circa 1950. Other bassists were Dave Malone, Cassandra Faulconer, and three others. Musicians that marched included Brian Coogan, Brian Seeger, Stanton Moore, Kevin O'Day, Quin Kirchner, Anthony Cuccia, and Janna Saslaw.
While waiting, an impromptu jam session formed between Singleton, Malone and a guitarist from the neighborhood. He played Led Zeppelin's "Good Times, Bad Times," and after a couple of choruses, the marchers were stumbling over the lyrics.
After the film ended, Freilich gave a ten minute warning. Everyone was waiting on Moore and O'Day. When they arrived at 3, Walsh got the parade started with a jam on Rick James' "Super Freak." The marchers moved towards Frenchman Street. The 100 or so second liners actually played in time with each other. It was like a marching band--but just the rhythm section. The people moved through the streets with chants of "bass parade!"
The highlight of the morning was when the marchers crowded around each other in d.b.a.'s performance room. "Papa" John Gros was already there with his band, and the jam that followed was magical. Gros got the improvised funky organ flowing. Everyone was smiling. Everyone was in on it and playing music.
The parade also ended up invading Checkpoint Charlie's and Molly's, where the marchers turned back towards The R Bar. The bassists marched in the front of the parade, and at every stop, they were let into the bar first.
Checkpoint's was nearly empty when the marchers got there, so they had the whole room to form a circle and chant. My favorite was created by the purple fellow behind me. Up until his line, the parade had a silly tone to it. Mr. Purple added a gangsta feel in an awww, yeah sorta way: "It's a motherf-----' bass parade!"
Where else but New Orleans? When you hate the city(we all have our moments), think about the bass parade.