August 2007 Letters

NORTH RAMPART STREET
As editor of OffBeat, Jan Ramsey is understandably a music advocate, but her focus on North Rampart is misplaced, and she is flat wrong about French Quarter residents opposing music and change. We would like to set the record straight and challenge her to work with us to revitalize Rampart.

South Rampart is a much better choice for a new music district. It was the site of our historic jazz clubs (not North Rampart). It is strategically located between “Broadway South” on Canal and the proposed Jazz Park on Poydras. It has no opposing neighbors.

A coalition of business and resident associations is dedicated to the revitalization of North Rampart within current zoning via the Main Street program funded by the state with local matching funds. Main Street has already helped three properties fund façade improvements. Neutral ground and historic lamppost enhancements are next. We aim to retain current businesses and attract new ones. Main Street is working to bring the Satchmo Fest to Armstrong Park and is sponsoring this year’s kickoff event at Armstrong Park.

The French Quarter is a delicate balance of businesses and residents which makes it an authentic community—not a Williamsburg or Disneyland. Experience has demonstrated that live entertainment drives out residents; prime examples are Bourbon, Decatur and Frenchmen. This balance must be nurtured or we lose the authenticity of the Quarter.

French Quarter residents love music and enthusiastically support our magnificent world class musicians by buying their CDs at the Louisiana Music Factory, booking their bands at our anniversaries and birthday parties and community events. We often go to Donna’s, the Bombay Club, the Mystic Den, Palm Court and other clubs in the French Quarter, on Frenchmen and Decatur and all over the city. We avidly support Jazz Fest, FQ Fest, Satchmo Fest and the full and speedy restoration of Armstrong Park with its splendid interior and exterior music venues.

French Quarter residents welcome constructive change while preserving our historic neighborhoods. We have supported developments from streetcar lines to condos in and on the edge of the French Quarter, to French Market renovations to Canal Street redevelopment.

The entertainment district on Decatur/N. Peters has many buildings standing empty. Tipitina’s opened on Peters and then scaled back for special events only. If these clubs were a draw, club owners would be clamoring to open. The residential buildings there are now vacant. Several restaurants have failed and the strip joints are still there. Music is clearly no panacea.

King Bolden’s is an abysmal poster child for live music. It seldom booked musicians, relying on an incredibly loud DJ from 11 p.m.-6 a.m. Neighbors first sought to resolve the matter directly with King Bolden’s, but it flagrantly violated the agreement. When the authorities intervened, Bolden’s acknowledged over 700 counts of legal violations.

Live entertainment can be a problem in any neighborhood. French Quarter residents have experienced live entertainment venues that are good neighbors (e,g., Donna’s, on the same block as King Bolden’s) and those that are completely oblivious to neighborhood concerns and an administration that ignores noise ordinances. The problem is trust. Residents oppose businesses changing zoning to allow live music since in this city; experience has taught us to expect the worst. If the city were to find a way to enforce existing noise ordinances, trust could begin to be built. Negotiations could proceed regarding amplification and noise levels, closed doors, times and other qualifiers that would encourage residents to modify their stance on live entertainment if the music business and the city would abide by those rules.

If Jan Ramsey wants a change, we welcome her to work with us. We all want to see North Rampart become the vibrant, beautiful gateway to the French Quarter that it once was. We invite her to do a walking tour with us to see the recent changes.

—Marti and David Speights, New Orleans, LA

Thanks Jan Ramsey for “North Rampart Street Needs A Savior” [“Mojo Mouth,” June 2007]. You are the only one to get that point over. Great.

—Clinton Scott, New Orleans, LA


DEFENDING CYRIL
I really must write to defend my very good friend Cyril Neville. To refer to him as a traitor and a fair weather friend (Elliott Hammer, letters June ’07 issue) is just so unfair.

Yes, Cyril has made many controversial statements, but what exactly has he said that is untrue? Before and after Katrina, just how many New Orleans musicians could make a full time living working in the city? Not many more than Kermit Ruffins and Pete Fountain, I suspect. He is not the only one who has found that not only can he get better paying, more regular gigs elsewhere, but his children can go to safer and better public schools.

Cyril is also quite right to suggest that the city authorities just don’t value the music and culture of the city in the way in which they clearly should. As an outsider, I find it frankly astonishing that in a city with such a rich heritage that a club should have such difficulty in obtaining a permit to allow live music and that second line parades should have to pay for a license to parade! For goodness sake, the city should be doing everything it can to encourage live music venues and should pay people to organize second line parades, not penalize them. New Orleans will be dead if something does not change quickly. Cyril is just trying to draw people’s attention to this before it is too late.

I know for a certain fact, in spite of everything, that Cyril and Gaynielle will be coming back to New Orleans. Just remember that they lost their home and everything in it. Aaron lost his home too, and Art’s house was looted. Give the man a break.

I have read elsewhere some critical comments regarding the Nevilles and Jazz Fest. Art was quoted as saying that they would have been happy to play Jazz Fest this year had they been made an offer they could not refuse. He was clearly referring to some of the national acts booked and wondering (like most of us) why the likes of Rod Stewart, Van Morrison, Joss Stone, Norah Jones, Steely Dan etc. and not the Nevilles? No doubt these acts have some merit and appeal to lots of people, but Jazz Fest? I don’t think so. Don’t get me wrong, I love Steely Dan and have tickets to see them in London later this month, but they just don’t do it for me at Jazz Fest—I want the Nevilles!

—Ed Ievers, New Malden, Surrey, UK

PROMOTING LOCAL MUSIC
OffBeat has made mention once or twice that the Louisiana Music Factory is the only place for visitors to get local music. I wanted to let you know I am here in the airport at Altitunes (Soon to be called InMotion Entertainment) selling, playing, and promoting local music.

Of course we sell national titles, DVDs, and portable electronics as well, but by far the local CDs and DVDs are what people are looking for. I very much enjoy helping them with their selections and perhaps ever so gently educating them on what it was they actually saw or heard while they were here. We also offer them OffBeat magazines on their way in to town.

I’m happy to say that the visitors who come through my shop on their way home all seem to be very pleased with their stay here. They are tired and worn out and maybe feeling a little bloated but happy and already making plans to return.

I do my best to represent and leave them with a good impression of the locals (because I am pure local) and a good taste of the local music.

So go on fighting the good fight, and remember, I got your back at New Orleans/Louis Armstrong International Airport!

—Barbara A. Conner, Altitunes, New Orleans, LA

CAUGHT IN THE WEB
I would like to echo the reader who wrote in to the most recent OffBeat [June 2007, letters]. He mentioned the additional content that’s available online. I don’t appreciate it either. I want more in the magazine that gets mailed to me. That’s the one I carry around and read over the course of a week or two. I access OffBeat online too but I’m paying for the magazine and if something additional is going to be offered it should come to subscribers.

I also missed the local artists’ picks for who to see at Jazz Fest this year.

—Sherry Colwell, Dallas, TX

The decision to put material exclusively online is an attempt to cover as much as we can as fully as we can. Longer versions of stories and reviews are put online because we don’t have enough space to include everything we want to print. Rather than cut a story or edit something permanently that we’d rather not lose, we move some material to the Web. We wish we could include it all in the magazine.—Ed.

I was quite disappointed that there was NO news on your site about the death of Humphrey Davis, Jr. while the same old “Bo Diddley Hospitalized” scrolls past day after day after day after day. You’ve almost driven me from your site once and for all. And you’re considering a “Premium” section? How about staying current on the regular section?

—Debra Clark, Schenectady, NY

We ran an obituary on Davis in the June issue and mentioned it in our weekly email newsletter, “The Weekly Beat.” I’m sorry you missed them. Davis’ omission from the web site was not any reflection of our esteem for him or his talent. We only run a portion of the magazine online because the magazine remains our primary source of income, and giving away the issue’s content in its entirety online would be a disincentive for people to subscribe. We try on the Web site to strike the right balance between stories that a more general audience would find interesting and stories that long-time fans of New Orleans music would like. If we missed in this case, we’ll try to do better in the future.—Ed.

HONORING A CRIMINAL
In comment to your June issue review of C-Murder’s “novel,” I must say something is seriously wrong with the values over at your shop. In a city that is struggling with elevated crime rates, and has been even pre-Katrina, and a present day society that is struggling with kids’ perspectives on life and role models, it is an undeniably irresponsible act to publicize an obvious criminal who is only getting off on a technicality. It is a shame that with all of the talented folks in this city that make a positive contribution instead of taking part in gun battles on the streets, you’ve chosen to honor a criminal instead. If you want to solve problems these types of people should have no voice, they don’t deserve it and they definitely haven’t earned it. You guys are lame.

—Name withheld by request, Hammond, LA

THE NAME GAME
I am writing though because the name of the band was listed incorrectly as “What Would You Do?” which is the name of the album (What Would You Do?) and “I Tell You What” was listed as the name of the CD whereas “I Tell You What” is the name of the band.

In addition, our record label was listed incorrectly as Independent. We are on Attention Spaniel Records. OffBeat published a review of our label-mate Chappy’s record in the same issue with Attention Spaniel listed correctly as the label. The label and catalog number are printed clearly on the CD and the jacket artwork.

—Adam Crochet, New Orleans, LA

We regret the error, but the band’s name and album title are fairly clear in the body of the review.—Ed