Well, They’re At It Again

After all these years, and all the protestations about how New Orleans is a “city of music,” the “birthplace of jazz.” It’s happening all over again. Our new NOPD chief, the new District C (French Quarter) councilperson, Kristin Gisleson Palmer, and the Quarterite Music Abolition Team is at it again.

It’s a never-ending battle between musicians and certain residents in the French Quarter. Today our new chief of police, Ronal Serpas—who’s spent the last few years in Nashville—is cracking down on live music in New Orleans. Last I heard they were trying to close down alcohol sales in bars at midnight in Nashville, and allow guns in bars because, as the sponsor of the bill said “Nothing good happens after midnight.” Maybe in Nashville!

According to Serpas and 8th District Commander Major Edwin Hosli, the NOPD has received “numerous complaints from the residents of the Quarter” via NOMPAC concerning street musicians. Kevin Allman of Gambit has kept up with the news with several posts on this, and I’m upset and ashamed to tell you that it’s the same-old, same-old.

Apparently the To Be Continued Brass Band was being videoed last night on the corner of Canal and Bourbon Street, when the NOPD stopped the activity because of the “noise ordinance” which says that it is unlawful for anyone to perform any street entertainment on the street or sidewalk of Bourbon Street from the uptown side of Canal Street to the downtown side of St. Ann Street between the hours of 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.  Can someone please tell me why it’s not OK to have street musicians playing during these hours on Bourbon Street, for pity’s sake? It’s not like there’s not a huge amount of noise—and I don’t mean music—on Bourbon Street during these hours. If you choose to live on or near Bourbon Street, and don’t expect to hear some music or noise, then you really should move to the suburbs. Please.

Oh yeah, it’s also illegal for persons to play musical instruments on public rights-of-way between the hours of 8 p.m. and  9 a.m. anywhere in the city.

What kind of idiocy are the people who complain about street music going to pull next? Why haven’t they cracked down on the non-live “music” on Bourbon Street?

This is an ordinance that is patently unfair to local musicians. It’s unfair to the people who come to New Orleans who expect to experience real music here. It’s destructive to our musical culture and the role the French Quarter plays in our musical heritage. We always brag that music “bubbles up from the streets” when it’s convenient, but in reality…? When the music is on the street, the vocal and well-heeled minority in the Quarter hold sway with the police and politicians–especially when the police chief and councilwoman-in-charge are newbies.

The next NOMPAC a community meeting will be held on July 8, 2010 at 6 p.m. at the Maison Dupuy Hotel, 1001 Toulouse Street. If you’re a musician or a New Orleans music lover, and you’re not at this meeting to protest this, then shame on you. If you don’t make a real big noise and correct this injustice, you get what you deserve. We need a new ordinance on the books, something that the entire community participates in formulating. You wanna be more like Nashville? Ban street music, and that’s what you’ll get. New Orleans as the new Nashville–what a thought!

How about let’s ban open bar doors, strippers, college kids and foot traffic on Bourbon Street too? That might calm the residents down. That way it would be as quiet as a Metairie suburb. Why pick on musicians?

While we’re at it, let’s ban any music that’s not live New Orleans music on Bourbon Street. Now there’s an ordinance I could go for! Discuss amongst yourselves…