It’s a bright sunny afternoon in late October at Hansen’s Sno-Bliz, and with temps in the mid-70s, the line of folks waiting for sno-balls would normally stretch around the block. Instead, the sound of a fiddle and horns wafts through the open doors on Tchoupitoulas, where passing drivers do double-takes at the skinny guy in a Santa suit tugging a fake beard next to a sweet white pooch sporting reindeer antlers. Welcome to the video shoot for “The Day It Snows on Christmas,” Loose Cattle-style, where band co-founders Michael Cerveris and Kimberly Kaye are lip-synching their hearts out in a location that’s not only season-appropriate but very dear to their hearts.
Back in 2017, when Loose Cattle were recording their instant-classic holiday album, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Hansen’s was a refuge that provided both physical and spiritual sustenance.
“We were recording the album uptown at The Parlor in the middle of August,” recalls Kaye, who was battling a host of chronic life-threatening infections amid a heat wave that spiked to 112 degrees. “So we’d go to Hansen’s for sno-balls to keep us motivated to keep recording.”
“’Cause it would feel like Christmas if we got sno-balls,” interjects Cerveris, who first proposed they make an album of covers for his own favorite holiday—and Kaye’s least favorite holiday—when she was at death’s door in the hospital.
“I said okay, because there was no way I was gonna be alive to have to actually do this stupid fuckin’ Christmas album,” Kaye says. “And then I lived! And I had to do it! And I was still on this liquid diet ’cause my organs were in failure, and when Hansen’s found out, they were like, here’s your sustenance! I would go to Hansen’s for my only meal of the day, and they would give us sno-balls for free.”
That all-in-the family spirit lights up today’s set, where Ashley Hansen and Hansen’s manager Paul Broussard greet the band with bear hugs, artisanal icy treats and red and green prop sno-balls for the shoot. They also shave a few bins of ice so the band can have a for-real snowball fight outside on Tchoupitoulas, drawing more bemused stares from passing drivers.
Though Cerveris and Kaye recorded Seasonal Affective Disorder with their original Brooklyn-based band, they’re shooting the video with Loose Cattle’s stellar New Orleans lineup: Rurik Nunan (fiddle), Rene Coman (bass) and Doug Garrison (drums), all of the Iguanas.
“We’ve had [Loose Cattle] for ten years, but within the last year, the Iguana guys joined us and sort of got stuck in the barn with us and now they tour with us and we won’t let them out,” Kaye says, laughing. “We’re keeping them captive!”
Brooklyn is in the house today as well: Original drummer Eddy Zweiback, who brushed his “barely snare” at an acoustic gig last night, is playing the world’s skinniest Santa at the shoot. He also turned plenty of heads when he showed up in full Claus regalia outside the Superdome after the Saints game, footage of which will appear in the video.
“The Saints had won, so the crowd was really happy,” reports Cerveris. “And out of season, people are so excited to see Santa! People were taking pictures with him and telling him what they wanted for Christmas and dancing with him. It was hilarious.”
It was also a warm, summery day, which dovetailed perfectly with the spirit of “The Day It Snows on Christmas.” Originally recorded and released by Allen Toussaint in 2004, the Greg Barnhill-Will Robinson song details a litany of things as unlikely to happen in New Orleans as a White Christmas: “The coffee won’t have any chicory/ The moss will fall right off the live oak tree/ Tchoupitoulas won’t have one pothole/ And the Saints’ll go marching to the Super Bowl.”
“Allen’s version is much more lyrical,” says Cerveris of Loose Cattle’s foot-stompin’ take on the song. “We also changed one line: ‘And the Saints’ll go marching back to the Super Bowl.’”
Not to jinx it, but that just might happen. And one thing’s for sure. “A Very Loose Cattle Christmas,” their annual holiday show, will be one of the highlights of the season. Featuring a full horn section and a galaxy of guest stars, Tom McDermott, John Boutte and Debbie Davis among them, it runs the whole Seasonal Affective Disorder gamut of emotions, from Tom Waits, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson classics to their own “Shepherds in the Parking Lot,” which manages to find a glimmer of hope in the bleakest circumstances.
Like “when that doctor gave you pills so now you’re numb but you’re sick still,” as Kaye sings in “Shepherds.” And Hansen’s comes to the rescue with sno-balls just when you need them most.
“It’s such a New Orleans story and such a Christmas story,” agrees Kaye—especially for someone like me who always hated Christmas. My heart grew three times bigger, and not because the medication went wrong!” O
The Third Annual “A Very Loose Cattle Christmas” hits the stage at Chickie Wah Wah on December 17. Loose Cattle also appears for the first time ever at the annual Christmas In New Orleans Concert at St. Augustine Church on December 21.