Bon temps Boston
With New Orleans picking up the pieces, well just have to pick up the Mardi Gras slack ourselves. Get ready for a party.
Amid post-Katrina shambles, New Orleans is mustering the energy to throw a party even if this years Mardi Gras is expected to be a shadow of its former self. Revelers will still fill the French Quarter to celebrate the crazy, time-honored traditions of Fat Tuesday, but the devastation that lies beyond those colorful streets promises to put a damper on the festivities.
And that means well just have to pick up the slack ourselves.
If you cant make it to the Crescent City, you can still tap into the seasons Bacchanalian spirit right here in Boston. OK, so maybe we cant compete with Bourbon Streets sheer spectacle of Mardi Gras revelry, but an assortment of places around town are doing their best to spice up the season.
If you want to sample some music along with a Hurricane, check out a pair of night-long events that aim to turn local rock clubs into raucous New Orleans-style house parties.
MC Mickey Bliss kicks things off on Friday night at the Club Bohemia 13th Annual Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball and Zulu Parade of the Golden Blade at the Kirkland Cafe in Somerville. Local acts Confederacy of Dumpsters, Chicken Slacks Soul Revue, and Brother Mosley will cook up a danceable feast of jazz, funk, soul, and reggae. And the 2nd Line Social Aid & Pleasure Society Brass Band will get you on your feet and into the street for the Zulu Parade. Thru the Keyhole Burlesque Society also performs. Come early and chow down on Cajun-style turkey, jambalaya, and traditional Mardi Gras king cakes while the complimentary buffet lasts.
Saturday night, local musicians Shaun Wolf Wortis and Suzi Lee present Shaun & Suzis 13th Annual Mardi Gras Ball at T.T. the Bears Place in Central Square in Cambridge. Wortis and Lee, formerly of the band Slide, lead a big band known as the Voodoo Krewe Revue. The pairs annual salute to Crescent City culture features Louisiana party music that runs the gamut from Louis Armstrong to funk, with a little jug band thrown in for good measure. Hometown singers Peter Moore (Count Zero), Jordan Valentine (Worlds Greatest Sinners), Holly Brewer (HUMANWINE), and Courtney Naliboff (Joe Lies) will join the band to perform their favorite New Orleans numbers. The Jellyrollers and the Boston Babydolls burlesque troop will also perform.
Wortis considered canceling this years show after Katrina, but decided that to not party would admit defeat. Proceeds from the event benefit the New Orleans Musicians Clinic, a nonprofit health care service.
Local restaurants are also getting in on the act. At Magnolias Southern Cuisine, in Inman Square in Cambridge, chef/owner John Silberman who apprenticed to legendary New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme pays homage to his culinary roots with a special Mardi Gras dinner menu, available Tuesday through Saturday. This cozy bistro will make you think youre in the French Quarter as you dine on special dishes like New Orleans shrimp remoulade served over crispy fried green tomatoes, New Orleans seafood gumbo, and apple wood-smoked pork loin served over a Creole white bean cassoulet topped with a crawfish cardinal.
Silberman regularly flies in fresh ingredients like shrimp and ground-to-order grits to give his nouveau Southern cuisine an authentic flavor. Try one of the beverage selections from New Orleans-based Abita Brewing Company if you need a little extra help getting into the Mardi Gras spirit.
Bobs Southern Bistro (formerly Bob the Chefs), a casually swanky South End spot known for a Cajun and soul food menu rich with classics like shrimp etouffee and sweet potato pie, combines its authentic New Orleans eats with a regular schedule of live music.
On Tuesday, the restaurant celebrates Mardi Gras New Orleans Style, when Big Easy crooner Henri Smith and guest saxophonist Charles Neville of the Neville Brothers lead the Nat Simpkins/Henri Smith Six Piece Band in a night of traditional Mardi Gras music, including a New Orleans-style second-line parade that promises to get the audience moving. The $25 admission gets you a buffet dinner and party favors along with the evenings entertainment.
For the Hubs answer to New Orleans Bourbon Street party scene, head to the Big Easy Bar in the Alley off Boylston Street. This New Orleans-themed club celebrates Mardi Gras every weekend, but it pulls out all the stops on the real Fat Tuesday. Expect live music, costumed revelers imbibing Hurricanes in authentic glasses, and beads galore. Organizers promise contests and surprises. Previous bashes have had partygoers competing for best costume, best dancer, and owner of the most beads by the end of the night. Be warned: the beads wont come cheap, and leave your inhibitions at the door.
On Saturday, the Theater Offensive heats it up Brazilian-style at the Cyclorama with the climACTS! Carnaval. High-dollar donors to the cutting-edge queer theater companys annual benefit and awards gala will be treated to a VIP reception, and regular ticket holders are invited to join the party at 7:30 p.m. for cocktails, gourmet food from top Boston caterers, live entertainment, and dancing amid an exotic array of samba drummers and body-painted go-go dancers.
Keep an eye out for the creations of local artist Amatul Hannan shell be decking out the partys fetching hosts and hostesses in her Animal Skins costumes, creations of liquid latex, leather, glitter, and feathers that are sure to leave little to the imagination.
The events live auction is known as a rowdy highlight of the evening, with items up for bid including tickets and backstage passes to a Madonna concert, an African photo safari, cocktails hosted by Spenser novelist Robert Parker and his wife Joan, a prize intriguingly known as the Hollywood and New York Fluffer package, and a trip to experience the real Carnaval next year in Rio.
Even if you cant afford to bid, enjoy the high-spirited competition then get up, throw on a few more beads, and dance.