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FOMC House Party for NOLA musicians

On December 3rd covering , ,

Last night the Future of Music Coalition threw a fundraising party for Sweet Home New Orleans. It’s an organization that helps musicians in New Orleans. Guests of honor were Al “Carnival Time” Johnson and Mike Mills of R.E.M.

There’s a lot of concern on the long-term impact on our culture from the Katrina debacle — the loss of the next generation of musicians that might not be nurtured in NOLA. This is consistent with the FOMC mission of creating economic and policy conditions that will allow musical culture to thrive.

It was a very relaxed affair, with informal but nice food and drink and easy mixing with the headlining guests. After a while Mike mounted the little bandstand and played a few songs supported by local musicians, including a lovely one about baseball — I believe it’s the one he composed for the Roberto Clemente tribute titled Gift of the Fathers. He finished with a stirring Don’t go back to Rockville, in tribute to our proximity to the suburban Maryland town. Then Mike stepped down to the edge of the bandstand to play backup when Al “Carnival Time” Johnson took the stage.

Al played keyboard and sang in a straightforward blues style — a couple of songs of his own, and three Fats Domino numbers. The he went into his song about the flood, the Lower 9th Ward Blues, including verses describing the destruction of his house. His voice suddenly failed as he was overcome with emotion – the crowd suddenly realized we were hearing from a man in pain. He apologized and went into his signature tune, the upbeat Carnival Time, and when that was finished he attempted the Lower 9th Ward Blues again — and again he couldn’t sing through it for the emotion. The crowd was moved — not a dry eye. Mike Mills filled in w/ a blues obbligato on electric guitar when Al’s voice failed him.

Later it was announced that we’d raised $30K, the result of which was that Al is getting a home. Very gratifying. Now if we can just put Al’s community back the way it was.

UPDATE: Here’s DCist’s take on the event.

Here’s a link to the FOMC blog post describing the project.

Oh — Al is amazing. And Mike Mills is a Mensch. Here’s a clip of Al playing Lower 9th Ward Blues and Carnival Time earlier this year:

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