Scary Monsters and Super Creeps: Win Butler and Preservation Hall Honor David Bowie
A view from within the magic of Saturday's second line in honor of the recently deceased Starman.
David Bowie’s farewell in New Orleans attracted hundreds of androgynous shape shifters, goblin kings, Thin White Dukes, alligators, mamas and papas and space invaders with lightning bolt–branded faces all plastering the streets with glitter and ripped bits of tinsel wigs under the invisible pot fog of the French Quarter.
New New Orleans residents Win Butler and Régine Chassagne of Arcade Fire and jazz institution Preservation Hall led the tribute: a winding, anarchic second line parade. In an electric pink suit, Butler saluted the crowd from a balcony above the hall. “It kind of felt like a planet exploded or a color ceased to exist when he died,” he said. “God bless David Bowie, wherever you’re at.”
Second lines are a nearly year-round tradition in New Orleans. Think groups dancing in colorful suits and toting parasols flanked by brass bands and swinging into neighborhood dives for toasts and refills. They’re loud parties on foot—if there are lines, they blur between parade participant and parade audience. Sometimes there’s a dirge to honor past members of the marching club or close friends and families. And sometimes they’re “sending home” someone close. If it’s somber, it’s only for a moment. It is unmistakably concentrated joy.
Pres Hall’s doors swung open to that slow, sinking jazz funeral sound—a mourning “Oh! You Pretty Things” was the dirge. A few snare rolls and two-note tuba riffs later, the band turned “Heroes” into bouncing, celebratory New Orleans brass. Butler sang into a megaphone, Chassagne played keytar, and members of Pres Hall and the women of Pinettes Brass Band layered saxophone, sousaphone, snares, and bass drums.
The parade rolled along the Mississippi River and returned with a synchronized dance troupe and flag team who led the parade to “Suffragette City.” It made one last turn toward its final destination, the rock club One Eyed Jacks, where speakers pointed at the street blasted “Starman.” When the sun set, a group of girls in gold glittery outfits climbed up a wall to baptize the crowd with firework sparklers. While a Young American hoisted his Ziggy Stardust girlfriend on his shoulders, a cop car cast blue lights to put to bed what was left of the party. And just down the block, a woman carrying a cardboard guitar bounced into the street, where one of many dance parties popped up in the parade’s wake. They were playing “Let’s Dance.” FL