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Written By: Tish Michel
*Click images below to view larger versions.
Big Sam (Sam Williams of Big Sam's Funky Nation) sings as school children are permitted to join him on stage.
Paul Sanchez (red guitar) and Glen David Andrews (trombone) preforming at "Treme Fest."
    The season finale of the HBO series about life in New Orleans after Katrina airs this week.  If you love all things N‚walins as much as I do, you gotta love Treme.  Once you see your first episode, you’re hooked! If you haven’t seen the show, check it out this week.  You can buy the first season or rent it at the library.  The second season should be out soon.
    The series was created by David Simons (The Wire) and Eric Overmyer (Law & Order). Treme (pronounced Truh-may) is the neighborhood on the other side of Rampart Street adjacent to the French Quarter. This neighborhood is one of the oldest in the city and provides a rich and historic source of African American music and culture. Folks like Trombone Shortie (Troy Andrews) and Soul Queen Irma Thomas often talk about how prior to Katrina, there were always brass bands with second liners parading around their neighborhood. 
    Singer/songwriter John Boutte is this year’s Big Easy Entertainer of the Year. John was once again honored with 2 Best of the Beat Awards - "Treme' Song" was selected as Song of the Year, and John was again selected as Best Male Vocalist. John stands just over five feet, is very trim and looks about fourteen.  He’s in his mid fifties and has lived in Treme and the seventh ward most of his life. He walked out of his front door one Sunday morning in 2000 and heard a bass drum and then saw a brass band coming out of a church further down his street. He realized how fortunate he was to have this experience and said, ”You know how you don’t see the forest for the trees? I finally saw the forest and the trees at once.” That morning he sat down at his piano and wrote “Treme.” The song has become famous as it is the theme song of the Treme series. So if you know it, sing along with me: 

“Hangin' in the Treme/Watchin' people sashay/Past my steps/By my porch/In front of my door

Church bells are ringin'/Choirs are singing/While the preachers groan/And the sisters moan/In a blessed tone

(Chorus)Down in the treme/Just me and my baby/We're all going crazy/While jamming and having fun Down in the treme/Just me and my baby/We're all going crazy/While jamming and having fun

Trumpet bells ringing/Bass drum is swinging/As the trombone groans/And the big horn moans/And there's a saxophone
(repeat Chorus)

    Season one started off just three months after Katrina when folks were just being allowed to return to the city to try to rebuild and restore their lives along with their beloved city.  I have two favorite scenes from the first season. The first was in episode two where D J Davis McAlary (played by Steve Zahn and based on the life of Davis Rogan) gets fired from WWOZ after interviewing Coco Robicheaux and Coco performs Voodoo and sacrifices a chicken in the studio. I know this really happened at WWOZ as my dear friend Brian Lee told me about the episode long before the show aired. However, this must have happened to another DJ as Davis Rogan denies this happened on his watch. The other scene was from the first season finale when chef Janette Desautel (played by Kim Dickens) was planning on leaving New Orleans because it was just too tough to survive in the restaurant business post Katrina. Davis goes to John Boutte’s home and repeatedly bangs on John’s door early in the morning. When John answers in his bath robe, Davis convinces John to immediately go (in his robe) to Janette’s home to serenade her. When Boutte finishes his song, Davis says words to the effect - “You won’t get awakened like this anywhere but here!”
    Season two begins in the fall of ‘06 showing that folks are still trying to get home and others are leaving because the challenge is just too hard.  People are waiting for their Road Home money and insurance checks that just keep getting delayed by governmental and corporate red tape. The modern day carpetbaggers have arrived in full force. Crime is horrendous and the police are still operating out of a trailer. There is much corruption in the police department and among other local government officials.
    Treme brilliantly portrays why the locals love their special home so much through its diverse characters and their story lines. Having met THE REAL DAVIS (Davis Rogan’s latest CD), I can tell you that the colorful and quirky Davis McAlary is tame compared to what I’ve seen and heard about Davis Rogan. Big Chief Albert Lambreaux (played by Clarke Peters) opens the door for us to the world of the Mardi Gras Indians and the social aid and pleasure clubs in New Orleans. His son, Delmond Lambreauz (played by Rob Brown), portrays the life of a leading modern Jazz musician caught between his love for his city, family, tradition and heritage while trying to make a living as a professional musician. These characters are based on Big Chief Donald Harrison and trumpeter Donald Harrison, Jr. who is a frequent musician on the show. 
    If you are into New Orleans music, you know that the Batiste family includes many generations of talented and well respected musicians. The Treme web site describes the fictional character Antoine Batiste (played superbly by Wendel Pierce) as a lovable rogue who has cooked up schemes on and off the bandstand. I think that perhaps Antoine is my favorite character on the series.
    As for real musicians, they are well represented on the show and it’s so much fun to tune in each week and see how many I recognize and what they will play. Last week was fun seeing “The Real Davis” playing keyboards with the “series Davis” jam group. A few of the many New Orleans bands I’ve seen recently on the show include Galactic, Radiators, Subdudes, Pineleaf Boys, and the Iguanas.  Brass bands include Rebirth, Dirty Dozen and Hot 8.  Other musicians include Dr. John, Cyril Neville, Kermit Ruffins, Henry Butler, Susan Cowsill, John Hiatt, Lucia Micarelli, Leroy Jones, Juvenille, George Porter, Trombone Shortie (Troy Andrews), his big brother James Andrews and cousin Glen David Andrews, Paul Sanchez, John Boutte, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Detroit Brooks, Gerald French, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Chaz, Donald Harrison Jr., Don Bartholomew, Lucinda Williams, Tim Green, Ingrid Lucia, Jon Cleary, Evan Christopher and Tom McDermott just to name a few.
    As many of you know, since Katrina I’ve volunteered for two weeks a year in New Orleans and write about the city and its people for Coconut Times. This year I had the pleasure of seeing many of the musicians who have performed on the show as well as many cast members. I was an extra in the Jazz Fest scenes  airing this week. If you look close at the season finale scenes from Jazz Fest, you just might catch a quick glimpse of me in my bright Jazz Fest shirt dancing in two scenes; Wanda Rouzan & A Taste of New Orleans and Donald Harrison & The Congo Square Nation.  What fun! As you can tell, I really love this series and can’t wait for season three! 
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