I can’t, not shoot. And when I travel, doubly not. And in a place where the sensory stimulation can be every bit as intoxicating as a Hurricane on Bourbon, not shooting in New Orleans would actually cause me physical pain. The photographic DTs. But this particular trip to the Big Easy was different.

Different and special because it was a weekend getaway with the one I love. The problem is, I’m not a social shooter. When I’m in “serious” shooting mode, interaction and conversation with other human beings is difficult. So I have to make a conscious decision about what exactly I’m going to focus on. My companion, or the viewfinder. This weekend was all about spending time with my beautiful wife so I decided I would put down the viewfinder and enjoy the view.

But that didn’t mean I wouldn’t shoot. I reached a small compromise with myself. No “serious” shooting but instead I would play with a new passion of mine. Shooting with my cell phone. So that’s what I did. If something caught my eye during those times I wasn’t making googly eyes at Julie, I’d do a quick composure and capture with my ever present and relatively unobtrusive ‘droid and quickly move on. I like some of what I came away with and these are a few of the those images. I love the vintage camera app “Vignette” for Android and I love diptychs so that’s what you see here.

It was really an amazing weekend. It rained on and off for most of the time we were there and it was beautiful. Ducking in and out of shops and restaurants with Julie. Umbrellas floating through the air. Shimmering streets. July temps knocked down by a good ten degrees. Loved it.

Evening one, we had an excellent dinner with friends followed by a night of debauchery on Bourbon. Later on, through the wonders of social media, we found out some other friends were in town for a concert so after the concert they met us out for more dancing, drinking and laughing on the city’s most famous strip of pavement. Bourbon Street is what it is so we did what we did and it was what it was. And that’s all I have to say about that. ;-)

The next night we had dinner and music and late night coffee on my favorite street in New Orleans. Frenchmen is fantastic. The music and the atmosphere energizes and relaxes me at the same time. That, plus I absolutely love being in a place where poetry busking exists. Kinda’ sums up what’s cool about Frenchmen.

I’ll finish with a triptych from another one of the highlights of the trip.  The Faulkner House in Pirate Alley. There’s a little story there but I’ll save that for another day. Magical place.

Lagniappe: Some of my “serious” shooting from previous trips to New Orleans can be found in my “Off the Handle” gallery on Panhandlin.com.

The Loose Marbles at Fritzel's - (image by Brian L Butler)

The Jazz Singer: Discovering Meschiya Lake

The first time I experienced the Loose Marbles was a couple of years ago while walking around the Quarter with my good friend Eddie. An excellent experience it was.

The Loose Marbles are a loose band of throwback musicians who bring 20’s and 30’s style jazz roaring back in the streets of New Orleans (and New York) and occasionally play in local clubs. Members float in and out depending on the day and the place and they have a fashion sense that could be affectionately described as vintage-vagrant. But the music and the swing dancing that surrounds it is outstanding. We saw them busking during the day and then playing at Fritzel’s that night. The photo above is one I took that evening. Still love what they do but they are not the point of this post.

When I got home from that trip, I was craving some more so I Googled and YouTubed and found some videos of the group. Mostly just hand-held street shots but there was one video that changed the focus of my search. It was the band playing on Royal with a female singer. A singer that blew me away. This is that video. We’ll pick up the story after you watch.

So after I saw that, I had to find out who she was. More Googling turned up the name Meschiya Lake (pronounced ma-shee’-ya). I couldn’t find out much about her at the time but I was fascinated and decided I would try to see her sing in person the next time I was in NOLA. In the street. In a club. Wherever.

That was two years ago. I’ve been back to the city a couple of times but circumstances and schedules didn’t cooperate so we never crossed paths. In that time though, Meschiya’s career  started to take off. I found her Facebook fan page a while back and started following her. She released an album last year called Lucky Devil and sings with a band called The Little Big Horns, which I’m sure has connections to the Marbles. But they seem a little more polished as you can see in this video from a few months ago. Lovely, powerful and passionate music.

I’m not sure if she still plays the streets but she’s always playing local clubs when she’s in town. And she travels the country and the world playing but I’m not sure you’d say she’s “made it” yet. Which gets me closer to the point of this post. But first, something cool happened a few days ago.

Meschiya Lake at the Spotted Cat - (image by Brian L Butler)

I finally got to see her perform live. Julie and I spent a wonderful long weekend in the Big Easy and Saturday night spent the entire evening wandering in and out of clubs up and down Frenchmen Street topped off by Mescheiya Lake and the Little Big Horns at The Spotted Cat. The place was packed but fortune and Julie flirting with the bouncer got us right next to the stage. Loved the show, bought the album and thought that was that.

But once again, when I got home I was craving some more so I Googled and YouTubed and among other things, here’s what I found. There’s a documentary in the works about Meschiya. True Family: The voice of Meschiya Lake is in post production. Oh hell yes. The trailer looks so good I can’t wait. Check it out.

But it looks like I will have to wait for a little while. Which finally brings me to the point. The movie is being made by a Danish filmmaker for the love of the music and the subject. The money is coming from a very cool newish way to raise cash for projects like this; crowd-funding. Tens, hundreds or thousands of people giving whatever they can to projects they believe in to get them off the ground. Films, music, charity etc. $5, $20, $100 at a time. Adding up until it’s large enough to light the fuse and launch a dream.

The Meschiya fundraising is run by IndieGogo but there are several other companies doing it. My friend Brian Meece is a co-founder of RocketHub in NYC and they’re getting a lot of press and praise. (He’s also part of the über cool group Brian and Silbin) It’s just such a great way to kickstart a project (Kickstarter is another) and give it a chance to be seen and picked up by a larger audience.

The Meschiya movie is short of its goal but the project is still moving along. I’ll be putting some of my money in the pot because I think it will be a great story and I think the more people who are exposed to her music, the more people will fall for her and she will “make it”. That may make it harder for Julie and I to get a spot next to the stage in the future, but that’s a risk I’ll take.

For more on Meschiya: MeschiyaLake.com

For more about the movie: True Family: The Voice of Meschiya Lake


This is mainly just a test of the mobile WordPress app but this is an excellent subject for the test. Hanging in NOLA with my good buddy Ignatius.

If you’ve read A Confederacy of Dunces, you know. If not, stop what you’re doing and go pick up the book. A Falstaffian Don Quixote let loose on the Big Easy. Wonderfully hilarious. I’ll stop now so you can go read it. Seriously. Get out of here. Go!

(Oh, there’s even a statue of him in New Orleans. That’s where this was taken.)


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