Come Marching In

New Orleans musicians in Texas overcome Katrina the only way they know how

Kermit had been on tour in the days leading up to Katrina. "I came home at 4 p.m. on Saturday," Kermit recalled, "grabbed my horn, my Saints helmet and my CDs, and drove four hours to Baton Rouge to watch it all unfold." Kermit then made his way west, to stay with his 34Houston relatives, who put Kermit's whole crew up in apartments. Though Ruffins is probably New Orleans' most visible ambassador, he plans to stay in Houston for at least a year. "Houston's been so good to us," the humble and likable trumpeter explained. "I want to return the favor; play that good music." While other diehards can't wait to get back and start shoveling away the toxic muck, Kermit remains practical. "New Orleans is gonna be really uncomfortable for a long time: hard, and not much going on."

Ruffins was then interrupted by news cameras who wanted him to jump onstage so they could film him and go home. Kermit jumped up to join Big Papa Jazzy for an impromptu washboard and trumpet jam, which was met with uproarious glee that continued throughout Ruffin's band's entire set. One couldn't help but be moved by the crowd's fervor for the New Orleans sound. The love was thick. Still, most of the night's music felt the same as it often did in New Orleans--like a throwback, a sentimental time capsule. And there's so much more to our city than its past.

But again, there's the silver lining, summed up best onstage by Chip Vaccarelli: "We kept all this locked up in New Orleans, and the Lord had to flushit out!" The city's lovable insularity kept its art from evolving for a long time, but in a new city, New Orleans music is being given the chance to live (and hopefully grow) in the now. If our city's great musicians let this experience really influence and inspire them, they could return home with the next great thing--whenever we're finally let back in.

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