Erica Mulkey aka Unwoman playing at Queen of the Damned

Eschewing the damp weather of our foggy city, The Blight did set sail for New Orleans this past weekend with Unwoman to join Jill Tracy and Paul Mercer in the French Quarter for two shows — Anne Rice’s Queen of the Damned Ball at Rosy’s Jazz House on Halloween, and Endless Night on Day of the Dead at the House of Blues.

Eli at Queen of the Damned

Departing on a red-eye flight, our travel was not without incident: the x-ray machine operator, upon examining my large green German army-surplus backpack — then re-examining, and then once more — laughed to himself and shook his head before calling out “BAG CHECK.” My bag — and I — were escorted off to the side where a bored TSA agent rifled through everything. “Um, Supervisor?” she called out. “There’s residue here.” I respond helpfully: “You mean playa-dust? This has been to Burning Man.” Unconcerned with reasonable explanations — and perhaps due to the soothing voice declaring our threat level “Orange,” they decided a swabbing was in order. The bizarre contraption helpfully declared, in bold red and all caps, “EXPLOSIVES DETECTED.” Great. Because I handle many of those. I’m glad it didn’t beep and flash strobes and demand I grab my ankles. After every minute detail of my bag was painstakingly unpacked and no bombs were found (the gunpowder plot wasn’t for another six days) I was free to go (“let me repack my camera, you nitwits”). We arrived at about 8AM New Orleans time and checked in early to our hotel. “Are you here for the International Gay Rodeo Convention?” ” … No, but that’s fantastic.” And it was (fabulous sequined cowboys — I did titter with laughter).

Sasha at Queen of the Damned

The Queen of the Damned Ball, ostensibly for the born-again author of questionable literary prowess and the pretension* of goths who make up her fan club, but in reality a good excuse to dress up fabulously and hear some good music while sipping a (watered-down overpriced) cocktail, was something of a letdown. While the costuming was indeed fabulous, and Jill Tracy and the Malcontent Orchestra (in this incarnation, consisting of Erica Mulkey (Unwoman) and Paul Mercer (the Ghosts Project)) never cease to amaze, the other performances were uninspiring at best or downright bad at worse (caveat: I may have missed something). We departed on the earlier side and, after dropping off our gear and dealing with the insane mayhem that was the French Quarter on Halloween (read: similiar to Burning Man in the number of costumes, the loud thumping music and the free-flowing alcohol yet with less flame and dust and nicer weather) we snagged beignets at Cafe du Monde and sat sipping drinks and listening to obscure darkwave (Switchblade Symphony I can understand, but how did they ever even hear of Autumn Tears?) at the great bar Pravda on Decatur at Urselines.

*A Pretension of Goths: a new collection noun I coined. It’s true, and sometimes self-referential.

Your humble narrator at Endless Night

The next day saw Jill and Erica (and my new friend Eli aka 10-9, whom I met on the DPW Parade) at Napoleon House, which, surprisingly enough, is named after the fact that it used to be Napoleon’s… well, house. A gorgeous old dilapidated thing with a wonderful courtyard garden, the service was unfortunately severely lacking. Wandering around the town brought us to St. Louis Cemetary No. 1, which closes at 3PM (what the hell? I’ll just have to go back). After getting ready, Eli, Erica and I went to dinner for the second day in a row at Oceana, where I’ve had some of the best food in memory and had our photo taken by many a normal person who found our appearance photo-worthy. We did oblige.

The villainous Jill Tracy at Endless Night

Endless Night got off to a late start, firstly on account of the show before it running much too late, and secondly for a rocky sound check. But once it did, and a slightly-irate crowd of 400 costumed partygoers joined in and hit the bars,  their complaints were quickly forgotten. Paul’s band — The Ghosts Project — consisted of Jill Tracy on piano, incredible gospel/jazz singer Minka, Davis on percussion, Sheryl on citar and Erica on cello, was amazing. For a reason I cannot fathom I hadn’t yet taken close enough a look, and after hearing just the soundcheck, I was embarrassed. Every artist in that group is ridiculously talented in their own right, and putting them together — where half the music is simply off-the-cuff — is mind blowing. You owe it to yourself to take a listen: the sound is a cross between dark neo-classical with a double dash of jazz, and a scoop of gospel mixed to the OOM-pa-pa of a waltz. No really.

Paul Mercer of the Ghosts Project

However, even with the hour gained due to the time change (“It’s 1:29AM! The last time I looked at a clock it was 1:30…”) the night was over much too soon, and still tipsy (*cough*) we quickly ran around the corner to our hotel and hastily packed all of our things, and Eli gave us a ride to the airport (thanks again!). Fortunately my bag elicited far less attention this time through security, and it was only one, long, sleepless, partially-hungover deathmarch back to San Francisco (feeling — and looking — like hell, walking down an isle at Atlanta airport, a stewardess stops me and says “my god, you look amazing.” If only I had felt that way). And as we drop our bags on the floor of my flat (in the heart of the Mission District) at 3PM Sunday, my roommate says “Oh, this is about to be ground zero for Dia De Los Muertos celebrations. Just warning you.”

If you haven’t found them already, here are the galleries:

And links to the artists mentioned: