Riffing On the Tradition: Does Mayor Landrieu hate live music?
No, I don’t want to believe it either. So if it's not true, he needs to prove it.
See, I, too, accepted the narrative that the recent crack-down on licensing for music venues was about creating a level playing field. But, thanks to an articulate lawyer named Owen Courreges, the situation was made more clear to me. You need to read his article for the Uptown Messenger that intelligently defends his claim that Mayor Landrieu has, in essence, declared a "war on live music" using amended zoning laws against owners of music venues.
In short, the city can call into question a business owner’s right to retain a “non-conforming use," such as live entertainment, and place the onus on him (or her) to provide “clear and convincing evidence” that he has the right to continue that use.
Surely, the council members who have been systematically using the amended zoning ordinance to hand-select which businesses will be allowed a non-conforming use will understand if we call into question the legitimacy of what I’ll call their “agenda of conformity.”
I propose holding our elected officials to the same standard that they’re applying to the clubs. Give them the burden of proving that their intent is not to completely kowtow to the whims of a minority that desires a sterilized New Orleans and want to bully us into complying with their bogus standards of civility. We should demand the same level of “clear and convincing evidence” that there is an actual plan for improving the health of our city that integrates “cultural economy” in a meaningful way.
To those of you who perceive that playing The Saints Go Marching In is essential to your job security, no offense intended, but ... "for the love of Louis!" Cultural economy isn’t only about entertaining tourists in the French Quarter.
Diversity and healthy competition encouraged by a transparent and fair permitting process will push quality, artistry and creativity. Silencing venues, on the other hand, will only make it easier for the woefully unimaginative tourism and hospitality industry to continue to degrade our culture with superficial offerings aimed at the shallowest perceptions of what makes this city unique and alive. Furthermore, it will hinder much-needed legitimate business activity, negatively affect neighborhood character, and foster deeper disunity within our music community.
The first steps? Educate ourselves. Next, we need to reach out to our supporters and share the idea that our officials, especially Mayor Landrieu, must start providing real evidence of a safer city, a city with decent schools, and a city where businesses, especially ones connected to our culture, can thrive with real co-operation from City Hall. Meanwhile, let’s continue to go about our business of making life here more beautiful and interesting without their assistance.
Who knows, maybe this is the start of a new cultural movement? Maybe we should call ourselves the “non-conformists.” The history books could read something like this:
Non-Conformists: The “non-conformists" were New Orleans musicians, in collaboration with leaders in other sectors of the cultural community, reacting to systemic and aggressive gentrification of their city in the years following the 2005 flooding, the result of failed federal levees compromised by Hurricane Katrina. The name parodied a 2012 amendment to zoning laws in regard to “non-conforming uses” that strategically targeted performance spaces lacking elusive “Mayoral Permits” for live music...
(Some ideas for the "Non-conformists" coming soon.)
In the end, let's be clear that this issue will directly impact the musical landscape of New Orleans and we need to follow it closely. The column by Courreges closes by asking, “Are you going to ignore this, or will you take a stand?”
Well? What say you, musicians of New Orleans?
Evan Christopher is a noted member of the New Orleans music community and advocates for the cultural workforce. Click here for his performance schedule. He writes MAC-Notes for NolaVie. Email him with your comments about cultural issues, particularly in the music world, at [email protected]