Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sights and Sounds of the Crescent City in Austin

By Steve White

After relocating from the Los Angeles area, I am just getting settled into my new life here in Austin. Yet already I can feel the close proximity of Louisiana, culturally speaking. It feels good! Two separate events this weekend underscored the influence of Louisiana culture on the ‘capital of live music’ here in the Lone Star State.

First, I caught a show on Friday at Antone’s world famous music club downtown, long the home of blues here in Texas. It was my first trip there, but it won’t be my last. On the bill Friday night was guitar slinging sensation and Louisiana native Kenny Wayne Shepherd, appropriately enough with the band that used to back his rockin’ blues predecessor Stevie Ray Vaughn, Double Trouble. Sadly, I didn’t stay for the whole show, but did catch some of his “Ten Days Out act with French Quarter icon Bryan Lee, a blind blues guitar impresario who was one of a number of aging musicians featured in Shepherd’s road movie of the same name.

Lee worked the crowd, “squeezed” his guitar and reminded me that even Bourbon Street, the sleazy stereotype that so many people sadly identify as New Orleans, can offer up charms of a more soulful nature.

On Sunday, we caught the premier of the IMAX movie "Hurricane on the Bayou"at the Texas State History Museum. Started before Katrina as a project to educate people about the disappearing wetlands, additional film was shot after the crew wrapped up the first shoot. Katrina proved to be a tragic demonstration of the point their film set out to make. If ever a subject matter was tailor made for the large format screen, it is the stunning beauty of the Louisiana wetlands, often scene from above in the MacGillivray Freeman film, contrasted to the power and devastation of a storm like Hurricane Katrina roaring ashore without the much needed buffer of silt lands lost to the sea.

The film offers a powerful emotional medium to convey an issue that continues to be ignored a year and a half later. What it lacks in detail about the solution – long ago spelled out by knowing scientists and environmentalists – it makes up for in the raw, visceral way it communicates to those with little knowledge of the problem. Check it out at a museum near you.

I, for one, know what it means to miss New Orleans (and the Mississippi Gulf Coast), but at least I can find a small part of my homeland here in the heart of Texas.

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