Ever thought about going to Mardi Gras, only to quickly reconsider? Daunted by the idea of drunken crowds and inadvertently turning up on an episode of Cops? Well New Orleans-based rock band Better Than Ezra is inviting newbies and veterans alike to a Mardi Gras experience that promises much more than the balcony-hanging, bead-throwing debauchery one might expect.
The event is called Krewe of Rocckus – a play on the name of the legendary Krewe of Bacchus – and offers visitors a weekend chock-full of New Orleans food, drink, and music, all seeped in Mardi Gras tradition.
Better Than Ezra bassist Tom Drummond took some time to introduce us to the Krewe:
Gadling: So you’ve just finished up the Road to Mardi Gras tour, and in early March you’ll kick off the Krewe of Rocckus. We have to admit, Mardi Gras is a bit new to us…
TD:…you see, this is exactly who we are trying to reach! Through our travels we’ve seen that there are a lot of people – probably like yourself – who considered going to Mardi Gras in the past, but were kind of on the bubble and just never committed. I think it is definitely something that everyone should do, at least once in their life. A lot of people think it’s like, “Oh, I did that in high school, or college,” well it’s really not. Sure, there’s a lot of that going on, but it’s also a great time to come to New Orleans and have a great time, get some good food, and hang out with a lot of people. It’s just a lot of fun.
Gadling: Ok, but what exactly is a krewe?
TD: Well a krewe is basically a group of individuals who have organized themselves to put on the Mardi Gras parades, and then typically those same krewes have balls that either follow the event or the night before. Most of the older parades are krewes. Those are social groups, and typically you have to be invited into those groups. I’m involved in one, we have a ball every year, it’s actually a secret society you’re not supposed to know you’re in. We have to wear a mask when we parade on the floats. They have video cameras set up along the routes to know whether or not everybody wore their masks.
Gadling: And this is the first year for the Krewe of Rocckus?
TD: Yeah, you know the band has played Mardi Gras every year for twenty something years. We’ve had the idea for a while, and we finally decided to commit and get on with it. We have a lot of people who fly in from out of town for these shows, because these shows are very unique for Better Than Ezra, because the atmosphere is so great. There’s a lot of debauchery going on, you just get a different take on the band from one of these shows.
Gadling: So the Krewe of Rocckus is born of your Mardi Gras shows, and now you’ve built it into an event.
TD: That’s exactly right. You get a hotel – you get three nights at the Hilton Riverside – we’ve planned everything to be within walking distance, which is one of the great things about New Orleans, that if you stay downtown, you’re within walking distance of the French Quarter, the Warehouse District, and just about anything you want to do. Not a lot of cities are set up that way, which is why it’s great to have big events here.
We did a few of these Rock Boat cruises, where you go, hang out on the boat for three or four days, and all you do is see bands the whole time you’re there. Well that kind of gave us the inspiration – how can we use the city if New Orleans as a giant ship, imagine it as a giant Rock Boat. So we have all the venues, all the restaurants, all the bars, everything that we’re going to send people to, all within walking distance during Mardi Gras.
We’re trying to offer things that you can’t just walk up and get when you come to Mardi Gras. It’s going to start off with a very unique event, which is brunch with award-winning chef John Besh, who owns a number of restaurants in town. We’ve got private viewing stands for the Friday night parades, all you can eat and drink, we’ve got a very large private balcony on Bourbon Street.
You obviously get the two Better Than Ezra shows Friday and Saturday night, and then Friday night we have Pat Greene performing, who’s a big country artist from Texas. We’ve got Big Sam’s Funky Nation, who was also on the Road to Mardi Gras tour, he’s playing with us on Saturday night. And at each party and event, we have local bands playing as well. You’re definitely going to get your music fix out of this trip for sure. Which I think is one of the biggest attractions in New Orleans.
Gadling: Is the band actively participating in the whole weekend?
TD: Oh yeah, we’ll be at every event. We’ll literally be holding your hand, walking you from one event to the next. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Gadling: What’s this about a Bloody Mary contest?
TD: Yeah, apparently I’m involved in it! Everybody that comes down is going to be the beneficiaries of free Bloody Marys that morning. It’s going to be me and some other celebrities, and everyone is going to taste them and decide who’s the best.
There are a lot of those little things we have planned. On Friday we’re going to meet at one, and we’re going to second line with the Mardi Gras Indians to a restaurant called Michaul’s where we have a private viewing stand on Saint Charles Avenue. We’re going to literally walk 400 people through the Warehouse District to the viewing stands, with the Mardi Gras Indians, and a brass band leading the way.
We got Krewe of Rocckus beads made, really nice big beads, the kind you want to hang onto after Mardi Gras. We also have a poster that the artist Jamie Hayes has designed for us. He’s a really well known New Orleans artist.
We think it’s going to be a really great event – it seems like no brainer, really – to have the biggest band from New Orleans walk you through Mardi Gras. This will be fun!
Gadling: Speaking as a New Orleans native, what would you recommend first-time visitors to do, aside from Mardi Gras?
TD: I think one of the great things about New Orleans is the food. There are so many great restaurants here, so many great places to have a great time, even if Mardi Gras weren’t going on.
Gadling: Oh? Are you a fan of crayfish?
TD: What, crawfish?
Gadling: Ok, I’m from the north.
TD: Yeah, they’re awesome here.
Gadling: And you suck the heads?
TD: Of course! You have to!
You can sign up for Krewe of Rocckus here. Note that the all-inclusive package is only available until February 4. After that, the locals-only package will remain available without hotel reservation. Hotels may still be available, but the prices will have increased after February 4.