What is your depth of experience on the New Orleans music scene? I’ve been part of the music scene for years as a lawyer. I have represented from Kermit Ruffins to Glen Andrews to Geln David Andrews, I think all the brass bands the Hot 8 the ReBirth, members of Troy Andrews Band as well – and I’ve done it on a pro-bono basis. Because I love these guys. I’m a fan. I know that a lot of these guys don’t make the amount of money folks think they make. But I know as a music-lover what they provide to this city is invaluable. And we have not honored and cherished our musicians, dating back to Louis Armstrong. But as a lawyer I have trid to help them any way I could. As far as the sound ordinance I stand with the musicians and the music lovers. The name of the airport is Louis Armstrong International Airport for a reason and I believe that New Orleans is globally singular marketable resource.
So how about when people want to “look to other cities”? There is no other city that anyone in the world looks to for music other than New Orleans, so there is no other city to compare it to. People from all over the world flock to New Orleans because there is nothing else like it. So the concept that our sound ordinances whould be like Charlotte or Atlanta, is ludicrous. We have to value our own uniqueness.
Do we need new sound laws? The sound laws have not been addressed in a very long time. I think it’s good to have sound laws – they can also protect music and music-lovers. That’s more the concept we need to have. It seems right now a lot of the ordinances are not designed to protect musicians but to infringe on their rights. As a lawyer I am a fan of well written laws. We want to make sure that the intent of any new ordinance, it is our desired intent.
I am a musician, so all most of my friends. Most of us seem to feel like the current laws are fine, and in some places they are already too strict. So it feels like any revisiting of those laws will be to turn the music down. It’s not like music laws are getting more liberal. Is there a way to make them more liberal, or do we have to just accept the slow chipping away of our music rights? Well, musicians are residents as well. Just because they’re no millionaires doesn’t mean they don’t have a say-so. I do think we’ve had a lack of attention to detail and enforcement of the laws that are on the books, which has been frustrating for residents and musicians as well. There’s no grey area – just a grey area of enforcement. I certainly think we’ve got to work out the kinks in enforcement before we start adding [new laws]. We haven’t had a pow-wow with all those these laws would affect. I’ve gone to most of the meetings at Kermit’s Speakeasy and I can tell you some of the folks from City Gov were trying to describe the ordinances they were trying to put in place and we asked them, “Well how many musicians have you talked to?” And they said they didn’t talk to any. That’s problematic that you don’t engage everyone and bring everyone to the table for a real discussion before you get ready to vote on something.
ERNEST “FREDDIE” CHARBONNET
So did you all discuss the noise ordinances at your public meeting tonight? There was one question tonight about the sound ordinances.
Thank you for calling them ‘sound ordinances.’ They’ve even got me brainwashed. No, I am a musician myself. I play tenor saxophone. Is started out in 6th grade the Marching Band at St Aug Marching 100. I played with David Batiste and the Gladiators. I was one of the original members of Stop Inc. – and we were damned good. Our drummer in Stop Inc. was Jonathan Moffet who went on to play with Michael Jackson and Madonna. Our trumpet player went on tour with Quincy Jones, Al Jureau. We were one of the better bands in this area. I thought I was going to be a professional musicians. We played on Bourbon Street and dances and everything else in the 70s. And it was the age of the big horn section so we played a lot of Chicago, a lot of Blood, Sweat and Tears. It was fun. Every now and again I pick my horn up. So yeah, I am in touch.
So you must be particularly in touch with the issue of loud brass bands being able to play on the street. They are undeniably the loudest type of band there is. How do we create a situation where people are allowed to play outside and be spontaneous. Yes they are. But that’s not part of the sound ordinances we discussed tonight. The one we discussed upstairs was for brick and mortar clubs. That’s where there’s a lot of confusion. So I will treat the two issues separately. I think it presents a real opportunity to get it right. We should slow down, bring everyone to the table and get it right. The home-owner conerns are not going to go away, and the musicians have the rights to make a living, and the music is so important to our culture. So since we have the technology to measure music and get proper enforcement… It starts out by coming to the table in the spirit of compromise.
Where should sound be measured from? That also should be open for discussion.
I don’t think it should be. As a musician, where do you think it should be measured from. And lets take money out if: if I am having band practice in my house and someone thinks it’s too loud, when police come to measure me, where should they do it from. Your opinion. My opinion? Where’s the point where it’s going to be a problem for someone else?
Right, the new ordinances, they’re saying they don’t want sound to come off the property. Then I would be in disagreement with that, and I’d want to do something that made better sense.
I lived beside Bacchanal for many years back in Bywater. I lived next to them during the incident where they got shut down for two months. We had maybe 50 people on our block, and only one or two people on the block had a problem with the club. The rest of us just rolled with it and considered it a small price to pay for getting to live in the music capital of the world. How can we solve these problems without governing for the minority? Well we always start out with the basic premise that democracy rules. So yes, I do agree with [what you’re saying]. Even in that I belive we can come up with something that everybody lives with. Unless we do that it’s going to always be confrontational.
But if it’s a block of 50 people and only three have a problem with the club, shouldn’t the people who have the problem move away, and we leave the club alone? Most of the city, and most of America, is set up so people can enjoy peace and quiet and whenever this issue pops up the musicians are asked to take it down the road… I don’t agree with that, it’s unreasonable. And if you move into the French Quarter and you live there, certain expectations have to be lowered because you know where you are. If you have this expectation that you want a pristine quiet neighborhood then you shouldn’t live in the French Quarter. And part of what you like about the place is also what you have to endure. People forget that.
The same has become true of Frenchmen Street. I used to live on Frenchmen Street. I was maybe 15 years old and I was playing music myself, so we were blasting… I would go home [from band practice] and my ears would be ringing for three days after because we were blasting Chicago as loud as we possibly could!
So I am wondering what it take to fill up the neighborhoods around those areas with people who are tolerant the music. Now that’s an approach.
And I think it would be easy. I mean getting the people who don’t like it out would be hard, but finding people who are OK with it would be easy. If that were on the table I’d go for that in a heartbeat.
Musicians are always asked to take it down the road, and I’d love to see it acknowledged somehow in law that New Orleans treats musicians differently, and if you don’t like it maybe the complainers should move to the quiet parts of the city. It seems like sleep is always preferenced. Like you should be allowed to sleep EVERYwhere. That is something that I don’t see happening… I believe there’s a more realistic approach.
Ever been bugged by loud, live music? I know other people who live a block or two away from a place that was hosting live music till 2:30 in the morning, and it was a concern. So I do see… Everyone has to compromise some. But let’s try to [fix it] because neither side is experiencing satisfaction. It’s important for New Orleans.
I want to hear more about your band… We played everywhere. We played highschools, discos, and there were no discos or DJs back in the 70s – just us! And it was cool.
Did you ever get hassled by The Man for playing your horn? Yeah, the cops would come in and stop it. Then ten minutes later we’d be right back up to the volume. And we really were hot. This was in the neighborhood clubs, which were much more prevelant than they are now. The cops would come round Paris Ave in our residential neighborhood and say turn it down, then we’d end up playing till four in the morning.
See when I hear that I think you have to have some kind of culture of permissiveness to keep the music going. How do we create an environment where people can legally play music till 4am? If you come up with a solution that is remotely workable, you come to my office and let me know. It’s gonna be hard especially the way the lines are drawn now. I’ve met with VCPORA and this seems like the one issue in the world that they are focused on. So, wow.