Monday, December 3, 2007

"Carnival Time" in D.C.

Last Saturday, FMC had a blast at “Hope for Home,” a benefit house party for Sweet Home New Orleans and Al “Carnival Time” Johnson. In attendance was Mike Mills of R.E.M., who performed both with Al and in an opening set of his own.

Check out some photos By Caroline "Puck" Deutermann.

Joining Mike onstage for part of his set was none other than FMC Executive Director Jenny Toomey. Her backing vocals were lovely, particularly on the R.E.M. classic “Don’t Go Back to Rockville,” which is now stuck in our collective heads.

Al -- backed up on drums and trumpet, as well as Mike Mills on guitar -- was also fantastic. His warm-hearted rhythm and blues brought a taste of New Orleans to the home of Eric and Sharapat Kessler, who graciously opened their doors for the event.

One particularly powerful moment occurred when Al cut short his Katrina-inspired number “Lower 9th Ward Blues,” due to the strong emotions it triggered. It was obvious that Al, like so many other New Orleans dwellers, still has heartache over the tremendous losses inflicted by the hurricane. He brought the mood back up, however, with a rousing rendition of his signature song, “Carnival Time.” The crowd danced and swayed ebulliently as Al and co. showed how they do it in the Crescent City.

The food was fantastic (the drinks weren’t too shabby, either), and the vibe both laid back and engaging. And as if all the great music wasn’t enough, a silent auction featured signed collectables from Pearl Jam and My Morning Jacket, as well as other highly desirable items such as an iPhone.

The Washington Post’s Reliable Source column has very nice things to say about the party, as does DCist and

All in all, it was a tremendously successful event that raised more than $20,000 for Al “Carnival Time” Johnson. Sweet Home New Orleans deserves particular credit for highlighting the challenges faced by New Orleans musicians in returning to a city in which 80 percent of the housing stock was destroyed. It’s tough to put a positive spin on one of the largest natural (and man-made) disasters in our nation’s history, but events like this certainly help. Thanks to all who attended and donated to the cause.

Have a look at our earlier posts for more info on Al, Mike, and Sweet Home New Orleans.

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