Arcade Fire Leads a David Bowie Second Line Parade in New Orleans - A Full Report | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Arcade Fire Leads a David Bowie Second Line Parade in New Orleans - A Full Report

A Send-Off Like No Other

Jan 17, 2016 Photography by Zach Hollwedel Bookmark and Share

Not long after news of David Bowie‘s death shocked the world last week, Arcade Fire and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band announced a second line parade through New Orleans’ French Quarter to honor the late musician. (Traditionally, a New Orleans funeral involves two lines-the first, a somber march to the cemetery; the second parade is an animated, musical celebration of the deceased’s life.) The event built with unprecedented, though not unexpected, momentum. It gained national attention. Soon, the event’s Facebook page boasted comments from people indicating they were flying into town from as far away as DC, LA, and beyond for it. Over 4,000 people RSVP’d that they were attending. Far more than that turned out. It was the send-off of all send-offs.

Even for a city known for its parades, this second line was one of a kind. Well before its 4 PM kick-off, the French Quarter was bursting with people decked out in their best Bowie duds, from wigs to space helmets to fabulous and flowing coats and dresses. And lightning bolts. So many lightning bolts streaked across faces young and old. By 3:30, the French Quarter was jam-packed, rendered nearly impassable by the thousands of people who turned up to say goodbye to Ziggy Stardust. A few unfortunate motorists who hadn’t realized what was about to go down found themselves stuck for well over an hour in the middle of a throng of brightly dressed fans. Just after 4 PM, Arcade Fire’s Win Butler led the band out of Preservation Hall. They toasted the Thin White Duke to a riotous cheer from the masses and began to march. Even the NOPD, veterans of crowd and parade control, had a hard time making it up St. Peter Street to Preservation Hall to escort the band out of the venue and down the street. Ultimately, the task fell to the crowd, who, with chants of “Walk, walk, walk!” compelled the parade down the street and around the stranded cars. With the street unnavigable, Butler and the other musicians squeezed their way down the sidewalk before turning right on Royal Street.

For the next two hours, the band marched its way through the French Quarter, weaving a path to the Mississippi River and back. Every street was chockablock with spectators and participants dancing, snapping photos, and singing along with Butler and the others to such Bowie hits as “Suffragette City” and “Oh! You Pretty Things.” Rarely if ever has the French Quarter overflown with the ebullience it witnessed Saturday. Even at Mardi Gras, the pinnacle of New Orleans’ year, it’s harder to find a comparable crowd. One long-time resident remarked that the parade rivaled even that of the Saints’ Super Bowl victory celebration in 2010. It was as if the whole city turned out to memorialize the legend. The camaraderie among the revelers was palpable, and it peaked outside of One Eyed Jacks, a fantastic and intimate concert venue in the heart of the Quarter.

By that point, night had fallen. The parade paused only briefly, as Butler and the band rushed to One Eyed Jacks’ street-facing balcony. There, Butler DJed, a thousand people erupted into song, and the party continued on the street below, amplified by flashing strobe lights. The only thing missing, of course, was Bowie himself. Never had there been a goodbye like the one Arcade Fire and Preservation Hall led on Saturday. Never had there been an artist like David Bowie.

Check out a full gallery of photos from the David Bowie second line parade here.


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