Catholics in countries all over the world next week mark the run up to the Lenten Fast, where the devout are encouraged to sacrifice a pleasure in symbolic representation of the sacrifice that Jesus made for them. While there are special days set aside for religious services -- Ash Wednesday, for example -- the week has been traditionally given over festivities.
While there are celebrations from Quebec City in Canada to Koln in the Catholic Rhineland district of Germany, two have always stood head-and-shoulders above the rest in terms of renown and infamy: Carnival in Brazil and Mardi Gras in New Orleans. While neither event would let anything as trivial as hurricane damage normally stand in the way of a good time, Mardi Gras in New Orleans has surely suffered because of the continued absence from home of so many musicians who would normally have participated.
In this, the third Mardi Gras since the levees broke in 2005, literally thousands of musicians are still scattered across the American South in refugee camps awaiting word that housing is available for them. Unfortunately there is a definite lack of political support for the rebuilding that would be required to accommodate most of those left homeless. It's been left to various action committees, charitable organizations, bands, and individual performers to raise funds in an effort to either find rental units or build new housing, one musician at a time.
The latest project is a collaboration between the bands OK Go and Bonerama who are releasing a special five-song E.P., You're Not Alone, to raise funds to build a Habitat For Humanity home for Al "Carnival Time" Johnson. It's only fitting that this benefit project be launched at the onset of Mardi Gras, as 40 years ago Al Johnson wrote the song which has since become the week's unofficial theme; "Carnival Time."
Although You're Not Alone is not due to be released until February 5, the bands are joining forces this Saturday, Feb. 2, to promote the fund-raising drive with a concert at Washington D.C.'s 9:30 club. Tickets are $20.00 and will kick-off the fund-raising. You're Not Alone is only going to be available for download through i-Tunes, which has agreed to donate all the proceeds. What's really wonderful is that other companies are joining in; IODA, a major digital distribution company will service and promote the disc free of charge, and EFM Worldwide/Horizon Cargo and Music Travel Management are paying to ship all equipment to the gig Saturday and cover the bands' travel expenses. In other words, very little of the money raised will be used for anything but the purpose for which it's being raised.