Next Monday, June 20th, Sixth and I will showcase Nine Lives, The Musical Adaptation, a concert which follows the stories depicted in the novel Nine Lives by Dan Baum. Nine Lives tells the stories of nine individuals in New Orleans during the time period between Hurricanes Betsy and Katrina in 1965 and 2005, respectively.
Singer/Songwriter Paul Sanchez (Cowboy Mouth) wrote music for the concert along with Colman DeKay, and Sanchez is joined by author Dan Baum and all-stars Tony Award-winning actor Michael Cerveris (Sweeney Todd, Assassins), and musician Arsene Delay to bring these stories to life next week. The Vinyl District was lucky enough to catch an interview with Paul Sanchez in anticipation of the show.
Read the interview, then enter for a chance to join us as we take a journey through the many styles and stories of New Orleans. We have a pair of tickets to give away. Details after the interview.
Many people (including myself) were born after Hurricane Betsy or were otherwise minimally unaware of the event. Thanks to the 24 hour news cycle everyone was painfully aware of Katrina, but can you enlighten us to the parallels and differences between the two events? Did it seem like history was repeating itself in a way that should have been preventable?
I was a boy when Betsy hit and while in both instances the levees breached in the Lower Ninth Ward and flooding was catastrophic. My Uncle Andrew lived in Arabi which is south of the Lower Nine. He had a boat and went through his neighborhood rescuing people from their roof tops just like you heard about in the flooding of 2005. Well, in 1965 Walter Cronkite was like Google and Huntley-Brinkley were like Facebook. We didn’t have 24-hour news or access, but those voices were the voices from the mountain, and folks listened so the country knew. I think television has gotten more efficient at combining the news with what is being sold on the commercials between the news, so the stories and drama are amped up, but it’s just business for the news shows.
Folks died in attics and in the flooding during Betsy and just because it wasn’t as great a number of people or because less folks saw it, doesn’t make the dying any less real for those gone or any less painful for the ones left behind.
In the instance of Katrina, the flooding was far worse and the reasons are many. For one, there was far more land mass between New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico in 1965. In the last twenty five years alone, Louisiana has been steadily losing the equivalent of one football field every fifteen minutes, so what used to be miles and miles of wetlands between here and the Gulf is now gone, and the Gulf of Mexico is lapping at our shores.
It was/is preventable in that the wetlands can be restored but time is running out [and] another big storm, a direct hit in New Orleans will rewrite history and geography. The levee system was poorly built by the Army Corps of Engineers and needs to be fixed. The countless canals built by the oil companies between New Orleans and the mouth of the Mississippi River have allowed for intrusion from the Gulf and the erosion of the wetlands, and without the annual flooding of the river into those areas, which occurred naturally before the storm, the wetlands will continue to erode.
Actually, it is in the best interest of Big Oil and the federal government to get a handle on this because the oil companies have billions invested in oil rigs from New Orleans to the Gulf, and if those companies invested along with the government in controlled flooding of the river south of New Orleans, they would be helping rebuild wetlands in areas they still have working oil rigs.
I am from Houston and remember vividly the thousands of people who fled there (only to face Hurricane Rita soon thereafter). Many were forced to stay because they simply do not have the means to return. This fundamentally changed the demographics of both Houston and New Orleans moving forward. What are your thoughts on what this means to New Orleans and New Orleans music?