In the back room of Le Bon Temps on Magazine Street, several musicians begin to set up. Around these parts, uptown, New Orleans, they are called Soul Rebels. The following night, the Soul Rebels will be opening for The Roots at the House of Blues. All of the former residents of New Orleans may not be back, but the music they listened to, is not only back, but back with a vengeance. The same type of vengeance that brought 120 mile winds and flooded eighty percent of the city. But here uptown, "the sliver by the river," far from the most extensive damage, the speakers are ready for the bass the brass will bring.
This is the best place to be on Thursday nights and it is not just because of the music. Across the street from the bar, a middle-aged black woman sells fried chicken. During breaks from the show, or the crowd, or a strong desire for the best fried chicken in the city, customers stream towards Alicia and her food stand. Slightly drunk men and women, with friendly smiles, satisfy their hunger, and then return to the festivities. When they return,
Le Bon Temps is always a tiny bit louder, and a shade rowdier. The beer flows and the pool sticks start to get harder to control, but in the back room, everything is normal. Soul Rebels begins their show at 11:15 (it is advertised to begin at 10pm-always), and the crowd rushes as close to the stage as possible. In the first row, is a beautiful mix of young black and white women. As soon as that first note hits the microphone and transcends a couple inches into the crowd, the bodies begin to gyrate, and everything is normal again.
Within minutes, hands are in the air, swaying back and forth like the trees on August 29th, 2005. Twenty minutes into their set, the groove hits its stride, and everyone in the room falls into a rhythmic coma. It is not intentional, but a uniform style of dancing develops. The music has put strangers into the same personal bubble, making it impossible to separate.
While the crowd accepts their love for the city, its music, and ability to bounce back from disaster, a low whisper of "five-o-four" can be heard. Then it becomes louder. And then a little bit louder than before. Now instructions come from the cock pit. "Put your hands in the hair,"-Soul Rebels declares. "Now do it like this, five," and the "O" is extended, then the "four," is shouted on the off beat. While chanting in unison, the crowd makes a five then a zero, then a four. The levels of energy have reached the roof and there is nowhere to go, so Soul Rebels brings it down a notch.
The chanting becomes softer and eventually fades into "Life is a Musical" by Outkast, which signifies the end of their first set. Knowing they will return, the crowd turns around, all smiles, and heads to the bar for another drink. By the time they end their second set, it is a little after 2am, and Soul Rebels empties out to the street. They are met with several cars playing the latest radio hits, girls, Alicia's fried chicken, and more girls.
Nobody has been disappointed, but it is just another night for the Rebels, and in less than 24 hours, they will please another crowd. Yet, no matter how confident, or how many times they have played Le Bon Temps on Thursday nights, it does not seem to bore them. They maintain the same enthusiasm so the crowd returns next week.