A week before Mardi Gras, members of Arcade Fire and Preservation Hall will lead a new walking parade from the French Quarter to Congo Square.
Pres Hall and Arcade Fire's Win Butler and Regine Chassagne founded Krewe du Kanaval, inspired by the band's Haitian connections and its Carnival traditions, as "a mobile music event, a community, and a celebration of Haiti and the diaspora of cultures that have enriched New Orleans’ identity and arts for hundreds of years," according to a krewe announcement. It holds its inaugural events Tuesday, Feb. 6.
Krewe du Kanaval also is a fundraising effort for the Preservation Hall Foundation and Haitian relief organization KANPE — tickets and membership start at $1,000.
Chassagne, whose family is from Haiti, wanted the krewe to reflect the "historical, cultural and spiritual link between New Orleans and Haiti" while benefiting "underserved people in both places," she said in a statement.
Pres Hall's Ben Jaffe said the group "wanted to celebrate Mardi Gras in a unique way that reflected our reverence for the spiritual side of this unique holiday," something that also was "inclusive and representative of modern New Orleans, of post-Katrina culture."
Jaffe's partnership with Arcade Fire signaled the "deep cultural connections between Haiti and New Orleans," he said. "Krewe du Kanaval is our way of expressing our mutual love and respect for these two beautiful cultures.”
It's the latest move from one of the biggest bands in the world planting its flag in New Orleans. Butler and Chassagne relocated to an Uptown home in 2014 and partnered with Pres Hall in 2016 for a memorial parade (initially billed as a second line) honoring the late David Bowie, an event that attracted a massive crowd to the French Quarter while sparking some debate over appropriation and cultural exchange and the appropriate depths of their immersion in New Orleans traditions.
Last year, the band filmed a music video for Everything Now's "Electric Blue" in the afterglow of a Mardi Gras parade. A bulk of the band's 2017 album also was recorded in its New Orleans studio.
In an interview with Offbeat, Butler said he understands many residents' impulse to criticize the band's footprint, "but my only minor quibble is that I think there are a lot of people that aren’t actually from New Orleans that end up dominating the conversation," he said. "There are a lot of adoptee New Orleans people that, a lot of the time, have the loudest voices about some of the politics of it, but I think the instinct is absolutely correct.”
Krewe du Kanaval's 2018 events begin with a founding members' brunch and party at noon at Preservation Hall. The krewe lines up for a coronation ceremony at 1 p.m., and the procession from Pres Hall to Congo Square begins at 2 p.m., followed by a free and open to the public "Afro-Caribbean block party sound system" at 3 p.m.
The procession continues to One Eyed Jacks at 6 p.m. and concludes with the Rhums and Drums Kanaval Ball from 8 p.m.-11 p.m.
The event features performances from Preservation Hall Jazz Band, DJ Nickodemus, Pierre Kwenders, DJ Cosmo Gonik, Paul Beaubrun, RAM and others.