Muses, Chaos and Babylon parade under clear skies Feb. 8


Muses' "The Girl with One Plug Earring, Six Tattoos, 14 Piercings and a Nose Ring”
  • Muses' "The Girl with One Plug Earring, Six Tattoos, 14 Piercings and a Nose Ring”

Babylon looked to the gods, Chaos the headlines and Muses the arts for Thursday night’s parades, soaking up a rare night of clear skies and brisk air.

Babylon’s pantheon-inspired themes and floats always brighten the parade route, and this year was no exception.Its “Gifts of the Gods to New Orleans” starred some lovely traditional and vibrant designs, each honoring ancient deities for their stamps on New Orleans iconography and qualities, including a massive golden sun (“Phoebus Gives Sunshine”) and a giant bouquet of stringed instruments and horns (““Apollo Gives Music”).

The theme stretched a bit thin towards the end — a flaccid sculpture of a dancing couple thanking Terpsichore for dance was a rare display of humanoid figures, and a dull wall of a brick Tulane Stadium was mounted in the front of “Minerva Gives Higher Learning “(though an owl-decorated float and riders in academic gaps and gowns dressed it up).
Babylon's “Phoebus Gives Sunshine”
  • Babylon's “Phoebus Gives Sunshine”

A trio of blue, yellow and gold floats offered a colorful finale, with a token “Happy 300th Anniversary New Orleans” float stuck on its end.

As in Carnivals past, Chaos revels in social and political satire but often gives into vapid conservative tropes aimed at the powerless, not the powerful, seemingly happy to invoke the phrase “politically incorrect” while riffing on transgender people in the military. This year’s inconsistent tone lurched from effective political satire to downward-kicking humor to seemingly sincere tributes to Fats Domino and Hugh Hefner, though the latter took a jab at sexual assault victims with a Playboy bunny standing by “#MeToo.”

Chaos' "Snake in the Grass" featured Mayor Mitch Landrieu as a snake taking over Lee Circle.
  • Chaos' "Snake in the Grass" featured Mayor Mitch Landrieu as a snake taking over Lee Circle.

On its animal-centric 2018 theme “Nature Calls… Chaos,” the krewe’s humor succeeded when its targets were clear — former Sewerage & Water Board director Cedric Grant was portrayed as a brilliant and big rat leading “Sewer Rats,” reflecting the troubled agency’s water woes and political fallout, and the lame-duck City Council on “Do-Do Birds” were illustrated as corrupt do-nothings and overzealous credit card users.

But its sense of humor often veered from jokes into conservative talking points — mocking immigrants on a float depicting Jeff Sessions as the Statue of Liberty holding a tablet reading “America First,” and NFL players who protested police violence on “Kneeling Sheep.”

With its trademark spotlights lighting up the sky to make way for its procession, Muses rolled with its unique and playfully high-brow “Night at the Museum” theme, tasking 20 floats to rework classic works of art into New Orleans and current events parodies. Jackson Pollock paint splatters ran the length of the title float, signaling a break from traditional float designs and a double-down on its artful inspiration.

Gustav Klimt’s portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer became a New Orleans Saints fan in “The Woman in Black and Gold”; Monet’s “Water Lilies” starred a giant nutria on “Swamp Lilies”; Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” became a hilariously gutter punky “The Girl with One Plug Earring, Six Tattoos, 14 Piercings and a Nose Ring”; and sharing a unibrow, Pelicans star Anthony Davis replaced Frida Kahlo in her portrait with her parrots in “Me and My Pelicans,” with Muses riders wearing elaborate headgear with basketballs suspended above hoops — among many of the detailed costumes among many Muses riders.

As the krewe’s bathing Muses and rubber duck floats shot duck-shaped confetti into the air, the krewe’s “Goddessey” float featured stunning peach lanterns suspended from a lighted Tree of Knowledge and a golden Pegasus leading its front — Muses premiere of some art of its own.
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