[Dixielandjazz] Out of Control "2nd Line"

Thompson rebecca.e.thompson at verizon.net
Mon Mar 22 08:34:04 PST 2004

This from an Austin newspaper.


Commentary: John Kelso
Conga line after 2 a.m.? Step away from the keyboard.


Sunday, March 21, 2004

Put your hands over your head, conga boy.

If I were a band manager, I'd think twice about bringing my band to Austin
to perform in a music conference.

Or, I'd at least help pack the bags with the necessities: toothbrush, check;
guitar picks, check; bail money, check.

You can make the case that you can't buy the kind of publicity the Grammy
Award-winning Los Angeles band Ozomatli got when two band members and the
manager were arrested by Austin police in the wee hours Thursday on Sixth

The problem? The band was violating Austin's noise ordinance by marching out
of a club in a conga line. It was playing loud music outside on Sixth Street
without a permit after 2 a.m.

Speaking of publicity, percussionist Jiro Yamaguchi, bass player Willy Abers
and band manager Amy Sue Blackman-Romero got their pictures on the front
page of this newspaper.

But it wasn't much of a tradeoff. They're lousy, scowly-looking pictures.
And no wonder. All three went to jail, and they're facing criminal charges.

If you can't play in a conga line on the street in this city's entertainment
district without getting sent to the can, maybe you need to find another
city for your band.

How's this for a new city motto? Conga Lines, Hefty Fines: No Place But

Let's see. This city is supposed to be a live music hub. We've lost 22,000
high-tech jobs from 2001 to 2003, and business and home foreclosures in
Travis County are at a 13-year high.

And here comes the South by Southwest Music Festival to bring us a shot in
the arm. Last year, it brought in about $25 million.

And our police bust it because they want to protect us from a conga line?
Isn't this what we used to refer to in the Army as pooping in your own mess
kit? Haven't these cops heard of warning tickets?

By the way, marching outside the club in conga fashion is what Ozomatli
always does to end its performances.

Maybe a town that throws musicians in jail for tooting after hours needs to
find another economic schtick to hang its hat on. How about a yoga

We can go back and forth about who did what to whom. The police say an angry
crowd chanting "Nazi police" formed outside around the band. Band members
say they were heading back into the club when police grabbed two of their
members. The police say the crowd was out of control. Fans of the band say
the cops were out of control. The police used pepper spray. The police say
the crowd may have used pepper spray. The police say Yamaguchi, who faces a
felony assault charge, hit a cop in the head with a large drum.

I wasn't there. All I know is, if you can't march out of a club after 2 in
the morning playing music without getting put behind bars, you need to find
another city.

What about Cleveland? It has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Right now, around the world, old fogies on cruise ships are forming conga
lines and singing, "One two three four, cha cha cha."

Maybe the Austin police should look into it.

John Kelso's column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Contact him at
445-3606 or jkelso at statesman.com.

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