This Mardi Gras was the second year of the Krewe of Rocckus, an all-inclusive music, food and booze event put on by '90s pop-rock giants (and New Orleans residents) Better Than Ezra. The weekend-long thang started with a parade watching party for the Krewe of Muses on Thursday night and ran through Better Than Ezra's annual Saturday night show at House of Blues. It also included a Friday morning brunch co-hosted by John Besh, inside Harrah's Casino. Eater NOLA was able to sneak in?okay, we were invited, but whatever?to check out the brunch that kicked off a long weekend of drinking for everyone involved. Above, check out some photos from the event, and below, some observations made through the haze of an intense Ash Wednesday hangover.
· The Krewe of Rocckus is sort of an advanced version of the shows Better Than Ezra has played on the Friday and Saturday before Mardi Gras for a long time. So long, in fact, that frontman Kevin Griffin and bassist Tom Drummond couldn't agree on how long. They ultimately agreed that they had been playing those shows "at least since 1998."
· Kevin Griffin's explanation for that disagreement: "Band years are like dog years. We've been together for like 172 band years."
· The brunch, inside Harrah's Casino with a whole bunch of hungover/drinking/eating people who didn't know each other, felt an awful lot like a cruise. Apparently that was intentional. Says Griffin: "We saw these friends of ours in bands doing the cruises where you go out for 5 days with your favorite band and similar genre acts for 24/7 music, drinks, gambling, and exotic ports of call. And we were a little jealous because they were making good money doing that." But then they realized that if they treat New Orleans during Mardi Gras as "an on-land casino," they could basically do the same thing, just without the boat.
· Tom Drummond said that they'd been thinking about doing this for several years, but "little did we know how much work it would take." They actually got it off the ground last year, and Kevin Griffin pointed to Besh's involvement as "taking the profile and the legitimacy of our event way up."
· Besh was involved in the brunch last year as well. "I was so sloppy drunk last year at the end of this," he said at one point, though as it turns out he actually didn't drink last year, so, you know, just kidding.
· The brunch featured passed drinks, like beer, screwdrivers, bloody marys and hurricanes. None of which is surprising and all of which were delicious, but Eater did learn that having a sweet hurricane before eating breakfast isn't a very good idea. It simply doesn't agree with one's stomach. Shrimp and grits from Besh Steakhouse fixed that, however.
· The big event during the brunch was a surprise bartending contest. Three people from four teams had to make drinks based on recipes the band had emailed throughout the preceding months. The twist? For the last cocktail, the competing mixologists were blind-folded. And the cocktail was a Ramos Gin Fizz, not an easy drink to make. According to Tom Drummond, the whole blindfolding thing was John Besh's idea, which suggests that he has a pretty evil streak.
· Speaking of evil, the whole group was split into four teams for a scavenger hunt with about 50 items to find over the course of the weekend. Items included "A photo with Drew Brees, real or fake" (which makes us wonder if anyone got a picture with the real Brees) and "A Huge Ass Beer." Like the drinks contest, nobody knew about this beforehand except the band. Said Griffin: "They have no idea what they're getting into." Pure evil, in a good way.
· The drinks contest was judged by a couple of the guys from the band Tonic, which just seems really appropriate.
· The icon for the weekend was a cartoon of Loki, the Norse God of Chaos. The cartoon had really beautiful blue eyes, making us hope it was actually the image of one of the band members suffering a case of inflated ego. Unfortunately, no.
· Ed Roland from Collective Soul was also there co-hosting the brunch. When asked what his role in the event was, he explained: "Sorcery, witchcraft."
· The night before, the quasi-cruise had begun at Lucy's Retired Surfer's Bar in the Warehouse District, to catch the Muses parade. But they had to wait. All night. Because the Thursday parades this year were super slow. Several people said that they just left before Muses even got there. Several other people were just really tired and hungover.