New Orleans Musicians Explain How To Do Mardi Gras Like A Pro

Jon Cleary and Glen David Andrews dish on their Mardi Gras episode of NCIS: New Orleans
Posted on Feb 9, 2016 | 08:50am
In a special Mardi Gras episode of NCIS: New Orleans, "Father's Day" (Episode 15, Season 2), two local icons breathe life into a pair of NOLA parties. We got the inside scoop from Jon Cleary and Glen David Andrews on their experience filming the show, the best that New Orleans has to offer, and, of course, how to do Mardi Gras like a pro. Scroll down to see clips from their scenes!

What was it like working with the NCIS: New Orleans team?
Glen David Andrews: Everyone on the NCIS: New Orleans set made it so easy for me.  It was really like a big family and they just took me in. I thought acting and playing in Treme was great, but NCIS was on another level. I hope I get to do it again.
Jon Cleary: They were great, friendly, and they treated the musicians with a lot of respect.

What's your favorite part about Mardi Gras in New Orleans?
Jon Cleary: The Mardi Gras Indian patches that happen in little clubs in the neighborhoods in the weeks leading up to Carnival where the Indian tribes go through their paces before the big day. That’s something that’s been happening here for a hundred years.
Glen David Andrews: The bands, man. Mardi Gras is about the music. All of the players, jazz, brass band, funk, rock, hip-hop, bounce, you name it – everyone is working day and night. Plus the parades and the floats are slammin'. Plus parties at people’s homes – you get to see people you haven’t seen in a while, because everyone is socializing with each other. It’s just one big party. If you’ve never been, you have to go.

What's the best music show you've ever seen in New Orleans?
Jon Cleary: Probably the old Neville Brothers shows at Tipitinas in the '80s. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Glen David Andrews: The best music show in New Orleans? Oh, you mean besides Glen David Andrews Band, heh heh? Well that always happens during Jazz Festival, end of April, beginning of May. That’s another thing you have to come down for. My cousin, Troy Andrews, a/k/a Trombone Shorty – he always closes out the Jazzfest at the big stage. That’s always really cool. I will be playing two sets this year, one at the Blues Tent and one at the Gospel Tent with a full choir. They tell me I am the only artist they let play both ways every year: One set for God and one for the devil, I guess. I am also putting together an old time brass band show at a club called d.b.a  during Jazzfest with my whole extended family playing all the old music and some of the new. It’s sad that Allen Toussaint passed this year. It’s going to be the first Jazzfest without him. He was always a highlight. Look up all the hits he wrote and produced. It will be a big surprise. He worked with Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello and all those guys. Plus every other hit out of New Orleans in the 60’s and 70’s was written or produced by him.

Any tips for somebody going to their first Mardi Gras?
Jon Cleary: Have as much fun as possible, but pace yourself.
Glen David Andrews: If you have family or friends who already live in New Orleans, or someone like the people at the hotels there that can give you tips of the best things to do and where to go and where not to go during Carnival, that’s key. A lot of tourists think New Orleans is all about the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, but there are so many cool things to see and do in other parts of the city. I play a lot on Frenchmen Street, which is in an old area behind the Quarter called Fauborg Marigny. Now THAT is a happening place. Music clubs and restaurants one after the other, all up and down the street for blocks. 

Jon Cleary on NCIS: New Orleans' "Father's Day" (Episode 15, Season 2):

What's something unique about New Orleans that one may not know?
Glen David Andrews: Like I said, don’t stay just in the French Quarter.  The neighborhood where I grew up, Treme, though it’s near the Quarter, it’s a whole different world and a place close to my heart. All neighbors and families that have been there forever.  All the Vietnamese restaurants and shops out in New Orleans East, the big mansions and oaks uptown and in Mid City, the streetcars, the Mississippi River, the little neighborhoods being revived in the 7th ward; green space and sailboats out at the Lakefront. You really don’t know this city unless you see it all.
Jon Cleary: One thing of many that come to mind is that New Orleans is where the first session to use an electric bass happened. That changed a lot of things in the evolution of funk.

What is it about New Orleans that makes it such a perfect music city?
Jon Cleary: That’s simple - it’s New Orleanians. A meeting of cultures, French, African and Spanish, all of whom had cultures of musical appreciation and participation long before they arrived in the new world.
Glen David Andrews: If you look back at the history books, what made New Orleans the birthplace of jazz and keeps the music and the culture cooking  is that it was a port city and a real melting pot. You had the original French settlers, plus not only slaves, but one of the largest communities of free people of color back in the 17 and 18 hundreds, then Irish labor brought in to dig canals, then all the German and Italian shopkeepers, then in the recent past, immigrants from Latin American and from Vietnam have brought in other cultures and music. The music scene here has never been standing still. There are always new musicians coming in to mix it up.

When did you realize you wanted to be a musician?
Jon Cleary: My folks would have musicians over at the house for late night jam sessions and they would let me stay up to listen on the condition that I sang a song. So at the age of about 4 or 5 I realized there were some perks to this music game.

Glen David Andrews on NCIS: New Orleans' "Father's Day" (Episode 15, Season 2):