|St. Maurice's Church in the Lower 9th Ward|
|Looking over the 9th Ward from the steps of the church. You can't tell how close we are to the river, but we're really close, only a few blocks.|
|All the pictures I took of this were blurry. It's called "Altarpiece", by Taylor Lee Shepherd, and it's a bank of TVs that respond to sounds in the church. It was gorgeous.|
|All the feet and legs on the balcony at St. Maurice's. Note how almost everyone is wearing the exact same shoes. Full disclosure: I was also wearing those shoes.|
We were there for the debut performance of the Weather Warlock, a machine built by the musician Quintron to translate weather information into sounds. You can hear it here: http://weatherfortheblind.org/ On Sunday it was playing the sunset, with a variety of local musicians playing along. And it was wonderful--I was expecting something a little more delicate, but it was loud as hell, with a killer band playing along. It was thrashy; it was churchy; it was great.
OK, but here's the problem. My friend and I quickly noticed that the audience was almost universally clad in a style I would describe as "White Etsy Hipster", and was so culturally uniform I could have sworn we were in Portland, or maybe in a music video making fun of Portland. (Men: suspenders, ironic prospector beards. Women: vintage flowery dress, 80s accessories.) There was a contingent of grungy metalheads and a few people in jeans and coats, but mostly it was these very specific-looking folks. (I myself am white and have my own Etsy shop, so I'm not pointing fingers too hard here. I draw the line at ironic calico, though.) More than that, everyone drove there--there was a huge and sudden influx of cars into the neighborhood, to the clear amusement of the locals. And then when it was over everyone went away again, like a school field trip.
This show took place in the Lower 9th Ward, a neighborhood that is almost entirely black, and one of the most economically depressed in the city. The Space Rites folks have done right by the community there, offering the church space to a local Baptist congregation and enlisting the Lower 9th Ward choir for another show in the series. I think it's a good project. But there's some introspection to do here about why it attracted such a specific audience and nobody else.