Mardi Gras 2018 is Tuesday, February 13th
Mardi Gras Street Performers
Notes on Etiquette & Courtesy When Enjoying The Work Of New Orleans Performance Artists
While performance artists and street musicians are a common sight all year round on the streets of New Orleans, during Mardi Gras they seem to be particularly common, and the crowds they draw are appropriately amplified as well. But sadly, their efforts often go unappreciated, and unrewarded.
Yes, they are going to be there no matter what, but treating street performers and artists properly, being respectful of their efforts, and recognizing that this is their livelihood and not a free service just to make us happy is simply the right thing to do. It also ensures that these musicians, comedians, contortionists, jugglers, fire eaters, sword swallowers, and magicians will be able to continue providing this entertainment service for years to come. It would be a shame if the streets were suddenly deprived of the ambient sound and raucous good-natured clowning around that makes strolling around the French Quarter a walk of discovery and a source of inspiration and enjoyment.
Undoubtedly one of the best sensations you can have in New Orleans is that first magical “aha” moment you get upon walking through the French Quarter and hearing the distant sound of a horn playing. Without realizing it you head in that direction, your body altering course as the sound grows clearer or more distant. Finally, you turn the corner and stand face to face with an intimate cluster of musicians seemingly so pleased with their lot in life that they appear oblivious to the rain or the sweltering heat as they play through the remaining measures of the classic tune that first caught your ear. Now, as their song ends, and the crowd claps and begins to disperse, you’d be woefully remiss if you didn’t put something into their hat/guitar case to show your appreciation for the magical pull of the busker's playing. Remember that, while they offer it up without any contract, theirs is a skill learned over time, and, most importantly, it obviously affected you.
Isn’t that as worthy of compensation as your fifth beer of the day?
Walking the brick-lined streets of the French Quarter, listening to the music pouring from bars, and the sounds of everyone having a good time, it’s easy to stumble upon, and be surprised by, a different sort of crowd.
Instead of the wandering pack of zombies that throng Bourbon Street, it’s not uncommon to turn a corner and confront a wall of immobile spectators clearly clustered around something (or someone). Parting the crowd, or angling your way to a better view, you might find an acrobat, or a juggler, a contortionist, or even a fire eater. The crowds are big because part of the performer's schtick involves roping in wandering spectators like yourself. But fear not, settle in, and enjoy the show. It’s all good fun.
The street performance artist's show is often doled out in equal measures of performance and kibitzing. They may ask someone from the crowd to come up and hold a rope, or shackle them into a box, etc. If selected to “volunteer” for this, rest assured they have no interest in hurting you. They’ll probably make fun of you or where you’re from. But it’s all good-natured. They really have nothing against Omaha. During their next show they’ll pick on somebody from Tampa.
More than anything, they hope you enjoy the show. Typically, whatever the performance is, it will be inventive, clever, and fairly well rehearsed, displaying a truly tip-worthy talent.
Tipping & Photos
You’re likely to see musicians and other street performers throughout New Orleans all year long. But they are particularly popular during Mardi Gras, and, like all merchants, hope to make the bulk of their annual salary during this period. Feel free to enjoy their work. No reservations required. They’ll accept you however you are attired, and in whatever setting or "condition" you present yourself. But bear in mind that theirs is truly a gift, and if their work has in any way added to your visit, compensating them in some small way is right and proper, and ensures that the next group of visitors can enjoy them as well.
While the performers generally don’t demand tips (they may suggest it), their shows are typically worth a little something. Look for the "hat", and encourage others to chip in as well.
If you liked the show and took photos, or asked to have your picture taken with the performer, you clearly enjoyed it, and should compensate them for their time and effort. It’s a memory that will last you a lifetime. Surely that’s worth something to you. Nobody is going to chase you down and make you pay, but if you valued the show at all, making sure they can continue doing it is the right thing to do.
Sources (and External Links)
The author/editor is indebted to others for the content in this article. While the final product on this page is ours, and we claim full ownership and responsibility for same, what you read here is based on our research, which led us to the following sources of information:
New Orleans Feature Stories
HIstory of the French Quarter - History, Art & Architecture of the French Quarter
Family-Friendly New Orleans - NOLA Mardi Gras attractions, tips and tricks for all ages
The Krewe Of Rex - The King Of Carnival, The Rex Organization, and Pro Bono Publico
NOLA Walking Neighborhoods - How to avoid traffic during Mardi Gras in New Orleans
Simply Heaven - Muriel's Jackson Square: Gulf Coast Cuisine With Supernatral Sides
Pat O'Brien's - The Home of The Hurricane Is A Family Tradition That's Here To Stay
Local Hero - Breakfast At Slim Goddies Diner Feeds New Orleans In More Ways Than One