WWOZ

Homebound at the opening stages of the pandemic (around the time of the “Tom Hanks Crisis”) we started listening, via Internet stream, to WWOZ, roots radio from New Orleans. The music is festive, the catalog is deep: it’s kind of amazing how much music there is about New Orleans. WWOZ could fill days and days with specifically local music.

Metro New Orleans has 1.2 million people, putting it below Oklahoma City, Pittsburgh, greater Orlando, Sacramento, just a hair above Fresno in terms of size. But New Orleans punches so far above its weight culturally as to make it a unique exception and special case on a world scale.

Something about listening to an actual radio station with live DJs feels more connective, although Bryson Whitney at Spotify keeps a WWOZ playlist that has way beyond 24 hours of music at the ready.

WWOZ is the station where Steve Zahn’s character, Davis McAlary, is a DJ in the 2010-2013 HBO series Treme*, but don’t let that put you off. The DJs for the most part are remarkably unobtrusive.

Tuesday is Mardi Gras. There are enough songs specifically about Mardi Gras to power WWOZ for probably weeks of steady airtime. You will hear Professor Longhair and Wild Tchoupitoulas. It’s funny to observe the transition in music when Ash Wednesday rolls around. They really do have to dial it back!

Previous coverage of New Orleans.

* when Treme first came out we found it a little offputting, it seemed to be criticizing us, the viewers, for not appreciating New Orleans enough. This may have been partially based on a scene in the pilot where some well-meaning tourists are humiliated by Sonny (Michiel Huisman), a street musician. But we rewatched a few years ago and found the series went deeper than we may have perceived. For instance Sonny himself is a transplant. His pretentious attitude is deflated over the course of the series as he experiences a humbling journey related to his efforts to get out of addiction and restore himself. On review ,Treme does a powerful job of capturing not only what’s so special and alluring about New Orleans, but also what’s probably annoying and frustrating about living there. The dilapidations, corruptions, poverty and inevitable hangovers of a place that survives by selling itself as partytown. Some of New Orleans is disgusting, some of it is really refined and beautiful. Those contradictions are captured in the show, full of inhabited characters who aren’t always having good times. Treme is deep and interesting if not always fun.



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