But what started as a unique gig, became much more after hurricane Katrina devastated the city in August 2005. The months following the storm's landfall and the flooding that followed were difficult times for both residents and those who loved the "city that care forgot." As governments quarreled and bickered, residents looked for any opportunity to feel normal again. Mardi Gras 2006 seemed to provide the first opportunity for healing, yet the event that in many ways brings the city together each year was itself a source of division. Many felt it was too soon to throw a party, while others felt it was the right thing to do to promote a return to normalcy. Field struggled with those very emotions as RSE debated a return.
"After Katrina, we really wondered: 'is it appropriate for us to go down there; even though we were invited, are we helping or hurting?' You know, does this really matter? All of our friends, everyone we talked to said, 'Yes, I'd wish you'd come down.' It's kind of like people visiting you when you're in the hospital, just being there matters and that's how we felt. We felt that just being thing was a positive thing. The way people celebrated that very first Mardi Gras after Katrina, was very much like a New Orleans funeral. There were months and months of hard work and sickness in terms of the physical nature of people and the city itself. And then it was time to celebrate life. Celebrating life is the message and we were very honored to be part of that celebration."
The word celebration provides an appropriate description of the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble's musical mission. Less concerned with categories and more concerned with making good music and having fun, RSE provides something for every listener. To find a large group capable of creating something new, while staying true to the traditions of their influences is rare indeed.
With an eye on greater exposure through movies, television and even more importantly touring, Ken Field and the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble appear set to continue their musical travels, taking roads that may defy logic. While Robert Frost didn't know the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, he certainly understood the spirit of the group and its founder, Ken Field. If Frost were alive today, he'd certainly approve and would likely be listening to RSE on his iPod.
Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, Forked Tongue (Cuneiform, 2008)
Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, Year of the Snake (Innova, 2003)