Around the Nation
2:38 pm
Tue May 7, 2013

A Look Ahead To The Future Of New Orleans

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. The recession and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico hit New Orleans hard, and that was after Katrina. The population has yet to return to pre-hurricane levels. Some houses lie empty, some properties abandoned, and the city continues to suffer from crime and unemployment.

But New Orleans does know how to throw a party. The Big Easy hosted nine million visitors in 2012 alone and events like the Super Bowl, the NCAA championship games, Mardi Gras and most recently Jazz Fest. This year's lineup included big names like Billy Joel, Patti Smith and of course local favorites. The fairgrounds were packed.

Music, food and nightlife are a big part of the city's recovery. Call, tell us, what's your postcard from New Orleans? 800-989-8255 is our phone number. Email talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. Go to npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, China's accused again of Internet hacks, this time by the Pentagon. But first we continue our series and look ahead today with Gwen Thompkins, who has joined us from time to time from her native New Orleans, and she returned from work here at NPR in Washington and then a stint as our East Africa correspondent. She's at the studios of member station WWNO, and Gwen, always good to have you on the program.

GWEN THOMPKINS, BYLINE: Hi Neal, it's so nice to hear your voice, actually.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPKINS: It is. You know, I've talked to you in so many different places around the world, you know, from the jungles of Congo to, like, my house like right after Katrina and, you know, right before the hurricane last year, Hurricane Isaac. I feel like, I don't know, we go way back.

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN: We do go way back.

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN: We also of course knew each other when you were an editor here on Scott Simon's show on Saturday mornings. But I have to ask you: How is your neighborhood doing and New Orleans?

THOMPKINS: New Orleans is doing all right, actually. The neighborhood's doing all right. The last time you and I spoke in my neighborhood, it was completely barren. I had just gone in after the water retreated from my house, I got nine feet of water in my neighborhood, Pontchartrain Park. And I told you I could run buck naked down the street, and nobody would ever seen me because there really wasn't anybody around.

I mean, there weren't even birds. But now we've got birds, we've got trees, we've got bushes, we've got flowers. We don't have as many neighbors as we used to have, and I think that that's true of the whole city, but people are coming back, and people are moving in, new people every day. And one of the big draws, of course, of the new people coming in is this very nice young man who's sitting next to me.

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN: We'll talk to him in just a minute, but you go ahead.

THOMPKINS: I'm so excited. So yeah, we have - we have a lot of people coming in and moving in, in large part drawn to New Orleans for opportunity, believe it or not, you know, particularly in the arts. And, you know, I'm hearing about musicians who are moving in, producers, engineers as well. And, you know, I think that this is still a period of optimism.

Even though the city is experiencing the economic downturn just like every other city in the United States, I mean, small businesses are having a really hard time. You know, musicians, let's face it, are having a really hard time in this town and in others. So, you know, it's - you have to take the - growth never happens - nothing ever moves forward in one straight line, you know.

You know, it's - some areas spurred, and some areas sputtered. And, you know, right now I guess for the city, the big issue is to really find a way to help small businesses and to, you know, I mean, and to encourage the local economy. In the meantime, you know, as you said in your intro, I mean, we are, you know, we are really betting everything we have, it seems, on our tourism industry and the ability to mount these extraordinary, spectacular, national and international events, you know, the Super Bowl, these NCAA championships, as you say, Mardi Gras and now, you know, the Jazz Festival, which is just a delightful two weeks in our lives.

You know, and during - I mean last year alone, it's believed that 450,000 people came to the Jazz Festival, came to the fairgrounds here in New Orleans. And a lot - most of those people are from out of town. I mean, the ticket price is pretty high.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPKINS: They're the ones who can afford it, you know. But when you think about it, that is the population of Miami. It's like Miami came to your house for dinner. OK, you're like hello Miami, you know, hello Minneapolis. You know, this is how big the crowd, you know, the crowd. And I think this year really was no different even though there was a lot of rain during that first weekend.

People came and danced in the rain and danced in the mud and, you know, pulled out their mud fashions, you know, their boots and, you know, shrimp boots, and there are all sorts of things that looked like they could float and sail through mud.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPKINS: And I mean, Dave Matthews, for instance, I mean the man played in a downpour. It was amazing, you know, and, you know, Patti Smith, you know, it was really extraordinary, as well as local acts, you know, like Hurray for the Riff Raff. They played in the rain, and they played in the morning, and very few people in New Orleans, at least born in New Orleans, want to get out in the morning and see some music. And that place was packed, you know, with Hurray for the Riff Raff fans.

CONAN: Well, Gwen Thompkins mentioned the nice young man sitting next to her. He's Troy Andrews, better known to many as Trombone Shorty, of course a musician and New Orleans neighbor. He's there at WWNO, as well. Good to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION.

TROY ANDREWS: Hey, thank you for having me.

CONAN: And before we get to Jazz Fest and to the future of the music scene there and that cultural bet that Gwen Thompkins talked about, as a musician, what is your experience of New Orleans like after the recession, after the oil spill and course still after Katrina?

ANDREWS: Well, to me I think the music is the heartbeat. So a lot of people like to get away from things like that, and they'll come support the music. If it's a second liner in the street, they'll scrape up $5, $10 to come in the club. The music is the heartbeat. So - and people are very supportive of us and want to make sure that the music stays alive. And like you said, New Orleans throws a big party, and the music leads the party.

So it's been OK for me because I've been traveling around the world more than I've been home. So whenever I come, I try to help out some of the local musicians that's up and coming. I'll give them an opportunity to play in front of my fans that fly down from around the world to see us in town. And it's been comfortable me.

So it gets harder at times, but we all stick together and reach out to one another, and if someone has a gig in town, and we might add some different people from other bands to our band, just so we can all make sure that everyone in the music community is OK.

CONAN: That's a brotherhood and a sisterhood.

ANDREWS: Yeah, definitely.

CONAN: Well, let's get some callers in on the conversation. If New Orleans has bet its future on its culture, music, its food, its events, what's your postcard from your visit to New Orleans? 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. Morgan's(ph) with us from Virginia.

MORGAN: Hello, how are you?

CONAN: Good, thanks.

MORGAN: So I just drove back yesterday, all day, 14 hours, from New Orleans all the way back to Virginia. I had a wonderful time. I came in on Thursday night for the second weekend of Jazz Fest, saw Maroon 5, saw you, Trombone Shorty. Shorty, you were so awesome Saturday, it was - or on Sunday, excuse me. It was fantastic. The weather was beautiful.

I've never been to a Jazz Fest in more beautiful weather, by the way. It's always either 90 degrees or raining, and it was neither this weekend. It was great. Let's see, I lived - I lived in New Orleans for four years while I was in the Navy. I was stationed over on the West Bank, in Algiers, and sometimes I worked over on East Bank on Dauphine Street.

The city is really coming back. I love driving through mid-city, Tulane Avenue has absolutely exploded. There are buildings going up everywhere. You've got the new cancer research center, you've got the new VA hospital being built. Tulane Avenue is exploding. It's just - it's wonderful. And of course I always love going to Parkway and getting a great, true, pulled roast beef and fried shrimp po' boy. I mean, the food, the music truly is the heartbeat. It was just a wonderful, wonderful weekend. So...

THOMPKINS: Morgan, come back.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: I know. I want to move back so bad, so bad. I just finished massage school, and my fiance is an engineer, and I would love to move back to the city. I absolutely love it down there. It's just such an amazing city, and rain or shine or, you know, death and destruction and winds and hurricanes and oil and terrible, terrible things, and people go out, and they dance, and they sing, and they do not stop. I have never experienced anything like it anywhere else I've ever been, so...

CONAN: Morgan, it sounds like you had a terrible time.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: It was awful, God, oh jeez Louise, it was terrible, never going back. No, I try and go back every year.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call.

MORGAN: All right, have a good day.

CONAN: Appreciate it, glad you made it home safely. And Gwen, she mentioned that Trombone Shorty played Sunday, on the last day of Jazz Fest, and that is emblematic of a change.

THOMPKINS: That's a huge change in this town. I mean, you know, the Jazz Festival has been going on since 1970, and there have been three main acts that have finished the festival. One was Professor Longhair, who unfortunately died in 1980. Then came The Radiators, who broke up last year. And then thirdly was the Neville Brothers.

And the Neville Brothers, you know what I mean, have been the draw of Sunday evening on the last Sunday evening of the festival for, I don't know, 30 years, let's say, and maybe 40, I can't add.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPKINS: What we lack in mathematical ability we make up with in charm. But the thing is - but Trombone Shorty took over the stages that the Neville Brothers usually play on Sunday, and I'm telling you I'm not - this was not just about outside people, tourists coming in and saying I've got to hear Trombone Shorty. This was about New Orleaneans coming out and seeing one of their own and seeing a man who - I'm telling you when he walks down the street, everybody notices.

They may not run up to him because we're cool like that, you know, in New Orleans, but everybody knows when Trombone Shorty walks in because he is beloved here and for good reason because I'm telling you, he deserves that stage for the next 30 years.

CONAN: What was it like for you, Troy, to succeed to that post?

ANDREWS: Oh, it was very emotional, you know. I grew up playing the Neville Brothers. Cyril Neville is like my uncle, and he's invited me on that stage many years since I was maybe 12 years old and up until last year. So for me to be able to take it over, it was a dream come true, and I'm just happy that I was able to do it.

It's really - I still can't believe it yet. You know, everybody keep telling me about it, but it hasn't hit me yet. You know, I walked out onstage, and I'm like uh-oh, it's finally here.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDREWS: And I'm like I don't know what to feel or think, but I just went out there and tried to do my best and represent the great city of New Orleans and carry on the tradition. But, you know, it's still emotional to me that I was able to do that, and I'm just happy that we were able to do it.

CONAN: Troy Andrews, aka Trombone Shorty; and Gwen Thompkins with us from WWNO, our member station in New Orleans. We want to hear your postcard from that city, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. Stay with us. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. Today we're looking ahead at what's coming up for New Orleans with Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews and Gwen Thompkins. Gwen used to report and edit for NPR. For the better part of a year, she's been hosting "Music Inside Out" for member station WWNO in her hometown. Here's a little a taste from an interview she did with singer-songwriter John Boutte about tackling songs normally sung by female artists.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO PROGRAM)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) And I can make it seem better for a while.

THOMPKINS: So John Boutte, what do you hear when you hear her singing that song?

JOHN BOUTTE: I hear crying, you know, trying to say that she is somebody, you know. And it's just a very emotional song, and...

THOMPKINS: You have tears in your eyes. I do, too, don't be ashamed.

(LAUGHTER)

BOUTTE: No, I don't.

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN: Gwen Thompkins with John Bouttee on "Music Inside Out." You can find a link to Gwen's show at our website. Go to npr.org, click on TALK OF THE NATION. If you've visited New Orleans, we want to hear from you. What's your postcard from your trip, your essential New Orleans experience? 800-989-8255. Email is talk@npr.org. Ellen(ph) in Mission Hills, Kansas, sent us an email.

Just returned from the second Jazz Fest weekend late last night. I have to tell you that last Thursday, while I was waiting in line to get on my flight for Louis Armstrong Airfield, I picked out of the crowd a man in shorts and sandals carrying his aluminum folding a chair, not wrapped in its holder, just folded up, and he was wearing a sport coat over his T-shirt.

I tapped him on the shoulder and said Jazz Fest and Commanders, am I right? And he smiled the way we do when we're on our way back to New Orleans, and he said check and check.

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN: It was a mud fest of nothing but good times. Everyone was nice to everyone else, and Irma Thomas brought several people to - several thousand people to complete silence when she spoke of overcoming her bout with cancer, then sang Dylan's "Forever Young" on the always best day of Jazz Fest, local Sunday bliss. I love New Orleans, consider myself not a tourist but a regular out-of-towner, a phrase I did not make up but borrowed.

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN: So that is - that's another great experience, and...

THOMPKINS: Wow, that's great.

ANDREWS: That's great, yeah.

CONAN: Troy Andrews, you noted when you mentioned earlier you spent a lot of time out of New Orleans these days. What is it like coming home?

ANDREWS: It's great, you know. My entire city keeps up with me wherever I am around the world. And they just want to make sure that I'm doing OK, and I'm continuing to grow as a person. And it's just a beautiful thing to be able to come back to the city and play and also come back to my family. And it's always really exciting.

You know, we're on the road, I do at least 200 dates a year or close to it. So when we come back home, it's always a big homecoming, and everybody's trying to see what we're doing, and the love that we get, you know, I don't think we can match that anywhere in the world. But it's just great, you know, to be able to play around and come back home. And it gets bigger and bigger and bigger, and I'm just very grateful for the support that I get from my city.

THOMPKINS: It's true, I mean, Neal, it's - you know, people should - I'm sure most people already know this, but, I mean, Troy Andrews is not just Troy Andrews.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPKINS: Troy Andrews represents a family tradition in this town that, I mean, goes far back to the beginnings of New Orleans R&B. I mean, he is descended from Jessie Hill, I mean, the great R&B artist, you know...

ANDREWS: "Ooh Poo Pah Doo."

THOMPKINS: "Ooh Poo Pah Doo," exactly, Jessie Hill. And, you know, this whole town is sort of populated by familial dynasties and clans. You know, when I was in Somalia many years ago, people, you know, were trying to explain to me about the clan situation there and how, you know, I mean, everything's worked out by the family clans. And I thought, hell, I left New Orleans for this?

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPKINS: I mean because they're like the Marsalises, they're the (unintelligible), you know. There are the Jordans, you know what I mean.

ANDREWS: The Nevilles.

THOMPKINS: The Nevilles of course, you know, yeah, the 13th Ward.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDREWS: Yeah, definitely.

THOMPKINS: Exactly, and so all of these families are representing the best of New Orleans, and they do so generationally. And so Troy has cousins who are here and, you know, siblings here who are really, you know what I mean, carrying on the tradition even when he is away, and that's what's so exciting, you know. That's what's so exciting.

And the truth is I really want him to come on my show. So, you know, I'm sorry you played the clip of our show when our guest was crying, John Boutte, because I don't want him to get scared and think I'm going to try to make him cry on my...

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN: Well, we'll play another clip from your show, and this one might be a little more inviting. You interviewed the drummer Shannon Powell and talking about - he's an old-timer - and talking about, well, he gets so tired of life on the road. Trombone Shorty would know nothing about this, that in fact he brings his own hot plates.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO PROGRAM)

SHANNON POWELL: If you know how to cook, you know, you bring a little hot plate on the road. I had two of them.

THOMPKINS: Wow.

POWELL: I like to travel with my pots and my drum case and my travel case, and I've been known to get out, put out of many hotels.

THOMPKINS: Really? With your hot plate?

POWELL: Yeah, for cooking, yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPKINS: You're cooking, and you're cooking.

POWELL: Yeah, the maid would smell it in the hallway, and she'd be like what's going on in there. I said nothing, I said I just come from the store. She said no, you're cooking in there.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPKINS: Nailed you, (unintelligible).

CONAN: That's Shannon Powell on...

ANDREWS: I'll have to try that.

THOMPKINS: Yeah, he smothered chicken. He made potato salad on the road. Who makes potato salad in a hotel room? Where he can find the ice?

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN: Well, Gwen Thompkins has a good time, as you can hear, on her new show "Inside Out."

THOMPKINS: We're "Music Inside Out."

CONAN: "Music Inside," and I was going to ask you, Gwen, you were talking a little bit about some of the reporting you did in East Africa. You're now spending a lot of time on music. These are - what is it like making that transition?

THOMPKINS: You know, it's not as difficult as you might think, you know, because in a way, you know, you can look at music as just, you know what I mean, you know, shaking your groove thing or moving your backfield or whatever, keeping your backfield in motion. But then you can also look at it as, you know, I mean, song by song, sometimes lyric by lyric, music tells the story of a culture, and it tells the story of how we live and what we care about and what we want others to know about us.

And when I was, you know, traveling and reporting for NPR, I mean, that's exactly what we were trying to get at, you know. And, you know, there are certain places where you would go, for instance, you know, northern Uganda, some places in Somalia, some places in Darfur, for instance, some places in Congo, where people did not feel at liberty to say exactly what had gone on with them or what had happened to them or to point fingers because they were usually pointing fingers to the person who was sitting right next to them.

You know, their neighbors were oftentimes doing terrible things to them. And so what they would do is they would write a song about it. And sometimes they would just sing you the song. And that really was going to be the only record of what had transpired, you know, that was of, you know, of major significance to the future of a culture, the future of a nation, the future of a region.

And so when I look at the songs that come out of Louisiana, for instance, I mean, they - I mean, when you piece them together, I mean it's like tatting lace. I mean, you are really - you come away with a real picture of what the people here are about. And I have to say I've been everywhere - I've been a lot of places, I should say, and there are - I don't think I've ever seen a place that has as many truly interesting people as there are here in New Orleans and here in Louisiana. Don't you agree, Troy?

ANDREWS: I agree, yeah. Shannon Powell is one of them.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPKINS: Get him to cook for you.

ANDREWS: Yeah because I can't cook.

CONAN: Not even on a hot plate in a hotel room?

ANDREWS: No.

THOMPKINS: It's - and the truth is people get more interesting when they come. You know, it's not just the native folks. But look, Billy Joel showed up here last week, right. He checked into the Monteleone Hotel. He went downstairs immediately, went to the bar, played three songs, OK, left the bar, went on Bourbon Street and sang doo-wop. I mean, how often do you see that happening, you know what I mean, around the country, you know, where a guy, you know what I mean, is so excited to be here.

And the thing is, you know, people always ask that question, oh, you've got all these big acts who are coming down to New Orleans, you know, Billy Joel and Patti Smith and Fleetwood Mac. What do they have to do with New Orleans music? But the truth of the matter is I have never met an artist who cared about categories, you know what I mean, who said I am this kind of musician, or I am that kind of musician.

All artists are talking to one another, and all artists that I know of, you know what I mean, whether they're from here or not, acknowledge that this really is the source of American music right here.

ANDREWS: Definitely, yeah, (unintelligible). I'm sorry.

CONAN: Here's an email from - excuse me - Nancy in Fairbanks. My favorite memory of New Orleans as a Red Cross disaster relief volunteer after Katrina was the way everyone, young, old, male, female, white, black, called me baby. The last day of my tour, I was serving food to an elderly woman who said thank you, baby. My response was, I'm sure going to be missed being called baby.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDREWS: Oh.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get Daisy on the line. Daisy's with us from Charlottesville in Virginia.

DAISY: Hi, there.

CONAN: Hi, Daisy. Go ahead, please. What's your postcard from New Orleans?

DAISY: Well, I just wanted to share. I was there on November of last year for a conference and my husband came with me. We went down to Frenchmen Street, and it was like nothing we've ever experienced. My husband's not from the U.S., so he by far had a very unique experience. And I think what struck us most was being able to see so many different extremely talented musicians sharing their sound with anyone for free all night long.

ANDREWS: Yup, all night.

DAISY: And so we saw salsa, reggae, blues, country. It was all there. We just walked across the street from one to the other, no cover charge. We danced our hearts out, and it was like 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning. It was still going.

There was nothing happening. It wasn't an event, weekend or week or anything like that. It's just going all the time, and that is nowhere else in this country. I mean, it's distilled. It's, you know, potent. It's amazing. It's just a really beautiful experience and something, I think, we will treasure. And we were, you know, caught very much off-guard with having that experience there. So...

CONAN: And goes someway to explain Gwen's comments about New Orleanians not getting up early in the morning, necessarily.

(LAUGHTER)

DAISY: No. And, well, really...

THOMPKINS: That's true.

DAISY: ...we're already up. So...

THOMPKINS: Early is relative.

DAISY: I also wanted to say for Troy, we saw him open for Dave Matthews here in Charlottesville. I actually have a signature on a white leather jacket. So very glad to hear about him and that he's still going on and putting that music out there.

ANDREWS: Thank you very much.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call.

DAISY: Thank you.

CONAN: And - go ahead.

THOMPKINS: Neal, well, I was going to say, Neal, you and I have hung out on Frenchmen Street, OK?

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPKINS: So you know what we're talking about. You know what I mean?

CONAN: And, fortunately, it was after the show, so getting up late the next morning was not so much of a problem.

THOMPKINS: And true. But you were eyeballing some girl who had legs up to Arkansas.

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN: I think she meant to be eyeballed, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN: We're talking with the irrepressible Gwen Thompkins and Trombone Shorty Troy Andrews at our member station in New Orleans, WWNO, as we continue our series of conversations, "Looking Ahead." You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And, Troy Andrews, I have to ask you, of course, there's that family tradition where music is handed down, but you've also started a foundation to support music education to hand down New Orleans music.

ANDREWS: Yes. Yeah.

CONAN: Can you tell us a little bit about it?

ANDREWS: Well, I started a foundation, Trombone Shorty Academy, to just basically help out some of the younger kids that's interested in music here because I visit schools a lot when I'm in town and just go play with the band, donate some instruments. And I didn't really know that these youngsters really knew who I was, and when I walked in, they were really excited, as if someone like Lil Wayne or someone came in.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDREWS: So I was like, wow, I have a young audience that I didn't even know about, and I think that I can help them through music, let them know that after school, after you finish marching band, that you can actually have a career at doing it. And I just wanted to help some of the youngsters that's interested in music some of the things that my family passed to me and the rest of the New Orleans musicians, some of the older guys that taught me things.

I just wanted to be able to capture that and pass that along to some of the younger musicians because we don't have a lot of the old cats around. The neighborhoods are not the same anymore to where you could just go to someone's house and you have a hundred musicians over there and you can just go get a lesson or play with the band, play in the street or whatever you want to do.

So I just wanted to give that experience to the kids that's coming up and also give them some fundamental things to practice and just have them catch up, 'cause we have a lot of kids that can play in the street but sometime they miss the whole fundamental thing, and that hinders them later on in life because they won't be able to play other styles of music.

And by me having the best of both worlds, being able to play on the street with some of the brass bands marching and going to NOCCA with some of the great teachers I had over there, they wanted me to focus on fundamental. So I just wanted to be able to get all that in one spot for the kids and, you know, hopefully save some lives.

CONAN: Because that's what it's about. It's...

ANDREWS: Yes.

CONAN: Yeah.

THOMPKINS: Terrific work. Terrific.

CONAN: It's not just learning to read - play scales and then read music. It's just part of it. Let's get Molly on the line. Molly's with us from Washington, Illinois.

MOLLY: Hello.

CONAN: Now you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

MOLLY: Hi. My - I wanted to tell you about the time my husband and I were in New Orleans for the first time. It was in March, it just a few months before Katrina. And we walked down Bourbon Street that first night as you do, but - and all the noise and the smells and the sounds of Bourbon Street, the sights, but we kept going.

And it was kind of a cool misty night, and we kept going past Bourbon Street, and we kept going further into the neighborhood, and it became very quiet. It was kind of misty, and the gaslights were hanging in front of the houses. The cars - you know, streets were deserted of cars, and it was like walking back in time 150 years. It was the most amazing transported experience I've ever had.

ANDREWS: Wow.

MOLLY: Just - we walked past a church, and there was a choir practicing in the basement. You could hear that in the background. It was like a movie, and it would...

ANDREWS: Wow.

MOLLY: ...stick in my mind forever as my image of New Orleans.

THOMPKINS: That's a great image.

CONAN: It is, yeah. I could see the Spanish moss now.

(LAUGHTER)

MOLLY: Yeah, exactly. It was ghosts walking by, you know? It was just, just amazing. We both talk about it in hushed tones to this day.

CONAN: Well, Molly...

ANDREWS: Wow.

CONAN: ...thanks very much. Appreciate that picture.

MOLLY: Thank you. It's a lovely city. I've been there twice. I'm going back this summer.

THOMPKINS: Oh, good.

ANDREWS: Thank you. Thank you.

THOMPKINS: Oh, boy.

CONAN: Here's an email from Karen(ph) in Grand Rapids: Via Facebook, I befriended a couple of dozen brass bandies who convene to celebrate major events - Mardi Gras Day, Bastille Day, the night before Easter, the Paradise Tumblers host open call pick-up band events for anyone who plays an instrument. Through them, I've fallen in with two MG parade marching bands, posed with tourists and acted as a local wayfaring helper, and I'm from Michigan.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPKINS: That's pretty great.

CONAN: Yeah.

THOMPKINS: Yeah, I mean, that draws you out, I have to say. It really does, you know? And I mean, it sounds - maybe it sounds a bit trite but I mean, you can really be down, down, down in your soul and, you know, not feeling like anything is working for you and then all of a sudden you'll here a tuba or you'll a horn or something and then you realize just outside your house there is a brass band walking by and you realize you can join the parade or you can stay home. And, you know, and the logical choice is to join the parade and I tell you, you'll never regret it. You'll never regret it.

CONAN: Gwen, thanks very much. We never regret having you on the program.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPKINS: Thank you.

CONAN: What about - how cool a segue was that?

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPKINS: Sweet.

CONAN: Gwen Thompkins, the host of WWNO's Music Inside Out, a New Orleans native. And again, you could go to our website and get a link to her program. Go to npr.org, click on TALK OF THE NATION. Troy Andrews, thank you again for being with us.

ANDREWS: Thank you for having me.

CONAN: Trombone Shorty and Gwen Thompkins with us from WWNO in New Orleans. When we come back, China's on top of the list when investigators look into big time hacking these days. An explanation. Stay with us. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.