April 20, 2005

Cajun Brass 1, Cajun Music 0

What exactly does the University of Louisiana have against culture?

Here’s the lowdown on an ugly incident: The Pine Leaf Boys, a local band composed of Drew Simon, Cedric Watson, Wilson Savoy and Jon Bertrand, were performing on campus March 23 when the University Police ordered them to stop. They have since announced that they will no longer play here, a move which should sadden anyone who values a vibrant college scene.

This incident is particularly newsworthy for several reasons: 1) UL authorities gave conflicting and contradicting reasons as to why the band wasn’t allowed there; 2) enforcement of “quiet-zone” rules is apparently seriously selective; and 3) the school has now sent the message that only adults interested in selling stuff are allowed to mingle with students.

Based on the direction of the wind, UL officials have offered the following as reasons for the band’s eviction: noise disturbance, lack of paperwork or the ignorance of prior warnings. Taken together, it would appear that the university really does not want The Pine Leaf Boys on campus and will give any half-baked reason for their dismissal.

If the university truly cared about noise abatement, then they should address such diverse elements as traffic, construction and lawn mowers buzzing during classes. Why not shut down the massive heating and cooling units next to academic buildings while you’re at it? Or post signs on every sidewalk reminding students to zip their lips?

And say goodbye to those periodic block parties at the same intersection as well. Is it too late to cancel the rest of Lagniappe Week? That affects the ENTIRE campus! I have no doubt that the vast throng of students who traverse St. Mary and Rex each day would thank you for keeping their sanctuary quiet.

Somehow, I suspect that the noise disturbance was not the real issue at hand. How do I know? Because I was there. As I walked across campus from Griffin Hall to Martin Hall that day, I saw the Pine Leaf Boys doing their thing. Their volume wasn’t exactly at Festival International levels; in fact, I considered standing right by them to get a better listen. I would have even dropped change into their cup, had I not been bereft of change (a situation often shared by musicians and writers alike). As far as I was concerned, having a Cajun band there was a welcome change from the usual huckstering.

Another excuse given by UL officials was that the band was banned under the same provision that prevents beggars from soliciting money on campus. I suppose there’s a profound difference between bums and the credit card people who prowl campus, seducing unsuspecting freshmen with free t-shirts. To campus officials, it’s apparently more acceptable to ruin students’ credit than to expose them to the sounds that define this area. Not that any of this matters anyway, because the band wasn’t exactly advertising its little paper change cup. Maybe, just maybe, they were in it for the music.

Music is a part of the university experience. What movie about college doesn’t have at least one splash scene of campus with some kind of orchestral score? And what campus does not enjoy the periodic street function? Certainly ours does, and its annual calendar of events only enriches the academic atmosphere.

When I saw the Pine Leaf Boys that day, the first question that popped in my mind was not, “Will they please stop?” Instead I asked, “Why aren’t they and their brethren here more often?” Anything that enriches the student experience at a major university, even if for a few moments between classes, should be accepted with open arms. And open ears.

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