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Tuesday February 27, 2001

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Dirty rice and a side of Crawdaddy-o

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By Angela Orlando

Arizona Daily Wildcat

UAB dishes up Mardi Gras celebration on the Mall

Rice, beans and King Cakes are not the only things that are going to packing on the pounds today in celebration of Fat Tuesday.

Also known as "Mardi Gras Day," Fat Tuesday means the biggest and most ornate parades caravan through the streets of New Orleans. At the University of Arizona, however, local band Crawdaddy-o is coming to fatten up UA students for Mardi Gras with a free concert today near Old Main.

"Eat to the Beat," a concert series put on by the University Activities Board, will serve free "dirty rice" and beans, a traditional dish served in the Big Easy, while the band plays by the fountain from noon to 1 p.m. today.

With their swingin' sounds and brassy lyrics, this somewhat zydeco, somewhat funk band promises to "Louisianify" the student lunch-break scene - Mardi Gras' roots are buried in French island culture, which has vastly influenced the population and heritage of southern Louisiana

Crawdaddy-o plays fast, fun and inventive music. Their newest CD, Last Night on Earth, though it does not strictly adhere to traditional dixie-style composition, certainly brings Tucsonans closer to today's annual New Orleans parties and parades that were originally created in 1837.

"Our music, more than any other Tucson band, is New Orleans-style," said singer and drummer Jimmy Carr.

Other members of the five-man band include "the brothers" - Dante, Marco and Tony Rosano.

Its roots may be Italian, but its musical affiliation is much closer to the faster rhythms of the Deep South.

"Dante plays trumpet, Marco plays tenor sax, and Tony's on the sousaphone. It's not real often you find a guy who plays sousaphone," Carr said. "Then there's Fruitpie on the trombone."

The band met when Carr heard strange music wafting through his neighborhood five years ago. He introduced himself to the source of the sound - the brothers - and the band has been together ever since.

"We're rock stars in a brass band," Carr said. "We play some cajun stuff, but we're more funk and eclectic. It's upbeat. It's crazy."

And brassy, fast music is definitely a major part of the celebration. French, Cajun and Creole partiers alike all come together to honor their heritage, dance and revel throughout the duration of Mardi Gras.

Today, New Orleans is defined by its overwhelming aura of festivity. Tourists and locals alike congregate yearly in the city streets to participate in the parties and watch the parades. Mardi Gras traditions have infiltrated the rest of the country and much of Europe. Almost every American city celebrates this day as an unspoken holiday.

Carr has never witnessed the chaos of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but he has attended the city's famous annual Jazz and Heritage festival.