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Just by indulging in the city’s favorite of pastimes, locals can support a group of unlikely activists who are putting their Piscean penchant for reason to use by “drinking with a purpose.” On Monday March 11, beginning at 8 p.m., the fourth annual Pisces Party will take place at Frenchmen Street's Blue Nile to benefit the New Orleans Barman’s Fund.
Pisces Party, as they are now calling it, began in its unofficial form five years ago when three friends decided to stop spending the three consecutive weeks of their birthdays partying harder than they could handle. Instead, they decided to spend one memorable night throwing themselves a collective birthday party that would at least abbreviate the birthday debauchery.
As one of the founding members of the group, Curtis Casados, put it, “We did it to save ourselves from ourselves.” And, that’s a cause that any good New Orleanean can understand.
The three friends—Casados, Sam Price, and Cheryl Toye—figured “if we have this many people in one place, we should do it to benefit something,” Casados said.
Since that initial birthday bash, the event and the group itself has become “much more upstanding.” And the sentiment—“saving ourselves from ourselves”—has become the group’s unofficial slogan. As it transitions from a small group of friends to a krewe-like band of recruited members, these Pisces are putting their characteristic compassion to work.
The Pisces Party continues to be the group’s main event. This year the party will benefit the Barman’s Fund whose slogan, appropriately enough, is “Drink with a Purpose.”
An all bartender collective of do-gooders, the slingers are looking to make a difference by serving up drinks and their patrons’ tips. The members of this grassroots group donate tips from one shift a month to “people charities” in New York City, New Orleans, Charlotte, and, coming soon, Austin.
In New Orleans, “people charities” are groups like the Nola Faith Health Alliance, Fishes and Loaves Community Food Pantry, and the child-empowering Kingsley House—the ultimate beneficiaries of Monday night’s proceeds. Holly Williams, the founder and director of the New Orleans Barman’s Fund, explained the focus on “people charities” as a way to “do whatever to better the community.”
The New Orleans chapter came about through Miller’s friendship with that group’s founder, Brooklyn’s Brian Floyd. After talking to Floyd about the program’s success in New York, Miller thought it “seemed silly not to do it” in New Orleans. And, Casados, who has previously taken part in tipping out the fund, agrees.
It’s not difficult to imagine why. New Orleans is a town teeming with bars—a town, even, born of bars. As Miller put it, “It’s the perfect city for this kind of thing.” The only problem is that “Everyone drinks, but no one drinks with purpose." Or, at least, that purpose may not be so productive.
Nonetheless, the barmen are having no trouble doing good in New Orleans. Miller reported that last month, 35 bartenders participated at 30 different bars. But, it’s not just the bartenders that are ensuring the charity’s success. The patrons are the one’s providing the funds the fuel the group’s work.
Miller’s experience has been that New Orleaneans are willing to up the ante when they know that they’re doing it for the good of the community.
On Monday, attendees will have even more to empty their pockets for at the Pisces Party. Billy Franklin’s “Smoke and Bones” will be kicking off the show at 9 p.m.. And, then, a group of “All-Star, All-Pisces” musicians whose only commonality is their astrological sign will be performing under the name “Los Pescadoes.” Price, the bassist for Honey Island Swamp Band who will also be performing, has recruited local musicians from all different disciplines who unite for one night to entertain party goers and do some out of genre jamming.
Playing with “Los Pescadoes” will be several noted musicians: eclectic drummer Eric Bolivar, New Orleans Jazz Orchestra trumpet player Eric Lucero, Terrence Higgins of Dirty Dozen Brass Band fame, and well-know Jazz trumpet player Charlie Miller, among others. According to Casados, Price and the band are never really sure who is going to show up to sit in, which should make it all the more entertaining for attendees.
And, of course, any New Orleans event wouldn’t be the same without something to keep the stomachs satisfied and the alcohol at bay. Bywater barbecue favorite, the Joint, will be donating food, along with late night spot Mimi’s in the Marigny. 13, Mojo Coffee Shop, and Cajun Moon Catering will also be there to show their support.
And, continuing a tradition that was started by member Martha Alguerra—who took Toye’s place when she returned to the great white north—the requisite piñata will be present. When she joined the group, Alguerra insisted on bringing a piñata; a party favor made all the more entertaining when it happened to have Justin Beiber’s face planted on the front. Luckily for the friends, and for the richness of tradition, they discovered that Beiber was both a Pisces and the day’s birthday boy.
The friends thought that the coincidence, and seeing the pretty boy’s face get beaten to a pulp, was so funny that they’ve continued the tradition every year with a different Pisces. Besides, what better reason is there to go to a party than to take a swing at this year’s Pisces that you love to hate?
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