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Saved... by Rock & Roll

Lou Reed once sang about a girl whose life was metaphorically saved by rock & roll, but in the case of accidental hurricane refugees Karie Jacobson and Drew Kowalski — a.k.a. the febrile-pop duo the Dagons — it may not be an exaggeration to say that their lives were literally saved by their love of rock music. The former Angelenos had relocated their band to New Orleans in June, and unwittingly escaped the wrath of Hurricane Katrina by catching one of the last flights out of Louis Armstrong International Airport on Saturday night, August 27. They’d bought their plane tickets spontaneously the night before — not because of the approaching hurricane, but because of an impending music festival 2,000 miles away. “I kept thinking about Sunset Junction,” says Dagons drummer Kowalski. “I was getting e-mails from friends almost every day saying, ‘You’re going to miss this incredible lineup!’ We got our tickets Friday night, and heard the evacuation announcements while eating breakfast on Saturday.” His partner, singer-guitarist Jacobson, adds, “When we were at the airport Saturday night, that’s when we first realized how serious it was. We were almost the last ones on the plane. Drew had to drive around for hours looking for a place to park, since all of the lots were full.“Rock & roll saved us,” says Jacobson, who was lured back to Los Angeles by a combination of homesickness and the festival’s Sunday lineup, which included a New York Dolls reunion and sets by two of the Dagons’ favorite local bands, Viva K and the Weirdos. “I’m just glad we got out — you never know what could have happened,” she says.Not long after they moved to New Orleans, the pair drove their van to Austin to wait out the potential threat of Hurricane Dennis, which ultimately didn’t reach Louisiana. “There were hurricane warnings all the time, all summer,” says Jacobson. “It’s why people end up staying in the city instead of evacuating . . . People will have hurricane parties and just get wasted, which doesn’t seem like the best policy in a major disaster.”Feeling “ripped off” by previous false warnings, Kowalski hadn’t planned on evacuating for Hurricane Katrina, although he did unplug electrical devices at their home in the Lower Garden District and move possessions away from the windows before leaving.“I didn’t think about flooding,” he says. “Everyone was in disbelief that much could happen; kind of like how people are with earthquakes here . . . I’d only think about the danger when I’d see the occasional retaining walls holding back the water. They have a looming, menacing quality, just knowing all the power on the other side.”There had been omens and what Jacobson calls an “overwhelming sense of dread” ever since they moved to the Crescent City. The Dagons, whose three albums are drenched in watery imagery, recorded only two songs in New Orleans, the presciently titled “Gone” and “Disaster.” Says Kowalski, “I’d been having repeated dreams about a flood coming — I thought it meant I’d be getting waves of creativity.” He shows off the tattoo he got in New Orleans, of a Capricorn riding a big wave, based on his recurring dream about drowning and being saved by the mythical creature.Bad omens aside, Jacobson reserves her greatest anger for the Bush administration’s response — or lack thereof. “You’d think people would be safe once they survived the initial act of nature. It’s pretty criminal the way it all went down — and is still going down. Bush doesn’t care if people perish . . . It was grim even before the hurricane. You’d see a lot of people living without anything, living in old buildings that were falling down.“It could be months before they let anyone back in,” she continues, worrying about the musical equipment at their rehearsal studio — located in a basement in the notoriously flooded 9th Ward — and their two-story home, which is in the Lower Garden District. Referring to Kowalski’s iconic mermaid logo on his big bass drum, she says, “She’s under water at last.” Still, the Dagons consider themselves relatively lucky. “We have a place to stay for now in Atwater. We’ve got a guitar — that’s pretty much it — so we’re playing music all the time.”


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