By Jesse Hicks and Andrew Thompson

From a distance it looked like a typical New Orleans street party: a tree-lined, brick walkway just blocks from the Mississippi River, thronged with people enjoying the late-March weather. The air crackled with excitement, a sense of common purpose. Large speakers flanked the walkway, filling the street with sound.

What came out of those speakers was more surprising: talk of venture capital and startups, and of a city renewed. Under a gazebo, men with microphones spoke with the frenetic energy of sports commentators, their amplified conversations washing over the crowd. One of them asked Wendell Pierce, the charismatic New Orleans native and star of HBO’s Treme, what he thought of the scene before him. “I lived in San Francisco for three years,” he said, “And this is the same thing that’s happening in San Francisco.”