Sunday, April 20, 2008

Jazz Fest 2007: Finally Recapped!

Yeah, it took me a little while to get this up, but here's the recap of last year's Jazz Fest. Look for 2008's recap in about 374 days.

While you're here, enjoy these sounds of Nola:

Friday, May 27, 2007: Slowly Getting Back In the Groove

After a brief layover at Bush The Elder International Airport in Houston (the first time in my entire life that my feet ever landed on Texas soil), I touched down at Louis Armstrong Airport in Nola and waited for Curtis. It wasn’t long before I realized that Curtis was going to be very delayed, so I hopped on the shuttle to the hotel. Once inside the van, I befriended Orianna, who gave me my first good tip of the fest: check out Grayson Capps at the Fairgrounds.

I dumped my bags and started running down Bourbon Street to catch a cab. I found a woman who wanted to share a cab, so we were in business. She was from San Francisco, and she had been here the previous evening. I asked what she had done the night before, and she told me that she went drinking on Bourbon Street.


I should have jumped out of the cab right then and there, but I stupidly stayed inside.

(Photo by IrieDesign.)

We arrived at the Fairgrounds, and suddenly, I had unwillingly made a new friend. Almost immediately she turned to me and said, “What are we gonna do now?” She was clinging to me like an infant on a nipple, and I didn’t know what to do. When I’m at Jazz Fest, I need my space. I gotta be fluid. I need to be able to run around, turn on a dime, and do whatever tickles my fancy at any given moment. I did not need some Bourbon Street-partying dead weight trying to bring me down.

I briefly contemplated kicking her in the shins and running for my life, but I thought that I’d give her a chance. Why not see if we can bond over food? I asked what she likes to eat, and then she told me that she’s a vegetarian who eats fish (like almost every woman I know).

The urge to kick her and run was now bordering on overwhelming.

Drunken vegetarian Bourbon Street whore be dammed, I knew I wanted to eat Creole’s Stuffed Bread, a food I had been dreaming since my last Fest three years ago. I started describing it (partly hoping it would frighten away the vegetarian tramp), and strangers heard me discussing it and wanted to find it. Without warning, I found myself leading a posse of Creole’s Stuffed Bread-craving individuals, but I didn’t have my Jazz Fest sealegs yet, and I couldn’t find that elusive delicacy. I failed them all, and now I felt all of this pressure to make sure the fish-eating vegetarian hussy got fed, so I settled for the old standby of Pheasant, Quail, and Andouille Gumbo, which was very rich and excellent. In the Crawfish and Crab Stuffed Mushrooms, she found a dish that please her because it never had a face. She let me try a mushroom (she was good for something), and it was pretty tasty.

I had yet to see any bands, and I really wanted to see MOFRO, but time ran out on their set. I wanted to catch the bluegrass sounds of Jeff & Vida, but I didn’t want to drag the pescetarian pain-in-the-ass all the way to the Lagniappe at the other end of the Fairgrounds. (Since when did I become so considerate of others, especially those who won’t eat animals?) We settled on the Swamp-Blues Guitar Summit featuring Lil’ Buck Sinegal and Rudy Richard. The music wasn’t necessarily eventful, but it was nice to sit in the cool mist of the Blues Tent.

She wanted to know what was next on our agenda, and I told her that I wanted to see George Porter, Jr.

“What’s he play,” she asked. “Afro-funk?”

That was the third time she’d asked me if someone played “Afro-funk,” and aside from not knowing what the Hell “Afro-funk” is (perhaps the opposite of Honky-funk?), I was offended that she had claimed to be a Jazz Fest veteran yet had no idea who George Porter, Jr. was. That was it. My tolerance level had reached its threshold.

“I gotta go. I’ll see you around. BYE!”

Then I ran to the Acura stage and didn’t look back.

The new “no seats up front” policy at the Acura stage was a nice change that allowed dancers the space they needed. Unfortunately, George was horribly boring. He had a 12-piece band, lots of horns, and backup singers, and he used this massive lineup to inexplicably play several bring-you-down ballads, including a song dedicated to these children whose mother killed them. It was all smooth contemporary R&B and far from funky. I met some friends and hung around a little longer in hopes of hearing “Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley.” It didn’t happen, and I had seen more than enough.

I moved to Congo Square for Kirk Joseph’s Backyard Groove. They were killing it, especially June Yamagishi. The Houseman came out as a guest. He sounded good but looked thin, as he sang a nice cover of Edwin Starr’s “War.” This lineup was the first real highlight of the Fest for me.

I took Orianna’s tip and went to see Grayson Capps & the Stumpknockers at the Lagniappe. It was a lot of fun because of his great, humorous lyrics and his Desire-era Bob Dylan sound. People were really into his set for good reason.

Freed from the leech, I went to get food and tried the Sausage & Jalapeño Bread, thinking my sacred Creole’s Stuffed Bread might have changed names. However, this was not it. This dish was more like a stromboli with lots of cheese. It was good but a far cry from Creole’s Stuffed Bread.

I then found Curtis, and we walked over to Dr. John, who unfortunately had just finished. We decided to hit Bonerama at Fais Do Do. It was crowded with bad, bleeding sound in the back. Nevertheless, the band played well, especially on “Helter Skelter.”

I tried to see Theresa Andersson with the Betcha Can-Cans at the Kids Tent. Theresa Anderson and Can-Can sounds like a great combo, if not a combo that’s inappropriate for children. Regardless, she wasn’t at the tent, and it was just a bunch of bagpipers. This was my first time at the Kid’s Tent. It was lame. I’m glad I’m old.

I went to Economy Hall for Second-line til’ You Drop – The Music of Paul Barbarin featuring Herlin Riley and Lucien Barbarin. There were lots of costumed people second-lining. I took special note as the band played a song called “Call Up the Freaks,” a tune that really was the shit in 1929.

After about 20-30 minutes, I ventured forth for my first Cochon de Lait Po’ Boy in years. Not only was it a wonderfully succulent masterpiece, but I didn’t even have to wait in line, a rarity for Cochon de Lait.

I walked around the track and heard a little of Kermit Ruffins before heading around the side of Acura for Van Morrison. He turned in a nice mellow set, spending ample amount of time soloing on the sax, including some turns on “St. James Infirmary.” Another highlight occurred when he played Fats Domino’s “Josephine” with Dr. John. Despite these nods to Nola, people were pissed that they didn’t hear any of Van’s major hits.

Outside the Fairgrounds, I met Louis and The Gov at Liuzza’s and then walked over to Gary Wainwright’s crawfish boil, where Paula and the Pontiacs were holding court on the porch. Gary boiled around 800 pounds of the best crawfish ever. They were big and juicy with oh, so much juice in the head, and spicy but not burn-your-lips spicy. It was an excellent pairing with some dirty rice/jambalaya. He also had some tasty boiled veggies, especially the heads of garlic. You won’t make many friends, but man, eating garlic out of a crawfish boil is a beautiful thing.

I made my way home and wanted to sleep and then wake up for Mike Dillon’s Go Go Jungle at Le Bon Temps Rouler, but Allan convinced me to go see Robert Walter’s 20th Congress at the Blue Nile. The $25 price was steep, but I took the plunge. I found Allan at setbreak, and he told me he was going to Critters Buggin instead. Unfortunately for him, the 20th Congress 2nd set was awesome with lots of jams. Cheme really stepped up and took charge, and this was as good as I’ve ever heard this band play.

Afterwards, I wandered into the tiny Apple Barrel Bar and danced in the doorway to the Hip Shakers. It was fun. The jam-packed place held maybe 35 people at the most.

Continuing my rambles up and down my beloved Frenchmen Street, I hopped into The Spotted Cat to hear the New Orleans Jazz Vipers. They were great, as usual, with plenty of world-class jitterbuggers doin’ their thang in front of the band.

I walked out with the aim of retiring early. Then Sammy, Frances, and Katia found me and tried to force me into the Blue Nile for Trombone Shorty. I needed rest, and I just couldn’t do it. Later, they said I missed the sleeper show of the year.

As I walked home, I heard a great groove coming from The Hookah Café. Gov’t Majik was laying down a cool afrobeat groove. There was a really cool, dark 3AM vibe in that room. It had an opium den-like feel to it.

For comedy’s sake, I decided to walk up Bourbon Street to see how the other half lives. With drunks all around, every step became more and more ridiculous and absurd. The entire experience culminated as I stood outside a karaoke bar and watched a group shout through “Sweet Caroline,” which was then followed by a Brooke Hogan number with full choreography. I’m still not sure how I knew the song was by Brooke Hogan, but I think I hate myself because of it.

Full of self-loathing, I went down for the count and crashed early at 4AM.

Saturday, April 28, 2007: Back with my "A"-game

I got to the Fairgrounds around 12:30, a very respectable arrival time. Almost immediately, I grabbed a Soft-Shell Crab Po’ Boy. Good golly, Miss Molly, this was AWESOME! What is better than drenching your deep-fried soft-shell crab in butter, tartar sauce, and hot sauce? The line was lengthy, but it was totally worth the wait.

I then met Allan at the Jazz & Heritage Stage for the Mahogany Brass Band, an excellent unit who were a lot of fun. I danced my ass off, and with great grooves and a killer soft- Soft-Shell Crab Po’ Boy, Saturday had begun 180 degrees from Friday’s rough start.

We then went to the Fais Do-Do for the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars. Vividly recalling their insane performance at D.B.A. during Mardi Gras, I couldn’t wait for this set. It started slow, but it wasn’t long before then they had a crazy massive circle in the crowd. The horah was danced amongst chairs and blankets with breakneck speed. We were moving so fast I nearly had a heart-attack. I felt as though I definitely needed some pork in my blood to help me recuperate.

Now exhausted, I went to the Lagniappe to sit a spell. While there, I caught a little of Patrice Fisher & Arpa featuring Marcelo Cotarehi and members of the Ilhabela Big Band. These were cool Brazilian sounds that were the perfect way to calm my racing pulse.

Now refreshed, I wandered over to Acura and ran right into Amanda and Teddy, and we saw a good chunk of Johnny Rivers’ set. I had really been looking forward to this set, but it was rather unremarkable. This guy is an international legend with Louisiana roots making a much heralded return home, yet he received no intro whatsoever. He just walked out and casually began to sing. There was no pomp; it was all circumstance. Musically speaking, his set was rather void of excitement, as well.

Recalling the great set they delivered at the last Jazz Fest I had seen, I attempted to catch Rebirth Brass Band at Congo Square. This area was just insanely crowded with tons of chairs parked for headliner Ludacris.

(Photo by IrieDesign.)

It was extremely difficult to move around. I waded into the melee to find Frances, but I had no luck. Then she texted that she was at the Lagniappe watching Alexa Ray Joel. I was happy to escape the congestion of Congo Square and even happier when I discovered that Alexa Ray Joel really has a great voice. Her piano skills are a far cry from her father, Billy, but her soulful voice was a nice discovery.

(Photo of Alexa Rae Joel by IrieDesign.)

Frances and Katia convinced me to go to the Blue Tent for Richie Havens, and it wasn’t much of a surprise to find his passionate voice sounding the same as he did nearly 40 years ago.

(Photo by IrieDesign.)

Then they coerced me into heading to the Jazz tent for Pharoah Sanders. Surprisingly, the tent was not crowded, and we met Curtis and Sammy there. The set was full of nice, relaxing jazz. Pharoah did not solo very much, which was a little disappointing, but his band was very good. two idiots are looking the wrong way.

You're getting warmer...
There's Pharoah! (Photo by IrieDesign.)

Of course, Pharoah's set guaranteed that I missed Rod Stewart, and I mentally shed a tear for that, but was able to console myself by looking at Frances’ picture of his back.
(Rod Stewart's good side by IrieDesign.)

The sun sets on three random vagrants. (Photo by The Ukraznian.)

Post-Fest, we decided to go get Po’ Boys, so we walked to the car and drove to Johnny’s in the French Quarter. This is when we learned that Johnny’s is only open for lunch, and we were way late for that. Making lemonade out of lemons, we wound up at Coop’s. Three of us ordered the Shrimp Creole, and we all thumbed our nose at the regular Tabasco and opted to put hair on our chests (a curious decision for the ladies) by dousing our dishes in Habanero Tabasco. Ay carumba! What a mistake! It was like trying to eat fire and was hard to enjoy. I also ordered some string beans with bacon sauce (for obvious reasons), but the dish definitely needed more bacon in sauce. Then again, wouldn’t every sauce be better with more bacon?

Sated, I returned to the room for a shower and a nap. I awakened and strolled over to the House of Blues (Parish) to watch my favorite band on the planet, The New Mastersounds. It was my first time at any House of Blues, and I didn’t hate it quite as much as everyone else, although I thought their “No photographs allowed” policy was really strange. Next time I see Dan Ackroyd I’ll have to ask him about that. I hear he’s a real dick, and since he hasn’t been funny since 1992, I won’t hold my breath in expectation of a witty retort. The New Mastersounds were really jazzed for their first appearance in New Orleans, and the room was gettin’ down like nobody’s business. Amazingly, the band played one mammoth set that ran for over three hours and fifteen minutes. It was fantastic.

It's tough to see in the darkness, but Katia and I invented an X-rated way to exchange tickets.

As an added bonus, Frances introduced me to my gay doppelganger:

Afterwards, Frances, Katia, and I jumped in a cab to Tipitina’s. Oddly enough, I recognized the driver from the day before, and Ali came through for us once again.

Tipitina’s was sold out, so we needed to get three tickets. We split up and scoured the territory for extras, grabbing people as they got out of their cabs. Minutes later, we reconvened and discovered that we were a little overzealous and between the three of us, we now had five tickets, but we were able to unload the extras with little problem.

We had some time to kill, so we ventured over to the food truck to share a very tasty Goat-Cheese Quesadilla. Remembering something very important from Mardi Gras, we walked up the block to Miss Mae’s. This dive bar to end all dive bars probably has the cheapest drinks I’ve ever seen. In looking for it online, I actually saw a review where someone complained that he remembered the “old” Miss Mae’s, where drinks were only 85 cents. If I ever run into this guy, I’ll have to front him 15 cents, so he can afford a premium draft.

Galactic played a killer, long two set show. Teedy Boutte had a great sit-in, and sat in and the Houseman came out for a nice old-school encore of “Something’s Wrong With This Picture.”

When your hands are covered in day-glo stamps and your wrists are shackled with multiple paper bracelets, it's proof that you had a very good night. (Photos by IrieDesign.)

It had been a long day/night, and I was spent. I got ride home (with someone? Maybe Sammy?), and I crashed at 7:15AM.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sunday, April 29, 2007: A Hot Jazz Funeral, a Hot Free Show, and a Hot Tub

Surprisingly, I awakened bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 11AM. Amazingly, Curtis was up, as well, so we went to Club Decatur for a few pints of our Hoegaarden breakfast. Mike picked us up and drove us to a church in the Treme for Ed Bradley's Jazz Funeral. I'd always wanted to see a jazz funeral, and I was very surprised that the small canopy in the church parking lot wasn't mobbed by people. As it stood, there were maybe 75 of us.

We arrived and walked around the side of the canopy to watch Dr. John on a Hammond B-3, tearing up “Cabbage Alley” with a few horns. Arthel Neville was hosting this affair, and she introduced her daddy, Art, who took over Dr. John's seat and then played a solo version of “Big Chief.” Al “Carnival Time” Johnson stepped up next to sing his signature song ("Carnival Time") with Art on the organ, but Al kept pissing Art off by reaching over and playing a few notes on Art's keys. More than once, Art stopped and asked Al "Do you wanna play it?" and the situation became a little tense and awkward, especially considering that we were right outside of a church. Nevertheless, Art kept it together and bit his lip, probably because he was at a funeral, which in New Orleans is usually a joyful occasion.

Following the tense moments between the two old school titans of Nola R&B, the Dixie Cups performed "Iko Iko." At this point, I started to feel as though we were witnessing a mini Jazz Fest in this church parking lot. So many major players were there, and they were all mere feet away from us, milling about like the regular everyday Joes they truly are.

The musical portion of the service ended when the priest got up to sing "A Closer Walk With Thee." To be honest, the priest’s vocals were warbling, off-key, and downright terrible, especially in comparison to the legends who preceded him. Nevertheless, I enjoyed his performance most of all because he was pouring his guts into it. He was singing as if his life depended on it, and his full-throated passion was infectious, igniting the crowd to sing along with him.

Arthel introduced Leah Chase, who invited everyone to sample some of her Dooky Chase cuisine. The Stuffed Pepper Casserole was piquant, and the Eggplant Casserole was very mellow. It was all good. Playing off Mayor Ray Nagin's famous tirade on the radio after Katrina, a local company presented samples of their Chocolate City Ice Cream.

Not only was the name perfect, but the ice cream was rich and delicious. Of course, it was only fitting when Mayor Nagin, himself, showed up at the funeral. A good sport, he noted the ice cream and made a crack about himself. He posed for pictures with people, and a hilarious moment ensued when Mike somehow wound up in a picture with Mayor Nagin. On the car ride over, Mike had gone on a long rant about how much he detests the mayor, so it was hysterical to see him uncomfortably shoved into the role of hypocrite, as his least favorite politician suddenly had his arm around him for the cameras. After this bizarre incident, Leah Chase addressed the crowd and she singled out Curtis, concerned that the "guy without a shirt on" might get sunburned. While she was there, we should have taken the opportunity to ask Leah what the deal is with her restaurant, Dooky Chase, which always seems to be rumored of opening soon but never seems to ever truly open.

We left the funeral and arrived at the Fairgounds at 2PM. Immediately, I grabbed a Trout Baquet with Crawfish Bisque combo. The trout was really nothing special, but the bisque was wonderfully rich and creamy. I chose this combination because my goal during this Jazz Fest was to try many of the different types of Fairgrounds food that I had never previously tasted. I took this rich bisque and blasé trout to the Jazz Tent to hear the soulful organ of Dr. Lonnie Smith, who was surprisingly just as non-descript and boring as the dead fish on my plate.

Not satisfied with that food offering, I went back to the old mainstay: Cochon de Lait Po' Boy. Over the years, I've noticed that the Cochon de Lait can vary wildly in terms of quality. This day's offering was a little dry but had much more meat.

I went to the Gentilly Stage for the supergroup, New Orleans Social Club, and as expected, this cadre of local All-Stars was quite good. Unfortunately, the Henry Butler's microphone was off when he tried to sing "Tipitina." The same was true for Dr. John. The musicians on the stage were unhappy, the crowd was ticked off, yet the guys at the soundboard seemed incredibly nonchalant and even appeared to not notice the problem. Eventually, they switched mics, then channels and then started the song over. Just like on the album, John Boutte's cover of Annie Lennox's “Why?” was overwhelmingly emotional and really resonated.

Up next was a trip to the Lagniappe to see the man I had long wanted to see: boogie-woogie pianist and eccentric nutcase, Bobby Lounge, who was flat-out hilarious while romping up and down the pearly 88's. His set was just tons of fun. I don't know how anyone can miss this cat's set at Jazz Fest because I've been waiting to hear him ever since he released the fantastic album, The Night Your Trailer Burned Down. His lyrics are white trash fantasies with sardonic and perverted wit, and he's always wheeled on stage in an iron lung, courtesy of his private nurse, Gina Pontevechio, who sits off to the side of stage, looking bored and reading tabloid magazines. Because he pointed out that he's better than Jerry Lee Lewis, I decided to skip geriatric Jerry's conflicting set. Truthfully, Bobby Lounge would have outclassed anyone with his brilliant and riotous performance.

Nevertheless, Bobby was also conflicting with New Orleans' Queen of Soul, Irma Thomas. I love Irma, and I always make it a point to catch her set on the Fairgrounds, so I raced over to the Gentilly stage just in time to see the second-line portion of her show, which was undeniably fun. Then she sang her classic, “Time is on My Side,” which is exactly what I wanted to hear.

Irma would be ending soon, so I left for the Fais Do-Do, where Gillian Welch was performing. Since it was hot, and I'd never tried one before, I grabbed a Mango Freeze, which was very refreshing. Now I know why they're so damn popular. Gillian's music was very pretty, but it was a little too mellow for my needs.

Then it was back to my beloved Economy Hall for the legendary Pete Fountain. This titan of the clarinet is a Jazz Fest staple for me, and he was excellent, per usual. Everyone was up dancing and second-lining, creating a really fun vibe in the tent.

Having never seen music at the Kid's Tent, I decided to see how the smaller half lives at Jazz Fest, observing a set called "Sunpie Barnes with Louisiana Creole Music." This was actually a lot of fun. This band of kids was really great, especially those who were dancing and leading the second line. Some of them were rather little (maybe only 5 or 6 years old). I did my best to avoid looking like a pedophile, but I'm sure some of the mothers were quite frightened of me. Honestly, I would be frightened of me, too. Before I wore out my welcome, I opted to second-line out on "When the Saints Go Marching In."

It would be wrong to say, "Small children make me hungry," so I won't say that. Regardless, I decided to eat and opted for an old favorite in the form of the Alligator Pie, Fried Green Tomato, and Crabmeat-Stuffed Shrimp Combo Platter. 'Twas a great dinner, as the gator was very herby, the tomato had an excellent, smoky sauce, and the shrimp was joyously overstuffed with luscious crabmeat.

Mike had previously tipped me off to The New Orleans Bingo! Show, which was a very weird performance art kind of thing at the Lagniappe. There aren’t many acts at Jazz Fest that feature musicians in bizarre makeup and costumes, playing a Theremin and a saw. Nevertheless, just like everyone else at Jazz Fest, these musicians were quite talented in their own odd way. The lead singer had a voice that sounded very much like Prince. However, the name of this band was The New Orleans Bingo! Show, yet somewhat confusingly, there was no actual Bingo being played. I’ve had the misfortune of seeing a lot of performance art in my lifetime, and I will confess that I did not get it.

The Fest ended, and I had already known that my favorite band on planet Earth, The New Mastersounds, would be playing a free gig on Marca’s porch, right across from Liuzza's. Oh man, I cannot say enough about the amazing scene here! The location was absolutely perfect, with people coming right out of the Fairgrounds and walking into a killer party. Like a scene out of Martha Reeves’ wildest dreams, there were several hundred freaks dancin’ in the street to the funky sounds of the five lads from Leeds. Smiles were all around. People were shakin’ it like there was no tomorrow, while guzzling Bloody Marys and Hurricanes. There was even a woman, whom I dubbed “Latin Spitfire,” dressed in some wildly skimpy ballroom dancing outfit with a lot of feathers dancing to her own crazed rumba beat.

Latin Spitfire shook so fast she couldn't stay in focus.

I felt like I was on another planet, and as Chris Bertolet once said about Galactic, “It was as if someone got inside my hips’ control center and hotwired the motherfucker!”

Simply put, the band, who played in front of a couple of flying Union Jacks, won a lot of fans, but they would have been better served if they had posted a sign with their name on it. (Oh, you artists! When will you ever learn Marketing 101?) All of the craziness was filmed for an upcoming DVD about The New Mastersounds' first trip to New Orleans, and the killer vibes continued when Groovesect followed and also put on an excellent set.

(Editor’s note: This post-Fest porch gig that New Mastersounds played with Stanton Moore briefly sitting in on drums was easily the best concert I saw in 2007. I saw a ton of spectacular live performances last year, but nothing touched the wild vibes of that streetparty.)

This is neither here nor there, but for some reason, I feel it’s worth pointing out that while there was a huge danceparty going on in front of Liuzza’s, a wookie sold Kind Veggie Burritos and was accompanied by a baby goat. That’s right—a baby goat. I have no idea why.

Frances, Katia, and Gooner met us for a good deal of Groovesect, and then they drove us home. I then slept for two hours before going to Howlin' Wolf to see some crazy funk all-stars show, featuring Leo Nocentelli, George Porter, Jr., Russell Batiste, Raymond Weber, Bernie Worrell, Henry Butler, Ivan Neville, Ian Neville, Adam Deitch, Kevin O'Day, Tony Hall, Skerik, Cheme, and a sax player who was introduced as Grover Washington, Jr., although I don’t think it was actually him. This unit, which I dubbed “Almost Everyone In New Orleans Who Plays Funk Music,” played lots of big funk covers, and the second set featured plenty of tunes by P-funk and James Brown. It was here that I decided I no longer need to hear anyone play The Meters' "People Say." It's getting old and tired now. The same goes for "Just Kissed My Baby," although I know I'm in the minority on that one. Nevertheless, Leo was not on stage for much of the gig, which was an absolutely wonderful blessing. This enabled other guys to have space, and it was really cool to see Henry Butler playing straight up funk. It was also great to watch bassists Tony Hall and George Porter, Jr. have a blast while communicating back-and-forth.

The ladies had to depart for Gulfport, so I bid them adieu and went to Frenchmen for The New Mastersounds at the Blue Nile. They had just begun a second set that would last until 6AM, making it a second set that was at least 3 hours long. Digging deep for all sorts of covers, Eddie Roberts was wailing as they jammed the crap out of Johnnie Taylor’s “Who's Making Love?” and I went nuts. Pete Shand was so funky and grooving so hard on his bass that I thought his hand was gonna fall off. Simon Allen sounded awesome, locking into a nasty pocket on the drums.

In need of refreshment, Curtis and I walked through Quarter in search of 6AM Hoegaardens. We were led by one of the nastiest women I’ve ever seen. She was a total skeletal wreck, and Curtis and I had a fun time playing the classic guessing game, “Junkie or Crackhead?” Leaning towards the former, we tried to see how many double-entendres we could create with the word “horse.” Along the way, we passed Shea making out with someone on the street, which is notable because I seem to find Shea doing that every year. We allowed our haggard tourguide to get back on the horse, and then we stumbled towards the hotel, double-fisting Hoegaardens along the way. While I have little to know recollection of it, the pictures below indicate that we ate breakfast somewhere.

I don't know what this is or where it came from, but apparently, I ate it. It looks like an omelet, and since I ordered it, I'm guessing there had to be a good amount of bacon, andouille sausage, or some other kind of pork involved.

I ate biscuits and gravy, too?!?!

I haven't the foggiest notion what this is, but I guess I ate it, as well. Holy shit, I had to have been REALLY hungry! I'm surprised I didn't eat Curtis, too.

Post-mystery breakfast, we made it to the Old Absinthe House. Curtis had a yearning for Bloody Marys, and he asked how they make them, worried that they might use a mix. The bartender laughed, “Oh, you’ve never had one of ours? Sit down.” We didn’t sit down because Curtis felt confident enough in her response that he immediately ordered two for each of us. I’m not really a huge Bloody Mary fan, but I wasn’t in the mood to object to anything at that moment (and thankfully, these drinks were excellent), so we two-fisted Bloody Marys on our way up to the hotel hot tub, where we soaked for two hours. The sun was out, and it felt great, as if we were marinating in our own juices. As far as I know, no one has ever eaten Vodka-Braised Ferdman before, but I’ll bet I would have made for a tasty dish. The hot tub was a magical cure-all, and my weary legs now felt great. Finally, we crashed at 11:15AM.

Monday, April 30, 2007: Instruments-a-Comin' plus Agony's-a-Comin

We awakened at 6PM and took a while to get going. Initially, we had a goal of trying to hit Dooky Chase, but I couldn’t find any information online or over the phone regarding its rumored opening online. It was one of those classic Nola moments when you have a simple question that can be easily answered, yet no one seems to be able to help at all. Sometimes, this wonderful town is just so damn backward.

Our options dwindling and stomachs growling, we went to Fiorella's. I assumed I could not go wrong with Fried Crawfish tails with Cajun Dipping Sauce (mmmm…sauce), and I was right. We both ordered hulking plates of the world’s most AWESOME fried chicken. I’m certainly man who loves his dark meat, but this was the juiciest white meat imaginable, courtesy of a lengthy marination process. The skin was so crispy-- it was as if it were covered in cracklins. At one point, I did notice that a piece of chicken seemed a bit undercooked, but I passed on that piece and went to town on the countless other parts on my plate. I also had delicious sides in the form of smoky red beans and rice and spinach with a little vinegar bitterness. It was then that I wondered how body would react to eating a real vegetable after a few days of nothing but cows, pigs, and chickens.



We caught a cab to Tipitina’s for the tremendously important Instruments-a-Comin’ benefit, a concert that raised funds for the Tipitina’s Foundation’s Annual push to provide free instruments to young people in public schools. Unlike the scene Curtis had described in years past, this event was way sold out with nary an extra to be found. I had snagged a ticket beforehand, and we had to use some clever maneuvering to find a way in for Curtis. With a huge lineup of bands doing 45-60 minute sets, we arrived just in time to watch the Dirty Dozen Brass Band nail a solid finish.

Donald Harrison and the Tips Interns were next on the docket. Their verision of “Hey Pocky Way” was not bad at all, and I especially enjoyed their spin on “The Girl from Ipanema,” which they turned into “The Girl from New Orleans.” “Big Chief” was a rousing finale, thanks to a very talented young man on the vocals. In all, it was really cool to see this ensemble play because these young, budding musicians really were what the night was all about.

Jon Cleary was up next. Admittedly, I’m not a fan, and he started out way funky, then soon devolved into smooth and boring. I hate it when he gets into “adult contemporary” mode. Bonnie Raitt then came out, and while expectations were high, she didn't do a whole lot. The set had started strong, but it really fizzled.

New Orleans Social Club simply smoked from the get-go. Theirs was a blazing set, especially the fiery Ivan Neville-led “Fortunate Son.” Unfortunately, they stopped way too early, nearly 20 or 30 minutes before their slot was scheduled to end.

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue then took the stage. This was my first time seeing them together. Almost immediately, I was impressed by their killer cover of “Back in Black.” These extremely talented young cats made for one very slick band, and they were led by a guy with infectious charisma. Their set ended with flair on a big instrument switch. I could definitely see how this could be an awesome late night act.

Rebirth Brass Band also had a great set, playing a lot of Mardi Gras Indian tunes with Monk Boudreaux, and ending on a really high note.

I was tempted to stick around for Walter “Wolfman” Washington and the Roadmasters, but I was beat. The morning’s hot tub marination had me feeling a little pickled, so we packed it in and called it another early night at 3AM.

However, my night was not quite over, as I soon awakened with a sharp pain in my stomach and a cold sweat on my brow. I couldn’t stop thinking about that undercooked piece of chicken. Was the white meat so juicy because it was still rare? The pain kept getting worse, and I started to feel dizzy. I looked at the clock and calculated that it had been just about six hours since I had eaten that chicken. My body has an internal clock like a Swiss watch, and I knew exactly what was happening: I had food poisoning.

I’ll spare you the details, but the next hour alongside the porcelain god was quite agonizing. It was not the best way to end my day, although on the bright side, I knew I wouldn’t be gaining any weight that day because every single thing I had ingested was exiting my body in multiple ways with haste.

I will say it now-- while it’s nice to avoid the weight gain, the practice of bulimia is very overrated.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007: The Road to Recovery via Debris, Dragon Smoke, and a Deep Massage

After the rough night, I recovered and made my way to get something to eat. Under these circumstances, the sensible decision would have involved eating something light, but when it comes to New Orleans food, I always try to avoid the sensible decision. Believe it or not, this was my first trip to the infamous Mother’s. Since there was a po’ boy that literally had my name on it, I opted for the Famous Ferdi Special. It was a packed po’ boy filled with baked ham, roast beef, debris (the delicious leftover bits of roast beef in the pan), and gravy, fully “dressed” with shredded cabbage, pickles, mayo, Creole mustard, and yellow mustard. All of these flavors combined to create one huge, sloppy mess of a sandwich. Hot damn, was it good! Immediately, my stomach felt a thousand times better, and once again, eating insensibly proved to be the smart choice.

After walking over to the New Orleans Arena to buy tickets for the upcoming second weekend of the Fairgrounds, I made my way over to the greatest record store on Earth, the Louisiana Music Factory. The Factory always has great free performances during the Fest, and people awkwardly pack in the cramped aisles to see intimate sets from local artists who have just released new albums. I saw a bunch of cool acts on this day, but there were two that really stood-out. The first was sousaphonist Matt Perrine’s Sunflower City, which is a beautiful, old-time sounding collection of classic New Orleans tunes with an optimistic feel. This really was a gorgeous performance of what would become one of my favorite albums of the year, and it was highlighted by a vocal duet between Alex MacMurray and a woman who was performing while holding her newborn baby. It was the kind of precious scene that melted the icy chambers of my frozen heart.

The second noteworthy in-store performance was delivered by Stanton Moore, who was promoting two new instructional DVDs about the techniques of New Orleans drumming. Essentially, Stanton did a free clinic for everyone who was around. Demonstrating the evolution of funk by playing the signature beats from classic tunes, he also talked about the history of funk, citing little stories about James Brown’s penchant for discovering drummers in small clubs. Then he talked about what comprises a New Orleans secondline beat, and he showed the subtle ways that swing can slowly morph into funk. Not only was this incredibly interesting and informative, but it was also really entertaining, and people were definitely dancing to his beats. Latin Spitfire was even there, shakin’ her tailfeather. I’d have to say that Stanton’s clinic was easily one of the cooler things I’ve ever seen at Jazz Fest.

Eventually, it was time for the evening’s entertainment to begin, so I headed over to the oasis of Frenchmen Street. Along the way, I stopped at Angeli, a place that was recommended by a bartender in d.b.a many years ago. Angeli serves great food, much of it is even healthy, and it’s open nice and late. Figuring I could get my week’s dosage in one shot, I went for the grilled veggie sandwich, which was rather tasty.

Then I made my way over to the Blue Nile for Dragon Smoke. I had such high hopes for this outfit, comprised of Stanton Moore, Ivan Neville, Robert Mercurio, and Eric Lindell, but this first set was aimless, weak, and disappointing. It was clear that Lindell couldn’t hold down the lead guitar slot, and as a result, the music suffered and sounded rudderless.

On the other hand, Set Two of Dragon Smoke was a completely different animal, as the band was amped up from the start. Then they really stood at attention when two hot burlesque dancers took the stage. I can't really explain it, but music really sounds better when accompanied by two hot burlesque dancers. Funny how that is.

The momentum kept rolling with Junior Walker & the All-Stars' "Shotgun," which is a personal favorite of mine. Then Eddie Roberts sat in, and with a bonafide lead guitarist on hand, Lindell could find his niche, and everything drastically improved. They pulled out a Meters tune, and Curtis Mayfield's "If There's a Hell Below (We're All Gonna Go)" was excellent.

Around the same time that the guys kicked into a sweet reggae groove, I discovered that the Blue Nile had a masseuse in the front window. For one measly buck a minute, this incredibly gifted young lady delivered transcendent bliss to my aching back. Accompanied by a nice jam, this was ten minutes of heaven.

Based on this experience, I think there is a very viable market for hot jams and deep massages. If she is at the Blue Nile next year, I'll be spending a lot of time there.

Dragon Smoke concluded, so we moved a few doors down to d.b.a. for Skerik's Maelstrom Trio. Skerik was playing with Brian Coogan, Simon Lott, and somebody I couldn't identify on guitar. Julie astutely asked "Why does every trio in New Orleans have more than 3 people in it?"

Curtis and I grabbed much-needed seats, and we downed a few much-needed Hoegaardens. The music was more on the abrasive end of Skerik's canon, and it was distorted metal-jazz. Eventually, Glenn Hartman, the N.O.K.A.S. accordion player, sat in for an odd pairing that was actually rather successful.

Then the music stopped around 4:30ish, and Skerik surprisingly announced there would be a second set. Outside during setbreak, Galactic's Robert Mercurio told Skerik he was leaving, and then Skerik berated him and called him a pussy for retiring so early. It was fun to watch.

Set Two started at 5AM, and Mark Southerland sat in on soprano sax. He wailed his ass off, and he definitely outplayed Skerik. It's rare that Skerik ever accepts a passive role on stage, especially in his own combo, but that was certainly the case on this morning. Maybe he was tired. Anyway, the festivities ended 45 minutes to an hour later, and I got into an argument with a bartender for throwing out my 3/4s-full glass of beer. Truthfully, I acted like a jackass, although I must admit that the d.b.a. bartenders were anything but friendly. It was a far cry from the warm atmosphere of Mardi Gras. Pissed off, we traversed the Quarter and crashed around 6:30.

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007: Sustenance, Soft-Shell Crab, and Sleeps

We awakened at some point around midday and were in need of sustenance, so we headed to Club Decatur for some liquid breakfast. While there, a hooker asked if we needed any "services." Since I have a personal rule that prevents me from hiring prostitutes before lunchtime, I respectfully declined, but we did admire New Orleans' unique brand of Southern hospitality.

Solids were craved, so we walked a couple blocks to Felix's. Once inside, Curtis and Rama were immediately recognized by the guy shucking oysters. Apparently, he used to work at Uglesich's, and he knew them from their annual visit. Then they realized he was the guy they always called “The Mothershucker.” It was a very happy reunion.

I ordered an appetizer of Marinated Crab Claws, which were very moist with what I believe was pickled radish on top.

My entree was an absolutely enormous Soft-Shell Crab. This thing was just huge. It took up the entire plate, and it was tasty, although this had become one mammoth lunch.

Afterwards, we made a brief trip to the room before we headed out to Lafayette Square Park for Marcia Ball. On the way out of the hotel, I noticed a brass band was playing on Bourbon and Canal, and I took a detour to go check 'em out. The TLC Brass Band wailed on the sidewalk, while a random woman and I danced in the street. I hung there for about 20 or 30 minutes, and it was fun to watch stragglers wander by and stop to take in the fiery band. The whole thing was a very Jazz Fest moment.

After getting a text that someone was opening for Marcia, thus guaranteeing she wouldn't be on for a while, I briefly went back to the room. Everyone had a complimentary USA Today at their door but us, so I stole one from the adjacent room. I justified this theft by believing I was doing a service to those guests, saving them from mediocre dumbed-down journalism. Then I got off my high horse and went outside.

Dumpstaphunk was on at the Louisiana Music Factory. Their double-bass attack was both tight and heavy, and they ripped through a blistering 25 minute set. It was hot, cramped, and sweaty in the store, and just like many days before, Latin Spitfire was dancing in another provocative outfit. Directly in front of me, an artist made sketches of the band, and he timed his great sketch of Ivan Neville perfectly as he finished exactly when the band ended their set.

Because he didn't want anyone to take a picture of his work, I followed the artist outside and attempted to negotiate a deal where he would allow me to post a picture in exchange for providing a link to his site. I learned the artist's name is Curtis Matherne, and like most so many talented artists, Curtis had poor marketing skills and questionable social skills. He was rather arrogant, and when I mentioned the name Frenchy, he lost it, insulting my intelligence and unleashing a tirade about Frenchy is "just throwing acrylic on canvas." Somewhat amused but also tired of his bullshit, I decided to throw him a curveball and said, "If Frenchy is just throwing acrylic on can canvas, what did Jackson Pollock do?"

That shut him up.

I journeyed on to Lafayette Square Park, and the place was jam-packed with blankets, chairs, and dancers. My krewe was dancing in the middle of this maze, so I made a very creative snaking path through the crowd. Marcia was great. I actually hadn't seen her since a Jambalaya Jam at Penn's Landing in Philly 9 or 10 years ago. She really put on a funky and fun show, and she's a blast to watch with that one leg crossed and bouncing to the beat. Once again, Latin Spitfire was there, shakin' her tailfeather.

The show ended, and suddenly the leisurely day had become stressful. One of the things I had really wanted to do on this trip was eat at Brigtsen's. Of course, when you have something like 32 things you want to do on a vacation, something is bound to slip through the cracks because you can't do it all. This is especially true at Jazzfest when there are countless bands, restaurants, and other curiosities all competing for your precious time.

In this case, time was short to get cleaned up post-Marcia. Plus, we were primed to hit Tips that night for Garage a Benevento with The Midnight Disturbers opening. Several friends had advised us that The Midnight Disturbers were not to be missed. One local described them in these terms: "They've only played two gigs, but they're already the best brass band ever."

New Orleanians occasionally exaggerate.

I knew I wouldn't finish a 10PM Brigtsen's meal and get changed in time to make The Midnight Disturbers probable 11PM starting time, so Curtis gave me a crash course on taping and sent me to Tips while he went to Brigtsens to gorge.

I setup the taping gear, and The Midnight Disturbers second-lined in from outside the club. An All-Star band of All-Star bands, they featured Kirk Joseph on sousaphone, Stanton Moore and Kevin O'Day on drums, Ben Ellman and Skerik on sax, Troy Andrews and James Andrews on trumpet, and Big Sam on trombone. Mark Mullins was absent, but Big Sam more than made up for his absence. In a great sequence where each pair played dueling solos, Big Sam took on two different personas, quickly turning his hat backwards to play in a unique style as “Little Sam.” He did this several times in what was probably the highlight of the set. In all, The Midnight Disturbers were really cool, bringing a darker, more intense vibe to traditional brass band music, although they didn't quite live up to the absurd level of hype. Something tells me that they also didn't quite match the level of their set at Papa Mali's Stoned Soul Picnic on the Thursday before the Fest.

I hadn't eaten dinner, and while missing Brigtsen's was starting to hurt, it opened a brand new culinary opportunity. Earlier in the week, someone had tipped me off about something called grit fries on the food truck outside of Tips. The guys running the truck were really friendly, and I ordered a pulled pork po' boy with a side of grit fries. The pulled pork was not bad, but it was nothing special. There was no smokiness, and I couldn't really taste the meat under the thick wash of sauce.

But then there were grit fries.

Oh, you delicious grit fries.

Through what must have been an act of gastronomic wizardry, grits were somehow molded into the shape of thick rectangles and then deep fried. In the past I have asked the question "Is there anything that doesn't taste good when it's deep fried?" I have yet to find my answer, and these wonderful grits definitely passed the test. I dipped them in this amazing honey-vinegar sauce that was a perfect sweet and sour blend. I'm sure that nibbling foie gras in Brigtsen's genteel establishment would have been nice, but I honestly wouldn't trade that for the chance to park my ass on the sidewalk and devour grit fries from a paper plate.

Garage a Benevento began, and my low expectations were quickly exceeded. I don't know why I didn't expect much from this quartet, but they really jelled well, producing a jammy 1980s Japanese pop sound. An excellent version of The Duo's "Scratchiti" was later followed by a long jam on The Zombies' "She's Not There," which led to Skerik unleashing a nasty series of "brown notes."

Set Two began with a very big take on The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There," but then everything got very mellow. I was pretty tired by the time the second set rolled around, and during this lengthy melllow section, I actually fell asleep while leaning on the balcony railing. It was kind of scary because I nearly fell down. Flipping over the balcony at Tipitina's would have been a shitty way to go, and a staff member noticed. At Tips, they really hate it when you fall asleep and die in their club. I backed away to a safer spot, and I even broke my own personal rules and went to get some much-needed caffeine.

Skerik helped pick me up with an improv around the phrase "I'm makin' bacon." (True, the thought of bacon always perks me up.) Shortly thereafter, the band whipped into a frenzied "Gimme Some Lovin'" before finding themselves in a pounding, slower rendition of "What Is and What Should Never Be," featuring some really cool work on the vibes from Mike Dillon. "Immigrant Song" provided an intense set closer, and a slow, grooving "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" eventually built into a jumping encore.

Now that I was perked up (and the chance of getting a cab outside of Tips without bloodshed was unlikely), we walked up to Miss Mae's for some absurdly cheap Hoegaardens. Somehow we wound up outside of Le Bon Temps Roule (I think we caught a cab) where Groovesect was playing. It was crowded, so we never actually went inside, and eventually, we caught a cab home and called it a morning.

Thursday, May 3, 207: A Return to the Scene of the Crime (and Other Dumb Ideas)

We grabbed our morning Hoes at Club Decatur before walking to Fiorella's for lunch. Normally, I wouldn't return to the scene of the crime where I got food poisoning, but I was in a forgiving mood. Either that, or I was very stupid.

Now permanently frightened of poultry, I ordered the Cajun Burger, which could be undercooked yet still safe. It was okay with that tasty Cajun sauce slathered on top. I also ordered the gumbo, which the waitress was proud to have made herself. I didn't have the heart to tell her to ease up on the salt next time. Their stereo played an odd mix of 1980s tunes, and I thought that it would have been perfect had they had a dish called “Bangles and Chicken.”

After lunch, I walked to Frenchmen Street to buy some Pralines at The Praline Connection. There were rumors of some sort of festival taking place on Frenchmen, but it was dead. (I think it was a one-day affair that ended on Wednesday.) Willie Tee was supposed to be playing in Lafayette Square with Stanton Moore, Robert Walter, Robert Mercurio, Wil Bernard, so I had to haul ass cross-town. As I frantically raced up Royal Street, I thought, "Isn't it nice to have a relaxing day in the French Quarter?"

Opener Charmaine Neville was on stage and Willie Tee would not be on for a while, making it impossible to both catch his act and get ready for dinner. Shaking my fist at this cruel world, I grabbed a drink and retired to get ready for Cochon.

(Editor’s Note: Sadly, Willie Tee would pass away on 9/11/07, and I missed my chance to see him live in concert.)

There's a good chance that any restaurant whose name translates to the word "Pig" will get a hearty endorsement from me. Cochon certainly lived up to its wonderfully swineful name.

A quick run-down of what was ingested:

- a couple of Mint Juleps (I would have preferred Woodford but Makers Mark would do.)

- Boudin Balls - Mike had eaten these before, so we followed his advice and enjoyed these fried things that tasted great with Creole mustard

- Ribs -They were very peppery but well balanced by tart watermelon pickle.

- Andouille sausage and sweet potato w/ black-eyed pea vinaigrette - A real smoky combo paired well with tart vinegar

- Crawfish Bisque - It was good but not the best. It could have more rich.

- Louisiana Cochon - The only thing better than pork is succulent pork, so moist, good texture with cracklins and turnips.

- Bitter Greens with Pork Chunks - vegetables always taste better with pork chunks

- Eggplant and Shrimp Casserole thing that tasted like a tamale

- Cucumber and Squash Salad with Goat Cheese – a refreshing and perfect pairing

- Cochon Mississippi Mud Pie – featuring a wall of caramel, it was the best dessert I've had in Nola

We left Cochon for the Cricket Club, whose edifice was once a restaurant on the Eiffel Tower. Apparently, the architect's calculations were slightly off, so for safety's sake, they removed the entire restaurant from the tower and shipped it to New Orleans. It's a gorgeous steel structure with a long ramp leading to the entrance. It was very nice inside, and the spring-loaded dance floor was great. Unfortunately, the cavernous sound completely sucked.

Groovesect, whom we had been somewhat impressed with at the porch set last Sunday, were on for the first set. They weren't bad, but the sparse crowd wasn't exactly into it. They brought Fred Wesley out, and the quality started to ramp up significantly. Everything was really smoking by the time they got into a killer "Pass the Peas." It had a nice little jam, and then Bill Summers played a cool little mellow solo. Then Fred Wesley announced that they would be back in a bit for a second set.


They finally started to gain some momentum, Fred and Bill had barely been onstage, and now we were suddenly suffering from coitus interruptus. Not cool. Not cool at all.

Set Two started nicely before completely fizzling out. It featured one of the most lifeless "Cissy Struts" ever with the drummer skipping the essential Zigaboo two-note hit on the high hat. Bill Summers never came back, which made his 15 minutes on stage a bold theft of a paycheck. Honestly, the best part of this set was a crazy dude in the audience who sat cross-legged and banged shit on the floor.

We bolted before the ending to grab a cab to The Maple Leaf, where we caught the last 45 minutes of George Porter, Johnny Vidacovich, Marco Benevento, and Skerik. Sadly, this was the only time I caught Johnny during Jazz Fest, and he wasn't as wild as he normally is.

There was a lengthy changeover before the James Brown Birthday Tribute began, and I killed time by befriending Sam and Brian, whom I would later learn live a few blocks away from where I work. The set of music was certainly danceable, but it was nothing special. Tony Hall did a decent job, but it was clear he was no James Brown.

It had poured rain during the show, but it was only lightly spitting at setbreak. Since I was tired and somewhat unimpressed by the band, I opted to try to take advantage of the relative clearing and attempted to grab a cab. Many others had the same idea, and there were no cabs in sight, as the cab companies weren't answering their phone at 3:30 AM. I tried the old New York trick of walking further down the block than anyone else in hopes I could grab the cab first. When I got all the way down the block, I realized that this was one of my least intelligent ideas. Although the Garden District is certainly a very nice neighborhood, this particular area was sparsely populated, and noting the recent crimewave, it dawned on me that no one would hear me scream as I would be disemboweled by a random thug's rusty meat hook.

As I walked back to civilization, the cab sped past me and picked up a pack of assclowns who wanted to piss away their morning at Igor's. There were plenty more who wanted to do the same thing, and I now knew that a solo passenger would have little shot at getting a cab to the French Quarter.

Just then, when hope was bleak, Saint Samuel Wilcher appeared with keys in hand and offered a ride. Thank God for Sammy. If not for him, I would have probably been stuck outside the Maple Leaf for hours.

Friday, May 4th, 2007: The Great Flood

Friday morning at the Fairgrounds began with a double-pronged mission: eat Creole's Stuffed Bread and try the Boudin Balls. I had not had Creole's Stuffed Bread once on this trip, and I was starting to become weighted down with tremendous guilt for betraying my principles. I had long believed that Creole's Stuffed Bread is the perfect Jazz Fest breakfast, and it was finally time to dig into that incredible bread bursting with andouille sausage, cheese, seasonings, and slathered in a delicious jalapeño sauce. After I ordered my breakfast, I thanked the woman profusely and then shouted, "I've been waiting three years for this moment!" She nodded her head, smiled, and then slowly backed away from the counter fearful that the crazed, rabid foodie before her might accidentally gnaw off her ring finger. The flavors exploded in my mouth, and it was everything I'd been dreaming of. Oh, Creole's Stuffed Bread, someday I will make you an honest woman. Until that time, we will continue our torrid love affair once a year.

After being impressed by Cochon's Boudin Balls, I wanted to see what the Fairgrounds had to offer. This offering was quite good, smothered with hot sauce and Creole mustard. Come to think of it, it's not often that a heterosexual man can be impressed by two sets of balls in two days, so that's a feather in your cap, City of New Orleans.

Suddenly, it started to rain. This was not unexpected, and I already had a poncho on in preparation. However, I did not want to get my balls wet because I'm told that wet balls taste kinda funny. I grabbed my balls and hightailed it for an eating tent. There I stood, balls in hand, watching a downpour unleash its fury on the Fairgrounds. Rain blew sideways and the wind whipped with ferocity. It came down hard and fast, and within minutes, there were huge, deep puddles everywhere. All across the infield, geysers shot up from overloaded drainage pipes. I even watched in amazement as a garbage can just floated away.

After about 30 minutes, I had stopped playing with my balls and just swallowed them. Now that I no longer had any balls, I wondered what I was doing here. Sure, it was pouring, but Jazz Fest was still happening, so I decided to wade out to find a tent with music.

The water was mostly about ankle-high (deeper in other areas) as I made my way to the Gospel Tent. It was too crowded, so I waded over to The Blues Tent, which featured a surreal scene. The water was about knee-high, which rose just up to the chair-line. Everyone was sitting in chairs, their ass barely above water with their legs completely submerged. Nobody seemed bothered by this, although it was very weird.

Wondering what fantastic diseases and bacteria were lurking in the water, I opted to find higher (and dryer) ground. The Jazz Tent was very crowded, but it had to be on more level ground because it was a lot less wet. Ellis Marsalis came on to deliver some swinging tunes, but it wasn't holding my attention. I kept thinking about the odd image of those submerged people in the Blues Tent and I wanted to see what other weird shit was out there, so I ventured over to the Acura stage.

As I crossed into the infield, I noted that the drainage "moat" was a raging river with large black bugs swimming around. The area in front of the stage had a huge puddle, and feeling like I was 4 years old, I just knew that I absolutely had to run through it. I started plowing in before I was getting bogged down. In the deepest part of the bog the water came up to mid-thigh.

I then stood in front of the Acura Stage for about 45 minutes, waiting for Dumpstaphunk to come on. During the entire time we stood at the edge of the stage, the crew, which was well within earshot, did a great job of ignoring our inquiries about what was happening. They left us in the dark as we waited and waited and waited...before I finally gave up. I'm told that Dumpstaphunk eventually did come onstage, but I was long gone. Thanks so much for all of your help, Jazz Fest.

Now pissed off and soaking wet, I walked until I heard some music, which wound up being a portion of The Stooges Brass Band's unamplified set.

After the ark had departed, the flood had stopped, and the sun began to come out. I decided to celebrate this development by eating, so I grabbed an $8 combo plate, which featured Gratin Louisiane (a congealed yellow thing with crawfish, crab, & shrimp with cheese in hot mixture with a little spice), Spinach Artichoke Casserole (standard fare not all that different from what you'd find in any chain restaurant in America), and Sweet Potato Pone (a tasty fruit cake-like thing with rummed-raisins and ginger crisp topping). These were all Jazz Fest firsts for me, and I was especially surprised at how much I enjoyed the Sweet Potato Pone.

I noshed on my plate while watching the traditional Lousiana Dixieland of The Last Stand in Economy Hall. When the food was depleted, it was time for a change of pace, so I stumbled over to the Fais Do Do for Lil' Nathan and the Zydeco Cha-Chas. This was the perfect, upbeat music for what had suddenly become a sunny day. Lil' Nathan runs a family affair, with his Dad sitting in and selling CDs from the edge of the stage, while his 7 year-old brother entertained on both the drums and washboard. It was a lot of fun.

The last time I had seen The Dirty Dozen Brass Band in New York was really disappointing, so I figured I'd give them a brief shot as I traveled across the Fairgrounds. They were swinging on the Congo Square Stage, but I don't think they had any guitar with them. I may have watched them for a grand total of 3 minutes before moving out of earshot on my way to see one of my favorite singers, John Boutte.

John Boutte has such an incredibly soulful, smoky voice. I sometimes think he sounds just like a good rack of beef ribs tastes. And the guy can truly rip emotion out of a song. Ever since Katrina, he's really been singing with so much more pathos.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to hear John Boutte because there was some little clever switcheroo at the Jazz Tent as he had flip-flopped sets with the World Saxophone Quartet and his set was long over. How did I learn this? The news was delivered via a small 8.5 x 11" sign that appeared as if it had been written by a child and then crookedly taped onto the outside of the tent. Gee thanks, Jazz Fest! You really went that extra mile to keep us informed!

Now royally pissed, I stormed over to the Gospel Tent in hopes that some old time religion might suppress my boiling anger. Once inside, I found Paulette Wright and Volume of Praise. The sound was very loud and very bad, but the group had lots of energy. At end of her set, Paulette did something I'd never seen a gospel singer do: she thanked God for gastric bypass surgery. Now more amused than anything, I went for some food.

Praise Jesus for the miracle of gastric bypass surgery!

This day was starting to look like a literal and figurative wash, as I was missing the acts I wanted to see. I decided that if I was gonna save this day, I had to think outside the box and transcend cliches to do something exciting and new. I looked at the art and crafts. I stopped and smelled the roses. I taste-tested the two kinds of jambalaya.

Jambalaya #1, which is just billed as straight-up Jambalaya, was a mixture of tomato, celery, onion and garlic with crawfish and chicken. Jambalaya #2, which is known as Cajun Jambalaya, had a brown roux with a very smoky, earthy flavor and no seafood. Each had their merits, but I leaned more on the side of the Cajun version.

Now that my riveting experiment was concluded, I opted for some music. Congo Square featured the interminable boredom of George Benson and his penchant for horrible smooth jazz. It was so awful that I couldn't stick around for more than 2 minutes before running away, hopes dashed of hearing "On Broadway."

I decided to opt for something unfamiliar, so I found myself in the Economy Hall tent, which featured the longest name of an act I'd ever seen at Jazz Fest:
Bob Wilber & a Tribute to Soprano Summit Remembering Kenny Davern featuring Dr. Michael White. This was a really interesting blend of soprano sax and clarinet on a plethora of Dixieland-style numbers, many of which were written by the great Sidney Bechet. It's always nice to hear the soprano sax played as it was intended, as a swingin' cousin of the clarinet and a far cry from the evil work of Kenny G. Unfortunately, Bob Wilber's watch was off by nearly 20 minutes, so he had the band end their set way too early. After a little debate, they did come back, but I was already on my way to the next venue.

There were lots of options, but since this day had become all about familiarizing myself with the unfamiliar, I opted for Walter Wolfman Washington and the Roadmasters, a band that I had inexplicably never even heard once over the past seven years. I'm glad I had the chance to rectify that in the now dry Blues Tent because Wolfman and his band played a fun, hot set of rocking blues and funk, bedecked in red and black outfits. It was a nice way to end a bizarre day at Jazz Fest.

On the way out, I saw the TLC Brass Band once again playing for much-deserved tips.

Seeking to avoid a really long cab line, I ponyed up for a round-trip ticket on the more expensive bus straight to my hotel.

The sun sets on Canal Street.

After a much-needed shower and nap, I made my annual pilgrimage to Rock 'n Bowl. Apparently, several hundred people had the same idea because there was a long, slow-moving line to get inside. Of course, waiting 45 minutes in line can be kind of fun when you meet some friendly locals, and that's exactly who I found in Sheril and Rosylyn. They were both really cool, and we had a blast talking about Jazz Fest and Nola. For some reason, they were surprised how much I knew about Nola music. Maybe locals don't realize how many outta-towners are addicted to the Crescent City?

We finally made it inside, but unfortunately, we had missed Snooks Eaglin's set. Tab Benoit was up, and he played a solid 90 or so minutes of his patented swamp guitar rock. The Rock 'n Bowl was really filled to the rim with Brim, and I'd never seen it anywhere near this crowded. We found a place far in the back to drink, chat, and strain to see the guy on stage.

Rockin' Dopsie was up next, and he was yet another guy I'd certainly heard of but had never seen before. I think it's best to describe his sound as zydefunk. Sure, that's not really a word, but I'm going with it anyway. It was pretty fun. A very strange moment occurred when Rockin' Dopsie introduced Jerry Rice's wife and daughter. He didn't introduce them by name but just called them "Jerry Rice's wife and daughter." Jerry Rice's Daughter lent some nice vocals to "Proud Mary." The legendary wide receiver was not in attendance, as rumor has it he's preparing to come out of retirement to play his 38th NFL season for any team that has low enough standards to sign him as a 9th stringer.

It was late, and there were some good shows still happening on Frenchmen. However, I was once again faced with the dilemma of trying to find a cab back to the French Quarter when few cabs were coming to the Rock 'n Bowl. Just then, I saw my friend, photographer Gary Firstenberg, who was headed out. If there's one thing I know about Gary, aside from the fact that he takes great photographs, it's that he always has a car nearby. Sure enough, he did, and as always, he generously offered me a ride. It was a Godsend.

I made my way over to Frenchmen, where I had the honor of paying a $15 cover for the last 30 minutes of Idris Muhammed, Robert Walter, Wil Bernard, Wil Blades, and Eddie Roberts. Working out to 50 cents a minute, this was some expensive souljazz. Afterwards, the upstairs area was open, so we had a quick drink up there before one of Frances' friends gave me a ride back to the hotel. There my night ended at 5AM with the thumping sounds of James Brown laying down a sweet block of thick funk grooves on WWOZ.

Good God, I love that radio station.

Saturday, May 5, 2007: A Man and His Cous-cous

True to form, I was up at 11ish to start another day.

I rode the bus in, and I sat next to a fun and chatty Louisiana local. I gotta say that one of my favorite parts of this vacation was meeting the friendly locals. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seemed like there were more locals at Jazz Fest this year, as opposed to years past when many locals seemed to take it for granted.

The first stop was for sustenance in the form of File Gumbo. It was loaded with sausage, chicken, and crawfish, and it had a very herby flavor. To me, it tasted very much like the excellent blend of Herb d'Provence, but I could very well be wrong...although I doubt it...but I'm not sure.

One of the best things I saw at Jazz Fest a few years ago was called The Woodshed, where Stanton Moore and the Dirty Dozen's Terence Higgins faced off on the drum set, taking turns with the same backup band. This time around, The Woodshed featured dueling basses from James Singleton and Roland Guerin It was not bad, but I got there at the end, so I'd imagine I missed the more engrossing parts.

I wandered around Acura as the Dixie Cups sang until I reunited with Teddy and Amanda. The Dixie Cups primarily served as background music for our chat, but the parts I heard sounded good.

Teddy had the brilliant idea to go get Cochon de Lait po' boys, and I never turn down the opportunity to eat that most succulent swine. He was impressively two-fisting, carrying one for his appreciative wife. We met up with J-R, Rich, and Dr. Hevron, and we took our bounty to a top-secret location that J-R's aunt had secured. I won't reveal the details of our secret eating spot, but it was perfectly relaxing to dine in the shade while a nice breeze blew by. Incidentally, I hit the culinary jackpot with this Cochon de Lait, as it was incredibly moist and easily attained "best ever" status.

From there, we ventured over to the Gentilly Stage for Zigaboo Modeliste. I can honestly say that Zig was nothing special, despite having a band loaded with talent. Again, I must stress that I’m tired of “Just Kissed My Baby” and “People Say,” but there was no way of escaping them at this show.

We decided to hit the Blues Tent for Snooks Eaglin, but it was very crowded. Snooks had a powerhouse band, featuring George Porter Jr. on bass, John Gros on keys, and Jellybean on drums. It sounded great, but it was too damn crowded and very hot.

We ambled over to Acura for Galactic, and they played the sort of decent-but-uneventful set I've come to expect from them at Jazz Fest. Essentially, Galactic served as background music for the chattering masses, which was fine because I had just found Gooner, and she and I had some catching up to do. For their finale, Galactic brought out John Mayer for a very tepid "Immigrant Song." Long a Mayer-hater, I had recently warmed up to him after hearing his considerable skills with blues music and realizing how he makes fun of his own trite pop tunes, which are written solely to pay the bills. I expected him to tear into a vicious solo, but he did nothing...and I mean nothing at all. He absolutely refused to take a solo, and the band just vamped interminably. It was so damn lousy and a wasted opportunity, perhaps the weakest version of "Immigrant Song" ever performed by anyone outside of a garage band. ZZZzzzzz...

If you don't believe me, watch this:

At the end of Mayer's piece of stale bread, Gooner and I got to talking about Jazz Fest food. I raved about Cochon de Lait and Creole's Stuffed Bread, while she insisted that I try her favorite food on the Fairgrounds. It was called Cous-cous with Yogurt Sauce.

"What kind of meat is in that?"

"There's no meat in it."

"Listen, I come to New Orleans to eat animals. If it hasn't mooed, oinked, quacked, baaed, or clucked, I'm not interested."

"It's really refreshing, and it's very healthy."

"Sorry, but I don't do 'healthy.' If I wanted to eat healthy, I would...I would...well, I don't know what the Hell I'd do because I've never eaten healthy before, nor to I plan to start now when I'm surrounded by so many delicious deep-fried creatures."

Despite my intense, pig-headed (pun intended) defense, I was persuaded to give it a try. I guess the prospect of trying a new food outweighed the fact that the new food was never a living, breathing thing. The Cous-cous with Yogurt Sauce had little chunks of pineapple with golden raisins. Much to my surprise, it was incredibly cool and refreshing. I mean, really cool and refreshing, so much so that I became an instant fan. In fact, I liked it so much that I began to convince random people around me to try it.

"You gotta try this, man. It's great."

"What kind of animal is in it?"

"None, but it's really refreshing, despite the fact that it never breathed."


"You gotta try this. It's great!"

"Is it deep-fried? Cause it doesn't look deep-fried."

"No, it's just incredibly refreshing."


"Hey, you should try this because it's really refreshing!"

"Oh, so you think I can't handle a dish with meat in it?"

"Umm, that's not-"

"Cause let me tell you something buddy-- just cause I'm thin doesn't mean I'm a vegetarian!"

"I didn't think that-"

"I got this body because I work my ass off every day in the gym. Then I eat meat. Lots of it. And I like it. The cuter the animal, the better!"

"Actually, you're a woman after my own h-"

"Don't try to sweettalk me, dickhead! You can take that yogurty tofu shit and cram it up your lilywhite ass!"

"But it has golden raisins.."


My attempts at converting the locals didn't go over so well. Honestly, part of the problem is that the dish needs a sexy name. You gotta sell the sizzle, not the steak. Cous-cous with Yogurt Sauce sounds about as appealing as Leprosy Pie. I would call it Icy Cool Cous-cous with Refreshing Yogurt Sauce. Either that, or I'd give it a nonsensical but catchy name like Coologurt.

Whatever you wanna call it, it was really fucking good.

Now refreshed, I wanted to see the Allman Brothers, so Gooner showed me a secret way of getting to the Gentilly Stage by walking behind it on the track. Secret or not, there were something like 8 million people trying to watch the Allmans, and people had chairs camped out way on the track. I couldn't dream of getting close, and the sound completely blew from so far away. I tried several different vantage points, but the terrible, phasing sound, rendered the Allmans unlistenable. Resigned to the fact that if I wanted to see the Allmans, I'd have to pay $7,000 a ticket at the Beacon next year, I walked away.

There's one way to pickup my spirits after serious disappointment and that's through my stomach. Allan had great things to say about the Crawfish Sausage, so I headed that direction before the enormous line caused me to change course. No one was waiting for Andouille Callas, and despite the fact that I didn't know what it was, it had the magic A word, so I was game to try it. It was andouille sausage with rice and spices battered and deep fried, served with green onion sauce. I will offer my verdict in one word: YUM. Later, Curtis informed me that this dish is the least healthy offering on the Fairgrounds, so I felt as if I had really achieved something great by eating and surviving it.

Not yet sated, I went for the Crawfish Etouffe. What a disappointment! It had spice but not nearly enough flavor. It needed salt, and it was definitely not rich enough. Moreover, there was way too much celery, and it could have used more onion or garlic. Most importantly, I questioned the freshness of the crawfish and suspected they might be frozen from China.

With the Allmans crossed off the list, I needed a new act for the final set. Since I had never seen them live before, I opted for The Iguanas at the Lagniappe. However, they weren't on at the Lagniappe because I had read the schedule wrong. (The Iguanas were at the Fais Do Do.) Joe Krown came on, and after about 10 seconds of him kicking ass, I knew I wasn't going anywhere. With Brint Anderson on guitar, Brent Rose on sax, ??? On drums, and the always excellent Cassandra Faulkner on bass, this combo was steamrolling through classics that are featured on Krown's Old Friends, an album I really dig. His rough setlist was:

Junko Partner
Old Friends
Tipitina - with Big Chief Albert? or Alfred? on vocals
Livin' Large - with the always dapper Brian Seeger ripping it up on guitar

The right honorable Mr. Krown on Hammond B-3.

His band, featuring Big Chief Albert or Alfred?, Cassandra Faulker, and Brint Anderson.
Brian Seeger prepares for liftoff.

Afterwards, I caught a ride home with Mike, who also enjoyed Joe's fantastic set. I showered and took a brief nap before heading off to the shithole of shitholes, the Contemporary Arts Center. 'twas my first visit to this awful place and it will likely be my last.

I had really wanted to see Dr. John's Night Tripper, but I was a little disappointed in this opener. He was wearing the whole voodoo getup, and off and on, he'd played guitar. In between, he would sing a few lyrics and then grind somewhat inappropriately with a very young, scantily-clad dancer. The band would lock into a groove and repeat the same riff for 25 minutes, which was cool for the first 5, mellow for the next 10, and then incredibly monotonous.

Gov't Mule played a solid but unspectacular 2 sets. Mule is a band that always has great sit-ins from a variety of guests, so a show at Jazz Fest, where everybody and their brother is in town, is a no-brainer. Unfortunately, there were no guests until the encore, when Smoky Greenwell sat in on harmonica. Any way you slice it, this was a major letdown. In all honesty, the highlight of this show was seeing Warren Haynes screw up the lyrics to “Hunger Strike,” which was the first time I've ever seen Warren make a mistake on stage.

Per usual, our krewe wanted to go to Club Decatur for Hoegaardens. Having effectively skipped dinner, I needed sustenance, so Curtis and I hit Rotolo’s across the street, as this looked like a safer pizza option than that ghetto stuff they were serving to the pimps and hos in Club Decatur. I ate two fat slices coated in oozing, thick cheese.

Would I describe these slices as good? No. Gluttonous? You're damn right. Did I need them? No way. Am I glad I ate them? Absolutely.

I was incredibly tempted to sojourn across the quarter to Frenchmen where Papa Mali had a cool gig that was featuring Eddie Roberts, among others. However, I knew that I was attempting Mission Impossible on Sunday: planning on arriving at the Fairgrounds to make the start of 007's brutally early 11AM set. With that in mind, I called it a very early night and was in bed by 4.