Sunday, April 20, 2008

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.

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