Saturday, April 19, 2008

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.

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