JazzFest Day #1: Sidi, Samantha, Flutes, Fiddles & Tres Hombres

Posted: April 28th, 2018 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Ruminations | 1 Comment »

My favorite t-shirt of the day is as good a place to start as any.

While walking in my direction the clean shaven, apparently pretty middle of the road kind of fellow, saw something in the crowd that brought a bemused smirk  to his face. It was obvious he was, like all, having a great time, reveling in his presence at Fest and soaking in the scene.

In black Times Courier on his plain white t-shirt, it read, “Not In The Office.”

Which was akin to my thoughts earlier on a gloriously temperate, humidity-free opening day. At 12:17 when the sun was high, Breaux Bridge’s Yvette Landry and her contingent, including a boffo pedal steel guy and fiddler Beau Thomas, took the Fais Do Do stage.

A big down beat kicked off their suitably rockin’ cover of Wanda Jackson’s classic.

“I never kissed a bear/ I never kissed a goose/ But I can shake a chicken in the middle of the room/ Let’s Have A Party.” Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest Eve: The Tribes have Gathered

Posted: April 26th, 2018 | Filed under: Culture, Music | 6 Comments »

So, Suzette, she of Mitchell and Suzette, the Connecticut couple the Film Babe and I met several years back as we all were strolling to the Louisiana Music Factory for the Day Before Pow Wow, is standing with Jordan, their daughter, a JazzFest neophyte.

They have a bunch of album covers splayed out on a counter top. Jordan’s deciding which ones to buy, her decision based somewhat on music but just as much perhaps more on cover aesthetics. She’s going to frame and hang them in her new abode in NYC where she’s doing PR for Columbia Records.

Among the LPs, hopefully for the cover not so much the tuneage, is a Village People release.

A fellow walks by, glances over their shoulders and immediately enters the conversation as folks are wont to do here when the tribes gather for fest. He advises: “You know, I was in the Village People.”

To which proclamation the ladies look askance over their shoulders, with bemused doubt.

“No, true,” he continues, “I was the construction guy.

“And I invented the whole YMCA thing.” Read the rest of this entry »


Reckless Road Trip to JazzFest

Posted: April 25th, 2018 | Filed under: Culture, Food, Ruminations | 3 Comments »

I could have jammed all the way through to New Orleans in one day. I’ve done it many a time. But that’s when I was younger and my piss and vinegar levels were higher.

So I had a res at one of these generic interstate service area motels, the ones that keep their lights on for you, even if the baseboards are falling away from the plastic wallpaper. And I was getting close to it and Meridian, home of Jimmie Rodgers, and couldn’t decide whether to be prudent, stop, get a good night’s rest and finish up on the morrow as planned? Or, put the pedal to the metal and sleep under the Crescent City’s yellow moon yellow moon?

That’s when I noticed that I, with a penchant for mph in the 80s, was trundling along at 56 miles per hour.

Taking the internal hint, I figured it was best to stop, pulled off, cruised by Cracker Barrel and Applebee’s and into the parking lot of my fully laminated hostel. There will be no late night snacking at Café du Monde this evening.

And then a weird trip got more furshlungener. Read the rest of this entry »


Crescent City is Calling My Name

Posted: April 19th, 2018 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Ruminations | 4 Comments »

Am I obsessed?

Well, I guess.

Thus, truth is I really didn’t need the first t-shirt. At least not “now” which is when I wanted it and got it about the time of the Cubes reveal.

Nor the second one the initial one begat, thanks to digital marketing. At the very least I could have waited until my annual visit down to New Orleans, now less than a week away. Then I could have checked out Dirty Coast, the store selling them, unencumbered by these previous purchases. Which, frankly, won’t be weighing on my mind if there’s some other Crescent City-centric tchotchke or item of apparel that grabs my attention.

The first shirt is a mash up of New Orleans street names, done up like one of those charts at the ophthalmologist’s office that you’re ordered to view with one eye closed and read the smallest letters you can.

If you’ve ever spent any time around and about in the town, you couldn’t have missed that the street names aren’t just a step or three beyond Market, Main and Shady Lane, but venture into a whole different dimension.

If you’ve ever smiled as a first time visitor tries to pronounce Tchoupitoulas when asking directions from the hotel concierge, you know what I mean.

(It’s chop-ah-too-luss. Remember, this is a town where many thoroughfares are named for Greek muses, but you’d never suspect, even if forced to study Greek somewhere along the way that Calliope Street would be pronounced kal-eee-ope.) Read the rest of this entry »


“The Deuce”: David Simon Returns with Another Winner

Posted: September 12th, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Ruminations, TV | 1 Comment »

Back in the day, a musician pal played a couple of gigs with an ersatz rock & roll band up I-65 from Louisville, in the less than Biblical Nimrod Room of an otherwise closed hotel in Seymour, Indiana.

“Come on up,” he implored, “there’s lots of local ladies.”

While flirting with one, the city of Columbus somehow popped up in the conversation.

“I’ve been to Columbus,” she bragged.

After chiming in that I’d been to several Ohio State football games that fall, it turned out she was talking about Columbus, Indiana, a few miles up the road from Seymour.

Perspective. With that one revelation, I understood the difference in our life experiences, the relatively limited expanse of her world.

In the details, there is to be learned much of a person’s personality and world view.

It is just such subtle, telling instances that make David Simon’s TV work so fulfilling. Usually always for the better, but sometime not, Simon immerses the viewer in the culture he’s talking about, giving the plotline context. The characters, personalities, foibles, humanity are constantly being revealed; they are given dimension. Read the rest of this entry »


Meditation: In Memory of Gregg Allman

Posted: May 29th, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Personalities | 11 Comments »

‘Cause time goes by like hurricanes/ And faster things.

Pop up thunder showers this Memorial Day Saturday.

It’s not unusual in my neck of the woods.

So I chose a movie over one or another of a couple minor music fests.

Part of the way through the flick, my phone buzzes with a text, then another, a flurry. Unusual. So I step outside to find out why the commotion?

Gregg Allman. Gone.

He’s now the fourth of the original, iconic, innovative and transcendent Allman Brothers Band to pass, joining his brother Duane, drummer Butch Trucks and bass player Berry Oakley in the rock & roll beyond.

Memories insist. Though I stay the movie becomes an afterthought. I recall there was such a pop up shower that intercepted the first set of Allmans’ music I ever heard, which was, what, wow, just short of a half century ago.

Atlanta Pop. 1970.

The rain interrupted “Mountain Jam,” the loosey goosey but ever euphonious noodling around the band ended sets with back in the day, hooked on the end of “Whipping Post.”

There’s no reason to cite the details, but that interlude allowed for a significant turning point in my life.

In fact, that whole Independence Day weekend was transitional. I had finished law school and taken the bar exam the week before. Not having properly prepped, I figured there was no way I’d pass.

On the threshold of adulthood, I hadn’t the slightest idea what came next in my life. I was without rudder.

Yet there I was reveling about in a musical wonderland at a raceway in deep Georgia. Skinny dipping. Eating nickel peaches. Savoring in their fullest the sounds — Jimi, Col. Bruce, Chambers Bros., Procol Harum, et al — and sensory enhancements of the day.

And at the first evening’s sunset, hearing the band that caused the plates to shift, that was to provide unrequited joy, ballast and succor in the decades to come. Read the rest of this entry »


The Monday After The First Saturday In May

Posted: May 8th, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Ruminations, Today's Lesson Learned | 1 Comment »

Some days are traditionally and annually more difficult than others.

Perspective: I used to get really depressed at halftime of the Orange Bowl, when it was always played on New Year’s night. For decades I’d always had the last week of the year off, and it would hit me hard that the next morning’s wake up meant: Back To Real Life.

So has become the Monday after the First Saturday in May.

Even on a sunny, crisp day like today, when I’m blessed with few responsibilities.

There’s the fact that Derby is over. I don’t go to the track. Or the parade. Or the boat race. Or even to hear Drive By Truckers, though I was well intentioned to do so. But I love the energy around town, and know it is the most glorious time of the year for many in our burg.

We even had the sun shine through late Derby afternoon. Thanks to the spirit specters of Matt Winn and Irvin S. Cobb. Which beauteous weather lasted through Sunday for the brunchers and party hearty crowd that was still full tilt one more day.

And, for others like me, this Monday marks the end of my year’s gravtitational pull, the New Orleans JazzFest. I only went first weekend, ceding to the inevitable Old Folks Boogie, from which I naturally suffer thanks to the ever accelerating “maturation process.” Even though I wasn’t present in New Orleans this weekend as I was last, I still kept watching the clock, finally finding some relief at 8:00 Sunday, when I knew the last notes had been played, that the bon temps roulez had expired.

Thus, we come to today, in the Printemps of some disconsolation.

It really matters not that it’s glorious outside, that honeysuckle aromisizes the air, that the warmth and recreation of summer is just ahead. Today there is the let down that comes about when too much anticipation is focused on a singular event, and it passes.

Fortunately it is fleeting, not terminal.

(I am reminded of 1976. That was the year of my first JazzFest. I went down for a weekend. Then called work and advised I was slipping off to the beach for a week. Then called again and advised I’d be staying for the second weekend of JazzFest. Then returned for Derby week. All of which was fueled — in copious quantities — by the inebriants of the day. Even attended a big bash on the Sunday after Derby. Dealing with that Monday let down turned out not to be a problem. I went to sleep Sunday evening. Didn’t wake up until Tuesday morning.) Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest ’17: A Soggy Sayonara

Posted: May 2nd, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Music | 1 Comment »

So my pal Marc — He’s the frat brother who introduced me to JazzFest in ’76 — and his bride Jill — Recall she’s a Louisville gal who hooked up with her groom at a Little Feat concert during Derby in the 70s — host what’s become an annual JazzFest/ Derby Crawfish Boil on the last Sunday in April.

It celebrates the end of the first weekend of JF, and the beginning of Derby Week. Which they return to every year. Marc’s actually been coming to Derby longer than I’ve been doing JazzFest.

At the Crawfish Boil, I got into a conversation with some friends of a NO friend. They seem to show up in NO during fest time every year. It’s addictive for many, as if you hadn’t already surmised that.

We were chatting about the acts we’d seen, who we liked, etc, etc, etc.

He wanted to know what I thought of Jon Batiste and Stay Human. I advised I was at another stage. (Economy Hall for the Pete Fountain Tribute.) Which choice I explained by saying I’d seen Batiste before, and was saddened how he’d become a Stephen Colbert sycophant, what Doc Severinsen became for Johnny Carson, the music guy at a great regular gig, forced to laugh at all of comedian’s jokes, funny or no. Said I loved Batiste, from one of the city’s first musical families, but was simply drawn elsewhere.

Then the fellow went on and on about Maroon 5, and what a great band leader Adam Levine is. I told him I hadn’t the slightest desire to hear that band with zero connection to New Orleans musical tradition.

Perhaps frustrated by my failure to veil my imperiously expounded upon musical tastes, he asked, “Well, what bands would you pay to see?”

I mentioned Van Morrison and Tedeschi Trucks immediately off the top of my head, then realized this . . .

. . . “Oh yeah, Richard Thompson, whom I have tickets to hear tonight in the Parrish Hall at the House of Blues.” Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest ’17, Day I: Souled Out & Sated

Posted: April 28th, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Music | 1 Comment »

There’s a fundamental miscalculation that plagues just about all of the spate of contemporary retro-style R & B singers.

It’s a disturbing tendency for them to oversell their songs, an apparent belief that if they don’t go full James Brown or Otis Redding, their soulfulness might be questioned.

Two of the guiltiest are among the most popular.

Charles Bradley would be but an afterthought back in the heyday. Maybe an opening act on an extended bill featuring Solomon Burke, Jackie Wilson and others far better. If he’s even worthy of that?

St. Paul and Broken Bones singer, bespeckled Paul Janeway also tries way way way too hard. That he looks like a pledge chairman of the KAs at Alabama and sings like the winner of a Fraternity Song Festival Otis Redding Sing Alike contest has carried him a long way.

Those two aren’t alone in their lack of subtlety.

Too many singers don’t comprehend that soul can be easy and still ring true to the bone.

Sam Cooke was smooth and easy. Sam Cooke was gold standard.

Which brings me to Leon Bridges, who mesmerized on the Gentilly stage this afternoon. Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest ’17: Let’s Get the Real Party Started

Posted: April 28th, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Ruminations | No Comments »

One last check in from the periphery. When I finish this I’m off to Day I.

But first I need to forgive.

Some folks, even if wearing garb proving their attendance at previous fests, don’t know what they don’t know.

I was on my way back to the hotel which is at the foot of Iberville from a hook up at the Louisiana Music Factory during the Jazz Vipers set.

LMF’s on Frenchmen Street at the other end of the Quarter. So I stopped at this little courtyard in the French Market by the Gazebo Café to rest my yelping dogs. (To bore you with woes about how my new walking shoes aren’t all they are cracked up to be would be over self indulgent even for a narcissist like myself.)

Anyway, the earnest but not really not very good band of old farts regaling the turistas with New Orleans standards broke into “Southern Nights.” One of my favorite tunes.

The guy sitting next to me on the bench turned to his wife/ GF/ inamorata for the weekend and pontificated too impress, “Wow, they’re playing that old Glen Campbell classic.” Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest ’17: The Day Before My 30th

Posted: April 27th, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Music | 1 Comment »

God, how I love this place.

New Orleans is, as New Orleans has always been, it’s own kind of spirit force.

May it never change.

The Professor — my pal not Longhair — who attended many Fests with his bride, will be happy to know that the Quarter, bless its historic nature and sybaritic presence, remains fetid.

Especially early in the morning when it’s waking up, and the guys are out in front of the titty bars along Bourbon, hosing away the excess of the night before.

When the baristas in their long skirts are speeding along on their one speed bikes to work.

When the school buses are lined up on Royal near the Esplanade end, unloading kids at school.

When turistas like me, most in much better shape, are jogging away last evening’s gustatory or alcohol overload, wearing their school colors. Sparty. Roll Tide. I’m in Cardinal gear.

It’s an odd affectation, running the Vieux Carré during these transitional early AM moments, but’s it what I love to do, confirming another year, another JazzFest, my 30th, on the morrow.

Of course, I also enjoy jogging Audubon Park, which I do in those years when I’ve stayed with my old college pal, who introduced me to this incredible sensory potpurri that is JazzFest, incredible food and too much — OK I’ll bring in the ever overused cliché — bon temps roulez. Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest #30: It’s Too Late To Stop Now

Posted: April 24th, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Music | No Comments »

The winter of ’05-’06 was not easy.

Every day or two I’d have a sad sad moment. I would suddenly abandon whatever was present and break down with uncontrolled sobbing.

It was not that my beloved Louisville Cardinal hoopsters were suffering through a mediocre at best campaign. The season ended with thirteen losses, the last one ignominious in the NIT. Though that was bad enough.

The real catalyst for my despair was that New Orleans, my beloved New Orleans, was vacant and drowning.

Six feet of water on the streets of Evangeline had come to truth again.

Would she survive? What would become of this, the most unique city in America, a town with as much personality as any around the globe?

A town where the holy trinity of cajun cuisine — onions, bell peppers and celery — is as revered as father, son and Holy Ghost.

A town where the quirky lingua franca pronounces the word calliope, cal-eee-ope not kah-lie-oh-pee.

A town that fostered musical icons, Satchmo Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, Professor Longhair and Fats Domino.

The town that time left alone to proceed at its own out of sync with the rest of the land pace.

The town that hosted the event that had become the gravitational pull of my year, the epicenter of my musical being, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Katrina had laid her low with a furious sideswipe. Read the rest of this entry »