Bar Hopping

Friday – April 18th




‘Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without’ – Confucius


I was up early at 8 and went and had breakfast at a little Café on Toulouse. It is a block from the Maison Dupuy, the hotel that Brain Wise’s tour group will stay at when they arrive next week.

I ordered a semi-healthy grilled cheese sandwich. My mistake, I should have known better as bacon is mandatory, you have to stipulate to ‘hold the pig’. No matter the sandwich came with a small bowl of fresh fruit salad so I did somewhat good.

I was going to wait until close to the end of my trip to have a shopping splurge. Oh well, what the heck. I got back to the apartment with 4 pair of jeans, new shoes and a cap.

I am sitting out on the balcony with William and Mickey when two ladies stopped to chat to William. They are from Baltimore and William lived in that city for a few years so he is able talk about various local hangouts. One of the women then said it is nice to talk to friendly gay men! Mickey and I looked at each other in surprise but said nothing. Guess when you live in an apartment at the Gay end of town and you have disco balls hanging from the rafters then an assumption of one’s sexual preferences could be incurred.

Around 3ish I went down to the marker for a bite to eat. I have a big night/morning ahead of me and I need some sustenance to get me through. There is a new food vendor in the market ‘Meals from the Heart Café’, a healthy take out option. They guarantee there is no pork on their menu. I ordered the Crab Cake Passion with salad and a bottle of coconut water. I may even come back for breakfast one morning for the oatmeal and walnuts special.

Back to the apartment to rest up until I go and meet up with Bob and Pat at 8P.M. Joy oh joy I have found the Major League Baseball channel on the T.V.

Around 7 I managed to get Skype fired up and got through to the girls at home. The time in Melbourne is 9AM Saturday morning. Wendy had to go and wake the girls up.

I started out for Iggy’s bar at 7:45, the meeting place for Bob and Pat. The walk takes me down Burgundy (this is pronounced not as it reads). The first time I took this walk I got lost and Bob was concerned when I was late arriving, that I may have gone into an area that was not safe. Well this time I know where I was going and I GOT LOST. A young girl and a guy on a bike must have seen I was confused and stopped to point me in the right direction. She said herself (in my defence) that this area of the Marigny known as the triangle is confusing even for locals. In fact I was only a very short distance from where I was supposed to be.

I got to the bar just after 8 and Bob and Pat greeted me like the friends we are. Even the bar-lady said ‘welcome back’. Iggy’s is a neighborhood bar and I am the only ‘out of Towner’. I even ran into a guy I met at he Spotted Cat last Monday. I was introduced to a number of the locals. One guy who has a bed and breakfast asked me if I knew of Peter Beattie (ex Queensland Premier) who he had shred a Bloody Mary with a few weeks back. Sitting on the bar is a split-screen T.V.  Monitor which has views of the bar, a little pool room and a street view. Another guy who Bob and Pat knew real well told me a few stories about the Iggy’s. He told a hilarious tale of the bar being held-up and the perpetrator went behind the bar and ripped out the T.V. monitor I mentioned so as his image could not be viewed. He is seen on footage walking across the street with the monitor under his arm! Another not so funny story was that there was a shooting out front of the bar a week before I got into town. He did add that I was not to worry as the people involved in the shooting had not been drinking at Iggy’s. Add to that the story of a fatal shooting last year out the front. This time it was after a local funeral where there had been an altercation. The guy in the fight had left the funeral and was drinking in the bar. The other guy in the fight waited until he left the bar and shot him dead on the street. As Kerri Simpson told me before I left, ‘New Orleans can be a bad-assed town and you should never let your guard down.’

We left the bar around 11:30 and headed to Deja Vu. This bar is in the Quarter on Dauphine. Again I have been here before. I am hoping that a barman by the name of Eric is working tonight. I promised him some vegemite last year and I have a tube to give him. Eric is working behind the bar and he is happy to see me and my gift. Bob told me he was at this bar a few weeks ago and there was an older guy sitting nearby not looking to good. Eric though we was about to throw-up and was getting ready to ask him to leave. He fell off his stool. An ambulance was called and he was carted off. News came through that he had died of a heart-attack. Hmm that is a bit scary. More beer was consumed and then we head to another bar called Jimmy White’s a bar that has gone down in history as the only bar that never closed during and after Hurricane Katrina. Wesley is behind the jump and says ‘welcome back Aussie’ by this time I am getting a little wobbly. At 2:45 I wrote (scrawled) in my journal ‘I am now officially pissed’. Bob and Wesley attested to the fact by signing the said entry. I think I got back to the apartment around 4A.M. I know I had a great time catching up with good friends. But as to most of the details. Let me say they are a little sketchy.

Armstrong Park

Thursday – April 17th


‘Music touches us emotionally, where words alone can’t.’ – Johnny Depp


My morning routine is set now. Arise sometime between 9 and 10, read my emails and check out the news on-line via the Age while watching the world go by.

Nothing to eat until lunch time. The Matassa’s family Deli has operated on Dauphine St since 1924. John Matassa emigrated from Sicily in 1906. There one son (Cosimo) went on to found one of the most iconic recording studios in New Orleans. Sadly that building is now a laundromat (Rampart St) with only a plaque on the wall to remind people who recorded there. Lucky for me is the Deli is just around the corner from my apartment. It is a throw- back to the past. Tiny little aisles that should have one-way signs as two people canot be in the one spot at the same time. You can get all your grocery needs and liquor plus there is a service bar where you can order hot cooked food. The Deli is still run by the Matassa family. I opted for one of their signature sandwiches the Mufaletta. Olive salad, genoa salami, chisesi ham, mortadella, mozzarella, and provolone cheeses on fresh Italian bread. The half sandwich costs $8.95 and the full sandwich $13.95. When I say sandwich I mean a round bun the size of a small pizza and as thick as two meat pies on top of each other. I ordered a half and only managed to be able to eat a half of a half.

I was eating my lunch on the balcony but alas had to retreat inside as an annoying drizzle has set in. I heard Mr. Okra and his battered up tray van coming down the street. Mr Okra sells vegetables and fruit to the people of the street. You can hear him for blocks singing through the loud speaker. ‘I got green beans, I got bananas, and I got okra. You could say that the likes of Mr. Okra may never be seen/heard again.

I had a Nanna nap in the afternoon and was up and at ‘em at 4 PM. I am heading off to Armstrong Park for the start of the free Thursday night music sessions. Yep I am here at the right time of year all right.

I got to Armstrong Park to be greeted by the ‘One Sound Brass Band’ being ably assisted with the dance moves of the Sudan Social Aid and Pleasure Club. It is true when they say ‘White men can’t dance’. Social and Aid clubs of which there are many in New Orleans came about through the poverty of the black population. People contributed a small weekly amount of their income to their club of choice. This then guaranteed a dignified funeral including a horse and mourning carriage and a brass band. Solemn dirge like music would be played on the way to the cemetery and then on the way back the music would be joyful and be a celebration of the deceased’s life. Mourners and anybody that wanted could join in. Hence the name second-line.

Armstrong Park is situated across Nth Rampart St which is the boundary of the French Quarter. It is situated in the historic Treme district. And only a ten minute walk. Within its bound is the area known as Congo Square where history tells us that the black slaves were allowed to gather and dance on Sundays. The only city in the U.S. that allowed black slaves to participate in traditional drumming and dancing. Of course we all should be thankful for this as out of that music came the likes of Jazz and Blues.

I am here to see Glen David Andrews (a cousin of Trombone Shorty). Glen David as a singer and trombone player extraordinaire and he has the knack of involving all audience members in his performance. The spring and summer sessions are put on by the community group ‘ The People United for Armstrong Park’. There is also market stalls and food stalls. I had a double up, starting with a bowl of Gumbo and some fried chicken. When you eat real Southern Fried chicken it is very hard to ever again  eat from Kentucky Fried.  I was strong though as I did not buy a serve of deep fried Oriole cookies (chocolate biscuits) although they were a steal at 6 for $5!

First on the bill tonight is an old school rapper named Weebie. Not my type of music but the crowd really got into it.

Glenn David Andrews hit the stage as he always does with all cylinders firing. He sang a number of tunes from his new album ‘Redemption’ as well as some of his classic covers. You are always guaranteed a god time at a GDA show. Like Anders Osborne, Glen has turned his life around in the last 18 months and he is very proud to let people know that you can pick yourself up when and if you want to. The skies have been grey all day and the rain is tumbling down. The crowd don’t care about getting wet, we are partying in the rain and when Glen started singing the Mahalia Jackson classic ‘Didn’t It Rain’ the handclapping got even louder.


Lafayette Square

Wednesday – April 16th


 ‘I like beautiful melodies, that tell me terrible things’ – Tom Waites

Well the sun is out today but there is still a chill in the air. Not sure when the weather is going to turn into a normal New Orleans spring. They are still getting snow in places up north.

Mickey was telling me about his movie adventure. He has had a number of bit parts in a few horror movies. This time he has a small role in the new Will Farrell movie being filmed in New Orleans at the moment. Mickey was in a scene being filmed last Monday at the old Gretna jail. The scene involves him sharing a cell with Will and getting pushed around by the guards. He told me that Will is a nice guy and he takes the time to talk to the extras unlike a lot of other ‘stars’.

I went back to the Magnolia Grill for breakfast. A young guy looked after my order and he spoke with me for a good 10 minutes. His name is Anthony and he is working at the grill during spring break. He attends LSU (Louisiana State University). Nice young man, he told me that I have to come to at least one Mardi Gras. He even wrote a note in my journal ‘I have ordered you to come to Mardi Gras’! Signed – Anthony. Not sure if that will get me another leave pass but you never know.

I went and picked up some postcards to send back home. If you don’t get one it must have went astray in the mail.

It has turned into a real nice sunny afternoon and I passed away a few hours’ people watching from my balcony. I wish I had a dollar for every person who stops and takes a photo of the apartment. It must have something to do with all the disco balls hanging from the rafters. William came back from walking the dogs. He told me that if I even wanted a semi-permanent place to live in New Orleans then he would happily do a deal for me with regards to the apartment I stay in.

The free music at Lafayette Square starts at 5 P.M., I am a little hungry so it being only 4 P.M. I called into Felix’s Oyster Bar off Bourbon. I know this is a very popular place to eat oysters because I have walked past Felix’s at night and there is always a line of people on the sidewalk waiting to get in. I was able to get a place at the bar not far from where the oysters where being freshly shucked. I ordered a dozen char-grilled oysters and a voodoo pale-ale. The oysters were excellent, plump and larger than those we get back home. No needs to worry about being attacked by any vampires that frequent the Quarter tonight as I thing I have just eaten 6 cloves of garlic.

Billy Iuso’s band is just firing up as I meet up with Stew and Carol. I bought two of Billy’s albums home with me last year. I recognized a few pf the punters, a man with an Ian Fraser moustache dyed bright green (may suggest that to Ian), the old free hugs man. He is at must concerts around town. I spoke to him last year, he is well into his 80’s. Dressed in shorts and his trademark Hawaiian shirt and always with bright coloured socks (of a different colour). He has a sign on his shirt ‘free hugs’ and he always seems to be dancing with pretty ladies. Rob Steinberg (Treme actor) said g’day as well as the festival staff. Anders Osborne is also back stage and I got a photo with him. Andres has a very interesting story. He came to New Orleans form Sweden many years ago and has never left. He is now one of ‘awlins finest guitarists/singers/songwriters and he is always on the Jazz Fest bill. He has fought some demons and come through in one piece. As I have read many times about New Orleans, all is here for the taking (and has been since the 1700’s) and it is easy to go along for the ride either with drugs, alcohol, debauchery or whatever else may take your fancy. Anders is one of the strong ones who has got his life back on track.

Also back stage is a lady I have seen many times up on stage interviewing guest and introducing artists. She works for the local Fox T.V. network and shares the stage every Wednesday night with the Saints football cheer leaders and an ex Saints football player. The Saints are the major sponsors of the concert series. I told her I was on my fourth visit to the Crescent City. Anyway next thing I know she is doing her mid bracket spiel when I hear her telling the crowd that she wanted to welcome Rob from Australia to New Orleans and the Saints footballer is calling out ‘mate, can you give us a who dat in an Australian accent’?  The crowd cheered. Stew and Carol both came over to me laughing and Stew said ‘what the fuck just happened, how come you are getting named from the stage’! As the old saying goes ‘it’s who you know’. Over to you Mr. Smith!

The Honey Island Swamp Band are the main act for the night. Although I only saw them a few days ago at French Quarter Fest I am very pleased to see them again. Anders got up for a tune as well

I went and had dinner with Stew and Carol after the show and then went back to their home for a cup of tea and a catch up. Stew dropped me back at my apartment around 11 and another great night was enjoyed in ‘awlins