Day 22 – Jazz Fest (1)

And I’m goin’ to where Lordie, water drinks like wine Where I can be drunk-staggerin’, staggerin’ all the time. —Kid Bailey, “Mississippi Bottom Blues,” 1929

It is the first day of Jazz Fest and the weather is looking mighty fine. Minimal chance of rain, a top temperature of around 28C and low humidity. Our accommodation is not close to public transport so an Uber is the best option. We arrive some 40 minutes before the gates open.

We are in just after 11 and make our plans for a meet-up spot at the finish of the day’s music. My day starts with a favorite feed of Ya Ka Mein which I enjoyed to the sounds and chants of the Semolina Warriors Mardi Gras Indians, who are performing on the outdoor Jazz & Heritage stage.

Wendy has saved me a seat in the Blues Tent for Kevir & the Blues Groovers. It must be hard for the first band on day one of a festival. People are still arriving and sorting themselves out. Well, by the end of Kevir’s set, he had the crowd standing and dancing. A very good start with an artist I knew nothing about.

Photo 1. Kevir Photo 2. Kevir’s guitarist is out with the punters

Now for Tommy McLain and C.C. Adcock. Tommy is an 83-year-old pop-swamp singer. On piano, he has Jon Cleary. There was a long delay in the set starting due to technical difficulties with Tommy’s piano. As can be imagined for someone that old his voice is a little raspy. I enjoyed the set.

Photo 1. Tommy McLain Photo 2. Jon Cleary

I noticed that there have been some changes to staff in the Blues Tent. I used to know a lot of the security staff, but not anymore and the long-standing stage announcer is no longer with us.

The Jazz Fest has gone cashless, which has made the lines for food and drinks a lot longer as the new system is bedded in. Strange to see the guys pulling along the mobile beer trolleys and the peanut sellers carrying an EFTPOS machine.

Time for some fresh fruit-salad and a cold brew at the WWOZ hospitality tent.

We decided to take a punt and go to the Alsison Minor stage to see a band I had no knowledge of. Jon Roniger & the Good For Nothing Band. So glad we did, they are very good and we stayed for the full set. The songs are all about New Orleans characters and their foibles. Jon, I learned, is a Nashville singer-songwriter veteran and is seen frequently performing on Frenchman Street.

I know that my fellow WOW members will call Judas on me but I opted not to go and see Charlie Musselwhite but, instead, go to the Fais Do Do stage for Allison Russell, a Canadian singer-songwriter. I have one of her C.D.s. She is a fierce campaigner for women’s rights and a strong proponent of gun control. At one stage she told the audience that if “Australia and Canada can control the use of assault weapons then so can the U.S”. A brave move by her in this part of the world. I enjoyed her eclectic set. We also got to catch up with Skye, Scott, Jamie, and their traveling companions.

Allison Russell

My pick of the acts for today was Robert Plant and Allison Kraus performing at the Gentilly Stage. The crowd is overflowing and we can’t get close. No matter the big screen will suffice and the sound is fantastic. It turned out to be the highlight of the day. Here is what NOLA News said in today’s paper:

In front of another big crowd at the Shell Gentilly Stage, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss wove their haunted harmonies across Led Zeppelin’s “The Battle of Evermore,” equal parts Kentucky holler and misty mountain. Droning fiddles and ominous mallet strikes on tom-tom drums defined a bewitched “When the Levee Breaks“.

Speaking of the crowd, I mentioned to Bernie that I thought the crowd was the biggest I had seen on the first day and the newspaper agreed with me. Probably because Lizzo and Big Freedia are both playing on the big stage today.

So the first day of music ends and we head to where the bus service will take us back to Rampart St and then we will get an Uber to get home. Wrong, the bus service route has changed. We are herded onto a bus to take us Uptown. We get to a stop down the road a bit and the bus driver yells if you want to go to Canal St get off NOW. We did as ordered and then we see Bernie gesturing for us to get back on, so we did. As the bus took off we noticed that both Bernie and Hoff were not on the bus. We rode down to the cemeteries and then tried our luck with an Uber that cost $51 for a short drive. We decided to stay and get on a Street Car and then we got attacked by a swarm of termites attracted to the lights. Time to try another Uber, $25 this time and so we finally made it home an hour and a half after leaving the fest. Well, that sure was an unexpected adventure.

Day 21 – New Orleans

Twenty-five cents will buy a half a pint of my corn You ain’t never tasted no liquor like this, since you been born. —Papa Charlie Jackson, “Corn Liquor Blues,” 1928

I’m back in my spiritual home, New Orleans. It is an overcast day. The first thing we need to do is drop off the hire car, no more driving on the “wrong side” of the road. The other important chore is to pick up our WWOZ Brass Passes for Jazz Fest.

The car was dropped off with only 23 miles left in the tank, great planning.

I am so embarrassed, I sent us all the wrong way down Canal Street after dropping off the car. I had told Hoff and Bernie that once we hit New Orleans that I was in charge of directions. The weather started to close in and I spotted a Fox News storm car zooming down Canal St, coupled with a severe storm warning advice on our phones. The rain did come down heavy but it did not last long.

Hoff and Bernie went off to explore the Quarter while Wendy and I caught a Street Car along the riverfront to the last stop. I wanted to call into the MRB bar and kitchen on St. Philip. William Wiggins my previous landlord of 6 years frequents the place in the mornings. I have been trying to contact William for months with no luck. I was told that he still comes in occasionally but has not been seen for a while. We went around to my old digs on Bourbon St. and left a note in his mailbox.

My Old Bourbon St Digs

We had arranged to meet Hoff and Bernie at the Jazz and Heritage Foundation on Rampart St to pick up our passes and they are now safely in our hands.

We had made a reservation at the iconic restaurant Dooky Chase in the Treme for 1:30. The restaurant is a bit more up-market than the places we have been dining at. We started with a Dooky Chase Passionfruit rum. I will leave the food description to Hoff’s food blog but suffice for me to say the meals were magnificent. Oh, and the rum drink must have been good as Hoff and Bernie had a second. A special mention for our server, she was awesome and joined in with our frivolity. When in New Orleans a meal at this restaurant is essential fare.

The rest of the afternoon for me was catching up on rest for the start of Jazz Fest tomorrow.