New Orleans - my second visit!
Day One - Saturday, April 27, 1996
I arrived Saturday, around 2:30 - changed in the car & went
straight to the fest. Chris picked me up in our nighttime blue
ford rental car, which carried us forth in good style.
After checking with a transit cop, we parked the car for free. They
were putting little yellow "TOW THIS CAR" stickers on what seemed
like half the cars; when we asked, we were told of a plethora of parking
laws. Apart from the usual laws, a particularly persnickity one is that
you must park 20 ft. from the corner. All that choice parking gone to waste,
and, I imagine, a large number of lost tourists when they can't find their
There we a LOT of deadheads, far more than I expected. Mostly the young
homeless ones. Phish played Friday & I think many
of these kids really came to see them. By the time we got to the
show (3-3:30), it was really crowded. The weather was a clear hot 85'
or so, so off went the shirts and on came the show!
We grabbed some Crawfish Monica and skirted the big crowd around
Buckwheat at the Ray-Ban stage. We heard a little of his music
- a much stronger funk orientation than when I've previously seen him -
and 20,000 people (as opposed to the 200 or so at S.D.'s Street Scene).
Still made my feet move tho!
The next big name act was the Allman Brothers.
We infiltrated the crowd & did a ditch dance to the strains
of "You're my Blue Sky" & "Ramblin Man",
but there were so many folks, we could not really get close enough
to actually see them. However, I'm pretty sure it warn't a tape
and that Dickey & Greg were up there pounding it out. We then
checked out our old favorite, Congo Square, and found
Cyril Neville & the Uptown Allstars
playing some delightful fusion. Definitely dancable.
None of that post modern stuff - just good rocking rythmns.
Chris & I watched the sunset and the crowd thin out -
a little melancholy at being mortal, but happy, nonetheless,
to be alive and present at our 2nd JazzFest.
Day Two - Sunday, April 28, 1996
Woke up Sunday with visions of Jazz plums in my head. Had a much needed
hi-fat breakfast at the hotel We made our way to Jazz Fest at about 11:00
- clearly beating the throngs. Paid $5 to park on a city street right across
from the fair grounds (it was $10 to park inside the fairgrounds). I bought
four tickets to the last weekend from a scalper for $10/ea. Apparently,
a number of people get free promotional tix & sell them, but also apparently,
it's against the law. No shit. Chris buys these two tickets from
this guy, and while the money is still in his hands, a plain-clothes cop
puts cuffs on the dude! Just like that he's on his way to jail.
This sobered us up for a second as we made our way into the fest, but
our feet were soon moving to the beat of the SUNO Jazz Ensemble
at the Ray-Ban stage. Where 20,000 saw the Allmans yesterday, 200 or so
were now laying around in the sun and groovin to the tunes. Hardly any
deadheads around; a completely different and sparser crowd than yesterday.
The walkin was easy, so we did the transition zone shuffle, a unique phenomena
when you pause between two stages and hear parts of the music from both
them. It's a wonderful sensation that seems to capture the true nature
of Jazz Fest. In the center of the fairgrounds, there were booths with
real art. The colors, sounds, & people add up to a chaos that is full
of life and good energy. Heard strains of the Charles Neville Jazz Band
as we moved to the Congo Square shopping area - between "Honor" and
"Respect", sort of towards the blacksmiths shop (where real fire and
metal were being worked into useful and artistic objects). Heard three different
versions of CC Rider in as many hours - all of em pretty good!
Around 2:00 we danced to Premiere at Congo
Square - some kind of a re-union band, doing songs like
"Just My Imagination" and other R&B classics.
Heart touching stuff and slow moves.
It gets a little fuzzy here, as once again we moved in an un-directed
manner around the show. I remember dancing everywhere I went. I think it
was Bryan Lee and the Jumpsteet Five at the
House of Bluse stage, and quick stepping at the Fais Do-Do stages. At the
Fais-Do-Do stage, I was cutting it pretty good, and found myself in an
eyeball thing with this woman. When recognition sets it, I realize it's
a woman I know from work (all the way from California!) She says:
"You just don't recognize people from work with their shirts off"!
We talk. She was here last year too, this year with friends from college
(Laurie & Gigi).
We finally positioned ourselves for George Benson,
and listened to his trademark voice-over-guiter riffs drifting thru the
crowd. We finally left the show to the tunes of Cowboy
Mouth on the big stage. They were saying something about realizing
that you were THERE. New Orleans. Yeah!
Day Three - Monday, April 29, 1996
No JazzFest today, so we have dinner at a place called The
Steak Knife and see Marcia Ball at Howlin Wolf's.
Turns out the Steak Knife is a 'ties and coat' place, but with Total
Aplomb, we go into the place with shorts and t-shirts. The food is great.
No tourist or schlock stuff. There's an exquisite menu (we have
escargo, filet mignons, shrimp bordelaise, and the house special, "Fish
Robert" - red snapper in a crawfish white sauce. Good ceaser's salads
and even the bread is notable).
The waiters take an interest in us & the Southern Hospitality starts
to shine. Michael and Chris (the waiters) give us lots of good info about
the local music and food scene, particularly mentioning the bars Snug Harbor
and the Maple Leaf.
We arrive at Howlin Wolf's to the tunes of the N.O.Angels
(it's a joke, get it?!) and it's a great venue. Maybe 75 people
in a bar that probably takes 250 on a Friday night. We're among the first
to dance as the energy levels pick up for Marcia
Ball. She does a soulful set of songs, each one rocking, yet really
gut wrenching with emotions.
We spend every cent we have on beers & dance the night away. Everyone
marks the evening a great success. "Yeah, this place sucks",
says Chris sarcastically.
Day Four - Tuesday, April 30, 1996
Today is supposed to be a tourist day, but everyone is moving a little
slowly after last night. We make plans to eat at 10:30, 11:30 and finally
have lunch in the restaurant at 1 or 2 in the afternoon. The sun is out
and we spend some time by the pool.
We go to the French Quarter during the day (my first time), and it's
delightful. On the waterfront walk, I ask a couple of deadhead if I can
get a couple of braids & beads, but they tell me that "wrapping
is where the money is"; they don't do braids!
We're too late for the riverboat tour, so we dive into the F.Q. for
some more serious shopping. At the kite store, we buy windsocks, kites,
and a bunch of neat little toys. T-shirts and beads are purchased at several
stores. I get a1996 Jazz Fest poster at a corner store from an Indian guy
who doesn't quite answer the questions you ask him.
We have a sunset dinner on the balcony of Andrew Yeager's House
of Seafood. The food's good, but unremarkable given
the surroundings. We meander to Bourbon St.
The line at Preservation Hall to see the
Preservation Hall Jazz Band (reputed to be
the thing to do on Tuesday nights - their regular slot) is intimidating.
There's at least 150 people lined up outside, so we pass it up and just
listen to four or five bands through the doorways on Bourbon. A little
woozy we sense that a walk might be in order, so head back to the riverfront,
four or five blocks away.
One of the great challenges to Bourbon street and the French Quarter
in general is timing things so that it is convenient to go to the bathroom
when you are buying a drink. It's the only time people let you use the
facilities! We have a hard time of it at the park trying to find a place.
However (at least for the time being) we are sated, and so go back to the
car. It's still early, the night is nice, so Chris
and I decide to play guitars in the park.
We sit and the deadheads hit us up for cigarettes. "Do you know any dead
tunes", she asks. Ha Ha Ha. We do "Going Down the Road",
"Casey Jones", "Friend of the Devil", and one of
the girls asks for "Me and Bobby McGee". It was really
nice. They were spinning and singing, and dead-heads a hundred and fifty
feet away howled when we finished. They have a mini-drum circle 15 feet
away, but we can never quite get it together (although there were some
near misses). We did a couple more ("Not Fade Away", and
Sam Cook's "If You Ever Change Your Mind") and wrap up
Another shitty day in New Orleans comes to an end!
Day Five - Wednesday, May 1, 1996
We spend a day hanging out at the hotel and pool, drinking Margaritas
thru the afternoon. We decide on Dinner at the Bizou,
on St Charles, to be followed by Beau Joque
at the Mid-City Bowl.
The Bizou is really nice.
We have a window seat, and there are quite a few tourists
going by. The architecture in the neighborhood is distinctive Southern
Turn of the Century. Archways, columns, porticos and stained glass. The
food was notable, but I didn't write it down. It's a really nice
place to go, in case you're interested.
We head up S. Carrolton to the M.C. Bowl,
park behind, and wait maybe 15 minutes and 35 people to get in. You go
up these stairs, where the bowling alley sits above a number of stores
in a strip mall. It's packed. The opening band is playing and there are
clearly no places to sit. There's a line two to three deep around the bar.
We try to dance on the dance floor, but unless you are an agressive Zydeco
dancer, and do the right moves (the circle goes counter clockwise, right?),
it's all bumping elbows.
Chris gets a lane and proceeds to Bowl. All of the aisles are full,
and people are dancing in (presumably, their) bowling lanes. I join them
late in their second game, and they let me catch up. That was pretty fun
- you can kind of dance and bowl. But overall, I would recommend going
on a quieter night, when there's a little more room.
On the way out, we stop and regard the building with awe. After you
come down these fairly steep stairs and exit to the parking lot, you're
back in this strip mall. The building has the typical plate glass front.
Except for one thing. Due to the rythmn of the people dancing inside, the
windows and doors on the first floor are bulging in and out with a pulsating
beat - it looks like they might break any second, but I have to assume
it's been going on a long time before we got there, and will continue after
we leave! We all drive back to the hotel and call it a night.
Day Six - Thursday, May 2, 1996
We wake up at 10:00 a.m. or so, and have our usual breakfast in the
hotel dining room. We lounge around and make it to the show around noon.
Today is a day of lesser-knowns at the JazzFest. We see, I believe, Wallace
Johnson (Blues), the True Tone Gospel Singers,
and wander around for most of the day. Around 4:00, I think we saw Walter
Payton & the Snap Bean Band at the WWOZ Jazz Tent, and Zobop
of Haiti at the Fais Do-Do stage. We stake out a place in the big
crowd (to the right of the stage, towards the back) to see the
Indigo Girls. I'm not real familiar with their music, but everyone
sings along with their beautiful, precision harmonies.
We catch a little of the remaining cultural acts, including Larry
McCray (Blues), the Bruce Daigrepont Cajun
Band, and the Folkloric Dance Company of Haiti.
We danced at the other big stage to Boozo Chavis
& the Magic Sounds (big Zydeco & Cajun sound).
Back to the hotel, we freshen up and decide on a unstructured evening
in the French Quarter. We have a wonderful Italian dinner at a little restaurant
just down the street from the Brewery on Decateur. As we wander the French
Quarter, we make our way back to Decateur and stop by the House
Of Blues. The show is sold out, but we go into the bar where they
pipe the show in over closed-circut T.V. The Subdudes
are playing, the place is packed, and we leave.
A couple of doors down to the east, we stop in a little bar and drink
beer and play pool. After about three games we call it an evening, Chris
drives us home, and we're in bed by 1:00 a.m.
Day Seven - Friday, May 3, 1996
We're getting to be pretty old hats at this, so we decide to go to the
show late today. I sleep in, have a luxurious breakfast and we all leave
for the show at 1:30 or so.
Today, we come into the show to the tunes of George
Porter on the Polaroid stage, backtrack to the blues stage to catch
the end of Anders Osborne, and position ourselves
by the water fountain to hear Buddy Guy. I'm
really impressed with Buddy Guy. The dynamics of the band are great - loud
raucus hard blues one second, and the next second, they come down to almost
nothing, causing the whole crowd to 'fall inwards' towards the stage. Another
thing I really like is the fake endings - the crowd doesn't know what's
going on as the band builds up to an ending, and then does the dynamics
thing and keeps on playing. This one song goes on for a long time, and
when Buddy Guy plays softly, a Horn Section playing in the gospel tent
comes in, in perfect tune and rythmn, and does some tasty fills. It's almost
like they're doing it on purpose!
I go to see Joe Louis Walker at the H of
B stage. A friend of mine interviewed him as part of a class project in
Tucson, but I've never seen him, so I definitely want to give it a try.
He plays straight, pretty hard, blues.
By now the show is getting towards the end, so we wander around, catching
Zopop of Haiti, and strains of Dr. John,
before meeting back at the car.
We order hamburgers from the restaraunt, shower and have a nice relaxing
dinner. We have tickets to Tipitina's tonite,
and so decide not to have a complicated dinner.
We arrive at Tip's around 10:00. Anders Osborne
is playing (real good blues rock - rumor has it he's Ozzy Osborne's son).
The place is packed; there must be 80-100 people outside in line. We waltz
up, get our will-call tickets, and are in the place in 2 minutes. We spend
a couple of songs on the ground floor, where you can see the band, but
are elbow to elbow with people. Everytime someone wants to move you have
to protect your drink. I suggest we try the upstairs, which we do
(you have to go back outside, and then thru a separate door). When we get
upstairs, we fall in love with the place. Although it's very hot (I'd say
around 95 to 100 degrees), there are open windows and ceiling fans, but
most importantly, there's room to dance, which we do. The place is very
distinctive. There are almost no lights upstairs (the only light comes
from two 'Exit' signs), and it's very hot, and all-in-all a very fun place.
Drinks and bathrooms aren't a problem.
The Iguanas come on and as I'm getting
a drink, and I run into a friend from San Diego!! I didn't think he was
coming (we see each other every day and he never mentioned it), but here
he is, in the flesh. It's great to see him, and he tells me some other
folks I know are also here. We all dance and drink and have great fun.
The Subdudes come on; I've been waiting to
see them, since I hear they're the up-and-coming thing in N.O. They live
up to their reputation with great gospel-folk-blues-rock. After a couple
of tunes, Chris says he wants to leave, so he cuts out and we continue
After another 10 or so songs, we catch a cab to the French Quarter (it
must be 2:30 or so). Dance to a couple of bands and end up in a courtyard
with a (surprisingly) good Blues Band for their last few numbers. We leave
the French Quarter around 4:00, taking a taxi back to the hotel.
Day Eight - Saturday, May 4, 1996
Today is our last day at the actual JazzFest due to travel arrangements.
We see bands like John Mooney & Bluesiana
and catch a little bit of Better Than Ezra.
We hook up with Chris (on the shady side of respect) as we listen to the
African Fusion of Salif Keita. We hear a little
of Beau Jocque again and bits of Van
Morrison from the main stage as we close out our last day at Jazz
We decide to have dinner at the Steak Knife
again. I drive us thru the park on Harrison again and we come in for a
Saturday night dinner. Tonite it's full and there's a three piece jazz
ensemble (drums, bass, & trumpet). We have a wonderful dinner.
We have decided that tonite, our last real night out, we will try one of the
clubs that we have heard about but not yet been to: the
Maple Leaf. We head over to the club and once again there is an
active street scene - about 100 people outside (there's a bar open to the
street, and you can hear the music pretty good). We get there about 11:00
and stay until about 2:00. Seating is a little rough as it is very crowded,
so we spend some of our time outside, and some in the very back corner
of the patio. We dance where we stand, and drink quite a bit. In fact,
I get a little bit drunk!
We are all just about played out as we head back to the hotel at 3:00.
This is what we came to N.O. for - to party so much it hurts - and this
is pretty much what we get. My legs and feet are aching, I've seen more
music in 7 days than I'll probably see for the rest of the year, and in
general, the trip was a success.
Day Nine - Sunday, May 5, 1996
My last day in N.O. this year. I have to leave for the airport around
4:00. Could not extend my trip - they wanted $670 for a one way ticket
back to S.D. tommorrow!).
Get up around noon - lay around and talk and listen to music for a while.
I spend what seems like 2 1/2 hours packing and catch a cab to the airport.
The taxi driver is 30 minutes late, I barely catch my plane (to Salt Lake
City) .. the plane is full and I don't get a chance to have a cigarette.
It takes longer to get home than it does to get there (Jet Streams?), so
go directly to the smoking lounge at the Salt Lake airport. While I'm sitting
there having a cig, I see another friend from San Diego, Lisa,
walking by! She says that she and Nick are returning from Oregon where
he just got done playing a gig. We board the plane to S.D. together, drink
beers and talk all the way, and get to the airport around 11:00. By midnight
I am home, and my vacation is over.
This was my second trip to N.O. I think I will change things
a little next year (hotel closer to F.Q., no rental car, one weekend only,
overlapping Monday/Tuesday nights). Last year was a completely new experience
and I was really blown away. This year, now having expectations, I was
worried that the event might not live up to my hopes. Overall, I would
have to say that it did, and that New Orleans during Jazz Fest is one
of the funnest places you'll ever find.