We opted for first weekend of Jazz Fest this year (after a multi-year hiatus), wanting to see the Crescent City for ourselves and to put some cash into the hands of local musicians, cab drivers, bartenders, club owners, restauranteurs, street artists, gallery owners, etc.
On Friday night, we opened the festivities by taking the Canal Street Ferry across the river to Algiers. Old Point Bar is to the left about five blocks down. Singer-songwriters Marc Stone, Shannon McNally and Anders Osborne sang a few, then cranked it up a notch with the likes of Terrance Simien, Arlee Leonard and The Campbell Brothers sitting in, all in the first set. After some barbequed ribs and chicken outside, we caught a hard-to-come-by cab into downtown and then another one uptown to Les Bon Temps Roule, where Henry Butler was jamming with George Porter and Johnny Vidacovich. One of the things I love best about Fest are the gigs that only happen at Fest. They’re exquisite gumbos with all the top New Orleans players as ingredients.
On Saturday, we made it a point to dine at a great New Orleans restaurant. We found one–The Pelican Club–on Exchange Place in the Quarter. I enjoyed my pesto encrusted Atlantic salmon immensely. After dinner we stepped next door to the Michalopoulos Gallery and marveled at the man’s brushstrokes (and the prices he was selling for) before catching a cab to Frenchman Street. Our first show of the evening was Bill Summers and Friends at The Blue Nile, followed by Anders Osborne one block down at d.b.a.. It rained hard and the power went out three times. We dropped by House of Blues for N. Mississippi Allstars and then walked back to our hotel on Gravier.
Sunday night, we kept to the special Fest gumbo diet, venturing out to the new Howlin’ Wolf, a nice open room for music. Original Meters guitarist Leo Nocentelli was sitting in with the bass player, keyboardist and drummer from Galactic. “Sissy Stut” and “Jesus Children” by Stevie Wonder were particularly outstanding. The Wolf’s second show of the night featured Ivan Neville, his cousin Ian Neville, George Porter and crew. At one point they tweaked Neville Brothers song, “Africa” by substituting “New Orleans” as the central chant, making the post-Katrina point that New Orleans is Third World. An overstatement perhaps, but in song it’s poignant expression nonetheless.