Words & Images by: Robert Pollock
Only in New Orleans.
You've probably heard that expression before. Think back. Was it during Jazz Fest, Mardi Gras, maybe French Quarter Fest? I'm going to change that to, "All the time in New Orleans." In these economically challenging days, you can pick a long weekend, pay a lot less, and still have many "only in New Orleans" moments. That's what I did January 28 through February 2, 2010. Taking advantage of lower hotel rates and airfares during this "off" season before Mardi Gras, I arrived at the Dauphine Orleans in the French Quarter, hit the Redfish Grill for some great gumbo (no reservation needed), then headed to the world famous Maple Leaf to see the George Porter Jr. Trio. This weekly show stars the former Meter man with a revolving cast of guests. This night it was sax player Khris Royal and young gun guitar player Dan Abel, both from the New Orleans funk band Groovesect, and drummer Terrence Houston. To see Porter in this intimate environment allowed lucky patrons to get right up close to absorb the funky bass lines of this American treasure. No line at the bar, room to move on the floor, and New Orleans funk served by one of the players that helped write the recipe.
|George Porter Jr. :: 01.28 :: New Orleans, LA|
Rolled out around 1 p.m. to my favorite bar in the French Quarter, Yo Mamma's on St. Peter near Bourbon. Boiled crawfish for breakfast? I had two orders. Again, there were no lines to get in and a seat at the bar. On the walk back to the hotel in the rain I heard a voice and accordion that stopped me in my tracks. Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers were kicking out their brand of high energy zydeco, so I just hung out at the Krazy Korner 'til the rain stopped. I got a spot in front of washboard player Alex MacDonald and I didn't mind taking up a barstool for my camera bag. The place was reasonably crowded but not packed.
The rain finally stopped and I headed out to the new Rock 'n' Bowl (no steps!) to catch Anders Osborne. The Rock 'n' Bowl has a real local feel to it, with families bowling and a hula hoop contest before the show that brought a smile to my face. Owner John Blancher led the crowd in Super Bowl chants that belong to the people of New Orleans and not the National Football League. I could feel the excitement these fans feel for their team. Osborne played a killer set with a trio featuring drums and a sousaphone.
|Anders Osborne :: 01.29 :: New Orleans, LA|
I could easily have stayed for the entire show and would have if this had been in any other town, but this is New Orleans. Off I went to Tipitina's to see The Radiators' 32nd anniversary show. For 32 years these New Orleans legends have been offering up a gumbo of rock, blues, funk, and folk music. They have played with the early New Orleans legends Professor Longhair and James Booker, and have held the closing spot at Jazz Fest for many years. I have seen the Rads many times at big festivals, but here they were playing for a mostly hometown crowd with room to dance.
Woke up late and got ready for the Krewe De Vieux Mardi Gras Parade. Mardi Gras is a long celebration and Fat Tuesday was still two weeks away. The parade was led by Dr. John. My plan afterwards was to go check out Kermit Ruffins at the Rock N' Bowl, but the realities of time and space compounded by the party at the Mardi Gras parade, well, it was just out of my hands. As Anders says, sometimes you just have to let the old man steer.
I'm a fishhead, so it was back to Tip's for more Radiation, where I was rewarded with a kick ass second set. These guys can bring it, plain and simple. Congratulations to Frank, Reggie, Dave, Camille and Ed for 32 years of fishhead music.
I was going to take Sunday off and just chill in the Quarter, but I saw Dan Abel and he told me Groovesect was playing a small place on Jefferson Davis Highway called the Bayou Beer Garden. As it turns out it was a birthday party for drummer Colin Davis' girlfriend and I got to go all because we had talked music at the Maple Leaf on Thursday. Now, I'm not saying you're always going to get invited to parties, but most New Orleans musicians are accessible and like to meet the people who support live music.
|Preservation Hall :: 02.02 :: New Orleans, LA|
Got up early and went to Café Du Monde for a café latte and beignets. Bloody Mary at the Gazebo, and what do you know? A good band was playing for tips. Stayed for one more drink, just taking in the French Quarter. By 5 p.m. I was wondering what to do till Papa Grows Funk at the Leaf that night. Lovely Renee, my bartender at Yo Mamma's, suggested I go across the street to Preservation Hall. What I found there was straight up Dixieland jazz played by musicians carrying on a way of life that is found only in New Orleans.
Back to the Maple Leaf for Papa Grows Funk, or should I say Momma Grows Funk. Sitting in for the newly married John Gros was Keiko Matsui. A very good piano/B3 player, she wailed. Of course, she had help from June, Jason, Jelly Bean, and Marc. Gros finally showed up as the band teased "The Wedding March." The band and the audience had a good laugh, then got down to business. The funk was flying, and it seems married life is treating Gros well.
So, there you have it, folks. Five nights, eight shows, and a Mardi Gras parade, without one complaint about crowds, overpriced rooms, not being able to get a cab, not being able to get a beer and then get your spot back - none of it. Only in New Orleans.
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