Surprisingly, I awakened bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 11AM. Amazingly, Curtis was up, as well, so we went to Club Decatur for a few pints of our Hoegaarden breakfast. Mike picked us up and drove us to a church in the Treme for Ed Bradley’s Jazz Funeral. I’d always wanted to see a jazz funeral, and I was very surprised that the small canopy in the church parking lot wasn’t mobbed by people. As it stood, there were maybe 75 of us.
We arrived and walked around the side of the canopy to watch Dr. John on a Hammond B-3, tearing up “Cabbage Alley” with a few horns. Arthel Neville was hosting this affair, and she introduced her daddy, Art, who took over Dr. John’s seat and then played a solo version of “Big Chief.” Al “Carnival Time” Johnson stepped up next to sing his signature song (“Carnival Time”) with Art on the organ, but Al kept pissing Art off by reaching over and playing a few notes on Art’s keys. More than once, Art stopped and asked Al “Do you wanna play it?” and the situation became a little tense and awkward, especially considering that we were right outside of a church. Nevertheless, Art kept it together and bit his lip, probably because he was at a funeral, which in New Orleans is usually a joyful occasion.
Following the tense moments between the two old school titans of Nola R&B, the Dixie Cups performed “Iko Iko.” At this point, I started to feel as though we were witnessing a mini Jazz Fest in this church parking lot. So many major players were there, and they were all mere feet away from us, milling about like the regular everyday Joes they truly are.
The musical portion of the service ended when the priest got up to sing “A Closer Walk With Thee.” To be honest, the priest’s vocals were warbling, off-key, and downright terrible, especially in comparison to the legends who preceded him. Nevertheless, I enjoyed his performance most of all because he was pouring his guts into it. He was singing as if his life depended on it, and his full-throated passion was infectious, igniting the crowd to sing along with him.
Arthel introduced Leah Chase, who invited everyone to sample some of her Dooky Chase cuisine. The Stuffed Pepper Casserole was piquant, and the Eggplant Casserole was very mellow. It was all good. Playing off Mayor Ray Nagin’s famous tirade on the radio after Katrina, a local company presented samples of their Chocolate City Ice Cream.
Not only was the name perfect, but the ice cream was rich and delicious. Of course, it was only fitting when Mayor Nagin, himself, showed up at the funeral. A good sport, he noted the ice cream and made a crack about himself. He posed for pictures with people, and a hilarious moment ensued when Mike somehow wound up in a picture with Mayor Nagin. On the car ride over, Mike had gone on a long rant about how much he detests the mayor, so it was hysterical to see him uncomfortably shoved into the role of hypocrite, as his least favorite politician suddenly had his arm around him for the cameras. After this bizarre incident, Leah Chase addressed the crowd and she singled out Curtis, concerned that the “guy without a shirt on” might get sunburned. While she was there, we should have taken the opportunity to ask Leah what the deal is with her restaurant, Dooky Chase, which always seems to be rumored of opening soon but never seems to ever truly open.
We left the funeral and arrived at the Fairgounds at 2PM. Immediately, I grabbed a Trout Baquet with Crawfish Bisque combo. The trout was really nothing special, but the bisque was wonderfully rich and creamy. I chose this combination because my goal during this Jazz Fest was to try many of the different types of Fairgrounds food that I had never previously tasted. I took this rich bisque and blasé trout to the Jazz Tent to hear the soulful organ of Dr. Lonnie Smith, who was surprisingly just as non-descript and boring as the dead fish on my plate.
Not satisfied with that food offering, I went back to the old mainstay: Cochon de Lait Po’ Boy. Over the years, I’ve noticed that the Cochon de Lait can vary wildly in terms of quality. This day’s offering was a little dry but had much more meat.
I went to the Gentilly Stage for the supergroup, New Orleans Social Club, and as expected, this cadre of local All-Stars was quite good. Unfortunately, the Henry Butler’s microphone was off when he tried to sing “Tipitina.” The same was true for Dr. John. The musicians on the stage were unhappy, the crowd was ticked off, yet the guys at the soundboard seemed incredibly nonchalant and even appeared to not notice the problem. Eventually, they switched mics, then channels and then started the song over. Just like on the album, John Boutte’s cover of Annie Lennox’s “Why?” was overwhelmingly emotional and really resonated.
Up next was a trip to the Lagniappe to see the man I had long wanted to see: boogie-woogie pianist and eccentric nutcase, Bobby Lounge, who was flat-out hilarious while romping up and down the pearly 88’s. His set was just tons of fun. I don’t know how anyone can miss this cat’s set at Jazz Fest because I’ve been waiting to hear him ever since he released the fantastic album, The Night Your Trailer Burned Down. His lyrics are white trash fantasies with sardonic and perverted wit, and he’s always wheeled on stage in an iron lung, courtesy of his private nurse, Gina Pontevechio, who sits off to the side of stage, looking bored and reading tabloid magazines. Because he pointed out that he’s better than Jerry Lee Lewis, I decided to skip geriatric Jerry’s conflicting set. Truthfully, Bobby Lounge would have outclassed anyone with his brilliant and riotous performance.
Nevertheless, Bobby was also conflicting with New Orleans’ Queen of Soul, Irma Thomas. I love Irma, and I always make it a point to catch her set on the Fairgrounds, so I raced over to the Gentilly stage just in time to see the second-line portion of her show, which was undeniably fun. Then she sang her classic, “Time is on My Side,” which is exactly what I wanted to hear.
Irma would be ending soon, so I left for the Fais Do-Do, where Gillian Welch was performing. Since it was hot, and I’d never tried one before, I grabbed a Mango Freeze, which was very refreshing. Now I know why they’re so damn popular. Gillian’s music was very pretty, but it was a little too mellow for my needs.
Then it was back to my beloved Economy Hall for the legendary Pete Fountain. This titan of the clarinet is a Jazz Fest staple for me, and he was excellent, per usual. Everyone was up dancing and second-lining, creating a really fun vibe in the tent.
Having never seen music at the Kid’s Tent, I decided to see how the smaller half lives at Jazz Fest, observing a set called “Sunpie Barnes with Louisiana Creole Music.” This was actually a lot of fun. This band of kids was really great, especially those who were dancing and leading the second line. Some of them were rather little (maybe only 5 or 6 years old). I did my best to avoid looking like a pedophile, but I’m sure some of the mothers were quite frightened of me. Honestly, I would be frightened of me, too. Before I wore out my welcome, I opted to second-line out on “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
It would be wrong to say, “Small children make me hungry,” so I won’t say that. Regardless, I decided to eat and opted for an old favorite in the form of the Alligator Pie, Fried Green Tomato, and Crabmeat-Stuffed Shrimp Combo Platter. ‘Twas a great dinner, as the gator was very herby, the tomato had an excellent, smoky sauce, and the shrimp was joyously overstuffed with luscious crabmeat.
Mike had previously tipped me off to The New Orleans Bingo! Show, which was a very weird performance art kind of thing at the Lagniappe. There aren’t many acts at Jazz Fest that feature musicians in bizarre makeup and costumes, playing a Theremin and a saw. Nevertheless, just like everyone else at Jazz Fest, these musicians were quite talented in their own odd way. The lead singer had a voice that sounded very much like Prince. However, the name of this band was The New Orleans Bingo! Show, yet somewhat confusingly, there was no actual Bingo being played. I’ve had the misfortune of seeing a lot of performance art in my lifetime, and I will confess that I did not get it.
The Fest ended, and I had already known that my favorite band on planet Earth, The New Mastersounds, would be playing a free gig on Marca’s porch, right across from Liuzza’s. Oh man, I cannot say enough about the amazing scene here! The location was absolutely perfect, with people coming right out of the Fairgrounds and walking into a killer party. Like a scene out of Martha Reeves’ wildest dreams, there were several hundred freaks dancin’ in the street to the funky sounds of the five lads from Leeds. Smiles were all around. People were shakin’ it like there was no tomorrow, while guzzling Bloody Marys and Hurricanes. There was even a woman, whom I dubbed “Latin Spitfire,” dressed in some wildly skimpy ballroom dancing outfit with a lot of feathers dancing to her own crazed rumba beat.
I felt like I was on another planet, and as Chris Bertolet once said about Galactic, “It was as if someone got inside my hips’ control center and hotwired the motherfucker!”
Simply put, the band, who played in front of a couple of flying Union Jacks, won a lot of fans, but they would have been better served if they had posted a sign with their name on it. (Oh, you artists! When will you ever learn Marketing 101?) All of the craziness was filmed for an upcoming DVD about The New Mastersounds’ first trip to New Orleans, and the killer vibes continued when Groovesect followed and also put on an excellent set.
(Editor’s note: This post-Fest porch gig that New Mastersounds played with Stanton Moore briefly sitting in on drums was easily the best concert I saw in 2007. I saw a ton of spectacular live performances last year, but nothing touched the wild vibes of that streetparty.)
This is neither here nor there, but for some reason, I feel it’s worth pointing out that while there was a huge danceparty going on in front of Liuzza’s, a wookie sold Kind Veggie Burritos and was accompanied by a baby goat. That’s right—a baby goat. I have no idea why.
Frances, Katia, and Gooner met us for a good deal of Groovesect, and then they drove us home. I then slept for two hours before going to Howlin’ Wolf to see some crazy funk all-stars show, featuring Leo Nocentelli, George Porter, Jr., Russell Batiste, Raymond Weber, Bernie Worrell, Henry Butler, Ivan Neville, Ian Neville, Adam Deitch, Kevin O’Day, Tony Hall, Skerik, Cheme, and a sax player who was introduced as Grover Washington, Jr., although I don’t think it was actually him. This unit, which I dubbed “Almost Everyone In New Orleans Who Plays Funk Music,” played lots of big funk covers, and the second set featured plenty of tunes by P-funk and James Brown. It was here that I decided I no longer need to hear anyone play The Meters’ “People Say.” It’s getting old and tired now. The same goes for “Just Kissed My Baby,” although I know I’m in the minority on that one. Nevertheless, Leo was not on stage for much of the gig, which was an absolutely wonderful blessing. This enabled other guys to have space, and it was really cool to see Henry Butler playing straight up funk. It was also great to watch bassists Tony Hall and George Porter, Jr. have a blast while communicating back-and-forth.
The ladies had to depart for Gulfport, so I bid them adieu and went to Frenchmen for The New Mastersounds at the Blue Nile. They had just begun a second set that would last until 6AM, making it a second set that was at least 3 hours long. Digging deep for all sorts of covers, Eddie Roberts was wailing as they jammed the crap out of Johnnie Taylor’s “Who’s Making Love?” and I went nuts. Pete Shand was so funky and grooving so hard on his bass that I thought his hand was gonna fall off. Simon Allen sounded awesome, locking into a nasty pocket on the drums.
In need of refreshment, Curtis and I walked through Quarter in search of 6AM Hoegaardens. We were led by one of the nastiest women I’ve ever seen. She was a total skeletal wreck, and Curtis and I had a fun time playing the classic guessing game, “Junkie or Crackhead?” Leaning towards the former, we tried to see how many double-entendres we could create with the word “horse.” Along the way, we passed Shea making out with someone on the street, which is notable because I seem to find Shea doing that every year. We allowed our haggard tourguide to get back on the horse, and then we stumbled towards the hotel, double-fisting Hoegaardens along the way. While I have little to know recollection of it, the pictures below indicate that we ate breakfast somewhere.
I don’t know what this is or where it came from, but apparently, I ate it. It looks like an omelet, and since I ordered it, I’m guessing there had to be a good amount of bacon, andouille sausage, or some other kind of pork involved. I ate biscuits and gravy, too?!?! I haven’t the foggiest notion what this is, but I guess I ate it, as well. Holy shit, I had to have been REALLY hungry! I’m surprised I didn’t eat Curtis, too.
Post-mystery breakfast, we made it to the Old Absinthe House. Curtis had a yearning for Bloody Marys, and he asked how they make them, worried that they might use a mix. The bartender laughed, “Oh, you’ve never had one of ours? Sit down.” We didn’t sit down because Curtis felt confident enough in her response that he immediately ordered two for each of us. I’m not really a huge Bloody Mary fan, but I wasn’t in the mood to object to anything at that moment (and thankfully, these drinks were excellent), so we two-fisted Bloody Marys on our way up to the hotel hot tub, where we soaked for two hours. The sun was out, and it felt great, as if we were marinating in our own juices. As far as I know, no one has ever eaten Vodka-Braised Ferdman before, but I’ll bet I would have made for a tasty dish. The hot tub was a magical cure-all, and my weary legs now felt great. Finally, we crashed at 11:15AM.