Tuesday, May 1, 2007: The Road to Recovery via Debris, Dragon Smoke, and a Deep Massage

After the rough night, I recovered and made my way to get something to eat. Under these circumstances, the sensible decision would have involved eating something light, but when it comes to New Orleans food, I always try to avoid the sensible decision. Believe it or not, this was my first trip to the infamous Mother’s. Since there was a po’ boy that literally had my name on it, I opted for the Famous Ferdi Special. It was a packed po’ boy filled with baked ham, roast beef, debris (the delicious leftover bits of roast beef in the pan), and gravy, fully “dressed” with shredded cabbage, pickles, mayo, Creole mustard, and yellow mustard. All of these flavors combined to create one huge, sloppy mess of a sandwich. Hot damn, was it good! Immediately, my stomach felt a thousand times better, and once again, eating insensibly proved to be the smart choice.

After walking over to the New Orleans Arena to buy tickets for the upcoming second weekend of the Fairgrounds, I made my way over to the greatest record store on Earth, the Louisiana Music Factory. The Factory always has great free performances during the Fest, and people awkwardly pack in the cramped aisles to see intimate sets from local artists who have just released new albums. I saw a bunch of cool acts on this day, but there were two that really stood-out. The first was sousaphonist Matt Perrine’s Sunflower City, which is a beautiful, old-time sounding collection of classic New Orleans tunes with an optimistic feel. This really was a gorgeous performance of what would become one of my favorite albums of the year, and it was highlighted by a vocal duet between Alex MacMurray and a woman who was performing while holding her newborn baby. It was the kind of precious scene that melted the icy chambers of my frozen heart.

The second noteworthy in-store performance was delivered by Stanton Moore, who was promoting two new instructional DVDs about the techniques of New Orleans drumming. Essentially, Stanton did a free clinic for everyone who was around. Demonstrating the evolution of funk by playing the signature beats from classic tunes, he also talked about the history of funk, citing little stories about James Brown’s penchant for discovering drummers in small clubs. Then he talked about what comprises a New Orleans secondline beat, and he showed the subtle ways that swing can slowly morph into funk. Not only was this incredibly interesting and informative, but it was also really entertaining, and people were definitely dancing to his beats. Latin Spitfire was even there, shakin’ her tailfeather. I’d have to say that Stanton’s clinic was easily one of the cooler things I’ve ever seen at Jazz Fest.

Eventually, it was time for the evening’s entertainment to begin, so I headed over to the oasis of Frenchmen Street. Along the way, I stopped at Angeli, a place that was recommended by a bartender in d.b.a many years ago. Angeli serves great food, much of it is even healthy, and it’s open nice and late. Figuring I could get my week’s dosage in one shot, I went for the grilled veggie sandwich, which was rather tasty.


Then I made my way over to the Blue Nile for Dragon Smoke. I had such high hopes for this outfit, comprised of Stanton Moore, Ivan Neville, Robert Mercurio, and Eric Lindell, but this first set was aimless, weak, and disappointing. It was clear that Lindell couldn’t hold down the lead guitar slot, and as a result, the music suffered and sounded rudderless.

On the other hand, Set Two of Dragon Smoke was a completely different animal, as the band was amped up from the start. Then they really stood at attention when two hot burlesque dancers took the stage. I can’t really explain it, but music really sounds better when accompanied by two hot burlesque dancers. Funny how that is.

The momentum kept rolling with Junior Walker & the All-Stars’ “Shotgun,” which is a personal favorite of mine. Then Eddie Roberts sat in, and with a bonafide lead guitarist on hand, Lindell could find his niche, and everything drastically improved. They pulled out a Meters tune, and Curtis Mayfield’s “If There’s a Hell Below (We’re All Gonna Go)” was excellent.

Around the same time that the guys kicked into a sweet reggae groove, I discovered that the Blue Nile had a masseuse in the front window. For one measly buck a minute, this incredibly gifted young lady delivered transcendent bliss to my aching back. Accompanied by a nice jam, this was ten minutes of heaven.

Based on this experience, I think there is a very viable market for hot jams and deep massages. If she is at the Blue Nile next year, I’ll be spending a lot of time there.

Dragon Smoke concluded, so we moved a few doors down to d.b.a. for Skerik’s Maelstrom Trio. Skerik was playing with Brian Coogan, Simon Lott, and somebody I couldn’t identify on guitar. Julie astutely asked “Why does every trio in New Orleans have more than 3 people in it?”

Curtis and I grabbed much-needed seats, and we downed a few much-needed Hoegaardens. The music was more on the abrasive end of Skerik’s canon, and it was distorted metal-jazz. Eventually, Glenn Hartman, the N.O.K.A.S. accordion player, sat in for an odd pairing that was actually rather successful.

Then the music stopped around 4:30ish, and Skerik surprisingly announced there would be a second set. Outside during setbreak, Galactic’s Robert Mercurio told Skerik he was leaving, and then Skerik berated him and called him a pussy for retiring so early. It was fun to watch.

Set Two started at 5AM, and Mark Southerland sat in on soprano sax. He wailed his ass off, and he definitely outplayed Skerik. It’s rare that Skerik ever accepts a passive role on stage, especially in his own combo, but that was certainly the case on this morning. Maybe he was tired. Anyway, the festivities ended 45 minutes to an hour later, and I got into an argument with a bartender for throwing out my 3/4s-full glass of beer. Truthfully, I acted like a jackass, although I must admit that the d.b.a. bartenders were anything but friendly. It was a far cry from the warm atmosphere of Mardi Gras. Pissed off, we traversed the Quarter and crashed around 6:30.

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