Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007: Sustenance, Soft-Shell Crab, and Sleeps

We awakened at some point around midday and were in need of sustenance, so we headed to Club Decatur for some liquid breakfast. While there, a hooker asked if we needed any “services.” Since I have a personal rule that prevents me from hiring prostitutes before lunchtime, I respectfully declined, but we did admire New Orleans’ unique brand of Southern hospitality.

Solids were craved, so we walked a couple blocks to Felix’s. Once inside, Curtis and Rama were immediately recognized by the guy shucking oysters. Apparently, he used to work at Uglesich’s, and he knew them from their annual visit. Then they realized he was the guy they always called “The Mothershucker.” It was a very happy reunion.

I ordered an appetizer of Marinated Crab Claws, which were very moist with what I believe was pickled radish on top.


My entree was an absolutely enormous Soft-Shell Crab. This thing was just huge. It took up the entire plate, and it was tasty, although this had become one mammoth lunch.


Afterwards, we made a brief trip to the room before we headed out to Lafayette Square Park for Marcia Ball. On the way out of the hotel, I noticed a brass band was playing on Bourbon and Canal, and I took a detour to go check ’em out. The TLC Brass Band wailed on the sidewalk, while a random woman and I danced in the street. I hung there for about 20 or 30 minutes, and it was fun to watch stragglers wander by and stop to take in the fiery band. The whole thing was a very Jazz Fest moment.

After getting a text that someone was opening for Marcia, thus guaranteeing she wouldn’t be on for a while, I briefly went back to the room. Everyone had a complimentary USA Today at their door but us, so I stole one from the adjacent room. I justified this theft by believing I was doing a service to those guests, saving them from mediocre dumbed-down journalism. Then I got off my high horse and went outside.

Dumpstaphunk was on at the Louisiana Music Factory. Their double-bass attack was both tight and heavy, and they ripped through a blistering 25 minute set. It was hot, cramped, and sweaty in the store, and just like many days before, Latin Spitfire was dancing in another provocative outfit. Directly in front of me, an artist made sketches of the band, and he timed his great sketch of Ivan Neville perfectly as he finished exactly when the band ended their set.

Because he didn’t want anyone to take a picture of his work, I followed the artist outside and attempted to negotiate a deal where he would allow me to post a picture in exchange for providing a link to his site. I learned the artist’s name is Curtis Matherne, and like most so many talented artists, Curtis had poor marketing skills and questionable social skills. He was rather arrogant, and when I mentioned the name Frenchy, he lost it, insulting my intelligence and unleashing a tirade about Frenchy is “just throwing acrylic on canvas.” Somewhat amused but also tired of his bullshit, I decided to throw him a curveball and said, “If Frenchy is just throwing acrylic on can canvas, what did Jackson Pollock do?”

That shut him up.

I journeyed on to Lafayette Square Park, and the place was jam-packed with blankets, chairs, and dancers. My krewe was dancing in the middle of this maze, so I made a very creative snaking path through the crowd. Marcia was great. I actually hadn’t seen her since a Jambalaya Jam at Penn’s Landing in Philly 9 or 10 years ago. She really put on a funky and fun show, and she’s a blast to watch with that one leg crossed and bouncing to the beat. Once again, Latin Spitfire was there, shakin’ her tailfeather.

The show ended, and suddenly the leisurely day had become stressful. One of the things I had really wanted to do on this trip was eat at Brigtsen’s. Of course, when you have something like 32 things you want to do on a vacation, something is bound to slip through the cracks because you can’t do it all. This is especially true at Jazzfest when there are countless bands, restaurants, and other curiosities all competing for your precious time.

In this case, time was short to get cleaned up post-Marcia. Plus, we were primed to hit Tips that night for Garage a Benevento with The Midnight Disturbers opening. Several friends had advised us that The Midnight Disturbers were not to be missed. One local described them in these terms: “They’ve only played two gigs, but they’re already the best brass band ever.”

New Orleanians occasionally exaggerate.

I knew I wouldn’t finish a 10PM Brigtsen’s meal and get changed in time to make The Midnight Disturbers probable 11PM starting time, so Curtis gave me a crash course on taping and sent me to Tips while he went to Brigtsens to gorge.

I setup the taping gear, and The Midnight Disturbers second-lined in from outside the club. An All-Star band of All-Star bands, they featured Kirk Joseph on sousaphone, Stanton Moore and Kevin O’Day on drums, Ben Ellman and Skerik on sax, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and James Andrews on trumpet, and Big Sam on trombone. Mark Mullins was absent, but Big Sam more than made up for his absence. In a great sequence where each pair played dueling solos, Big Sam took on two different personas, quickly turning his hat backwards to play in a unique style as “Little Sam.” He did this several times in what was probably the highlight of the set. In all, The Midnight Disturbers were really cool, bringing a darker, more intense vibe to traditional brass band music, although they didn’t quite live up to the absurd level of hype. Something tells me that they also didn’t quite match the level of their set at Papa Mali’s Stoned Soul Picnic on the Thursday before the Fest.

I hadn’t eaten dinner, and while missing Brigtsen’s was starting to hurt, it opened a brand new culinary opportunity. Earlier in the week, someone had tipped me off about something called grit fries on the food truck outside of Tips. The guys running the truck were really friendly, and I ordered a pulled pork po’ boy with a side of grit fries. The pulled pork was not bad, but it was nothing special. There was no smokiness, and I couldn’t really taste the meat under the thick wash of sauce.

But then there were grit fries.

Oh, you delicious grit fries.

Through what must have been an act of gastronomic wizardry, grits were somehow molded into the shape of thick rectangles and then deep fried. In the past I have asked the question “Is there anything that doesn’t taste good when it’s deep fried?” I have yet to find my answer, and these wonderful grits definitely passed the test. I dipped them in this amazing honey-vinegar sauce that was a perfect sweet and sour blend. I’m sure that nibbling foie gras in Brigtsen’s genteel establishment would have been nice, but I honestly wouldn’t trade that for the chance to park my ass on the sidewalk and devour grit fries from a paper plate.

Garage a Benevento began, and my low expectations were quickly exceeded. I don’t know why I didn’t expect much from this quartet, but they really jelled well, producing a jammy 1980s Japanese pop sound. An excellent version of The Duo’s “Scratchiti” was later followed by a long jam on The Zombies’ “She’s Not There,” which led to Skerik unleashing a nasty series of “brown notes.”

Set Two began with a very big take on The Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There,” but then everything got very mellow. I was pretty tired by the time the second set rolled around, and during this lengthy melllow section, I actually fell asleep while leaning on the balcony railing. It was kind of scary because I nearly fell down. Flipping over the balcony at Tipitina’s would have been a shitty way to go, and a staff member noticed. At Tips, they really hate it when you fall asleep and die in their club. I backed away to a safer spot, and I even broke my own personal rules and went to get some much-needed caffeine.

Skerik helped pick me up with an improv around the phrase “I’m makin’ bacon.” (True, the thought of bacon always perks me up.) Shortly thereafter, the band whipped into a frenzied “Gimme Some Lovin'” before finding themselves in a pounding, slower rendition of “What Is and What Should Never Be,” featuring some really cool work on the vibes from Mike Dillon. “Immigrant Song” provided an intense set closer, and a slow, grooving “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” eventually built into a jumping encore.

Now that I was perked up (and the chance of getting a cab outside of Tips without bloodshed was unlikely), we walked up to Miss Mae’s for some absurdly cheap Hoegaardens. Somehow we wound up outside of Le Bon Temps Roule (I think we caught a cab) where Groovesect was playing. It was crowded, so we never actually went inside, and eventually, we caught a cab home and called it a morning.

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