Fest Weekend 2: The Fog Lifts Momentarily


The fog has temporarily lifted. Notice the use of temporarily. I expect this to be a brief moment of lucidity, for this is the second, and final weekend of Jazz Fest. Surprisingly, Friday’s crowds were light, as usually the second weekend is a bigger draw than the first.

But there were no big-time headliners on Friday, well, except for Keith Urban. JF doesn’t usually draw modern country music fans, however, so there was plenty of space at Acura for those intent on seeing Keith. There was also the threat of rain all day, and it might have scared off lots of locals and others with flexibility (say, Brass Pass holders), given the torrid downfalls on Thursday. Though I did not live through K (well, I’m living through my version of K this week), even I experienced a little post-traumatic shock as I watched the water rise on Canal St. (Luckily, the rains delayed an Eric Lindell performance at Louisiana Music Factory, so K and I were among a very small crowd who got to see him there.

Lindell just put out a CD with Alligator Records, and though it is primarily cuts from previous CDs, it is giving him well-deserved recognition. He also is introducing new material here, so maybe a new CD is around the corner? Given Eric’s past, K and I, in our capacity as Safety Third spokesmodels, presented Eric and his bandmates with S3 bumperstickers. They were much appreciative.)


JF attendance figures always seem to be some kind of state secret, at least until the Heritage Foundation determines how it wants to properly spin the numbers. So who knows how many people have come and gone so far.

Friday music: We first caught the Pine Leaf Boys, whom I’d seen in the DC area a few months ago. This young band (all in their early 20s, according to their bios) plays a mix of Cajun and zydeco, and reminds me a little of Steve Riley. Very talented musicians, and they are being packaged a little bit like Old Crow Medicine Show or some of the other old-timey bands – to appeal to 20-somethings. Pine Leaf Boys should be watched. We went on to the honky tonk sounds of local band Kim Carson & The Casualties, who were on the mostly-country-themed Acura Stage.

From there, it was on to the medical tent, where an attendant tried to convince us that a spray-on mix of Butane and lanolin would soothe our fire ant bites. No thanks. K bit, though, and then was sorry because her Chacos kept sliding off from the grease. We made a brief stop for Crawfish Monica and a plate full of Thai grilled chicken, Jama-Jama (sautéed spinach) and plaintains.

Then it was on to Congo Square for Mem Shannon, a former New Orleans taxi driver who started playing the blues 10 or 12 years ago. He was sounding good – sometimes he gets a little too soft-jazz for me – but I didn’t hear much of it this show. As he mentioned, Mem is up for 2 W.C. Handy Blues awards. Winners announced in a few weeks.


We then saw some of Marva Wright, but fled in horror as she belted out a slightly-altered version of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive. We got the sentiment, but that song should only be performed in a gay karaoke bar and loudly and drunkenly to boot.

Then we saw Big Chief Monk Boudreaux & The Golden Eagles Mardi Gras Indians while we shopped for toe rings, nose rings, dashikis and incense at the Congo Square booths. And we found the day’s Safety Third winners: Lizard boy and his sidekick. They kept asking if they would get into trouble by appearing on film with the S3 sticker, as if we would ask some practically-under-age boys to do something illegal!


K informed them that they would only get into trouble if they wanted to. (The following section was deleted to protect the innocent.)

Finally, we were getting to the highlights of our day: Eric Lindell, who rocked the Fais Do-Do Stage, and then Tab Benoit (aka K’s boyfriend).

Tab was fired up. He’s always been a great performer, but compared to a few years ago, he now really seems to own the stage. And he’s using it as a bully pulpit for his Voice of the Wetlands project, which aims to educate America about Louisiana’s disappearing coastline. VOW existed well before Katrina and since Tab hails from Houma, he’s acutely aware of how the diversion of the Mississippi River through the levee system and the dredging of industrial canals by the oil companies (among other factors) has hastened the wetlands’ erosion – and thus, removed any natural storm surge barrier.

His tight set included some of the musicians who played on the fund-raising VOW CD: Monk Boudreaux, Johnny Sansone, and Waylon Thibodeaux. Oh, and that woman banging the tambourine in white pants and gold lame jacket was Tab’s proud mom. Don’t ask. When the crowd clapped and begged for more – usually, there are no encores at JF – Tab came back out and launched into a down-home diatribe about the wetlands issue. A lot of folks listened, despite the fact that by this time of day, most JF-goers are completely wasted. In every sense of the word.

We finished out at Lil’ Brian & the Zydeco Travelers, who had the crowd hopping. Zydeco purists get a little miffed at Lil’ Brian, partly because the songs are awfully long to dance to, but also because they veer into hip-hop and funk, but I say Bring it On. A big shout-out to my bacon and eggs man, you know who you are.

We also saw some of Angelique Kidjo, a strikingly beautiful singer from Benin who is well known on the festival and world music scene. A very good entertainer with beautiful songs. But we had to run out of the Fest to catch our friend’s gospel choir – she was singing at a Baptist church in the Bywater.

K knew it was a gamble – I was going into another one of my hypoglycemic fits and I was dirty, in a haze from, well, whatever had come my way earlier in the day, in need of a toilet…and I did not think that sitting in church would do much for my mood. But like a recalcitrant teenager, I did my duty, and we sat outside the doors among the swarming termites. Of course it was an uplifting experience, and pretty soon the fog lifted.

We ran back uptown to get clean (in a manner of speaking) and then sat down to an immensely satisfying meal of a dozen raw oysters, jambalaya and spinach salad with grilled shrimp at Felix’s uptown branch on Prytania. And then we cruised Howlin’ Wolf (too crowded) and Les Bon Temps (too crowded) and K was ready to call it a night.

Two additions to earlier posts: First, I took K on the Katrina-disaster tour earlier in the week and as we drove by Fats Domino’s house in the Lower 9th (river side of Claiborne), I noticed that the infamous graffiti on the side of the compound that had pronounced RIP Fats – We’ll Miss You, was now scrubbed almost-clean, though there were vestiges of pink on the white aluminum. Second, we did find an elusive dyed-mustache guy. As you can see from the photo, it was not easy to capture him.


1 Comment so far

  1. Woof Dawg (unregistered) on May 8th, 2006 @ 9:13 pm

    For godsake take your penicillin. God knows what’s teeming on those NOLa forks (did I say forks?).

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