Jazz Fest: singing in the rain

The second  day of my first ever Jazz Fest was a drizzly day. I didn’t have a ride this time so got to take a nice long walk through beautiful City Park. For photos and info on City Park:


After the festivities all day before and our late night watching Toubab Krewe, we got to the fairgrounds a little late. We grabbed some yummy food and headed over to the Congo Square Stage to hear Juvenile and DJ Mannie Fresh. Not my favorite concert but the combo platter was killer; crawfish bag (a satchel of dough tied and baked full of crawfish and saucy yumminess), a oyster fabulous thing in an individual phyllo pastry pie and, my favorite, crawfish beignets.

I finally got to wander through the arts and crafts tents and an area dedicated to local tribes of Native Americans. A group visiting from somewhere else (I think I heard Michigan?) beat rhythmically while chanting as their wives and children waited offstage. It was pretty great.

Then we came across a parade, the Prince of Whales Social Aid and Pleasure Club and the totally cool Original Lady Buckjumpers. If you go to this link, I highly recommend you listen to the Rebirth Brass Band version of Bustin’ Loose offered to the left of the slide show. And though the portraits are nice, the candid shots after are great. These women are clearly having fun and looking good doing it.


Their leader (in blue in my photos) was amazing, shaking what God gave her in high heeled blue boots, parasol in hand, with a whistle hanging from her lip like a cigarette. Damn, she was cool.

We wandered over to Gentilly Stage to see Trombone Shorty, who due to his role as himself on HBO’s Treme, has been enjoying a new spotlight on his locally known gifts. On this link, there’s a great video with an interview and some of his music. Ladies, watch it full screen, he’s also Trombone Hottie. The second video is a battle between Trombone Shorty and Wynton Marsalis at House of Blues. It’s like a battle between Einstein and Hawking with music in lieu of ideas. Wow.


Anyway, we arrived in time to hear one song before something remarkable happened, rapper, Mystikal, fresh from his 6 year stint in jail, joined Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue for 2 songs. When he broke into his hit, Shake Ya Ass, the crowd shook their asses (show me what you’re workin’ with!)

Next up was the carousel I’d heard so much about. Small and wooden, a live band sat in the center providing the music as men manually pushed the carousel around and around. It got some good speed on it, too. It was all very simple and “green.” It made me think of how much we complicate the very things we’re trying to make more simple. I make a piece of toast in my broiler the other day instead of my toaster. It was SO much better, with caramelized puddles of butter.

Next up was Van Morrison. He played the crowd favorites, Brown Eyed Girl and Moondance, as the rain kicked it up another notch. It rains 34 days a year in L.A. so I usually just stayed home and off the roads those days. As a result, I don’t have any proper rain gear for me or my car (my wipers are more for show than clearing rain). Luckily, people have lots of extra rain gear and no one’s too proud to wear a trash bag. I was the belle of the ball in a borrowed giant poncho with snaps down the side and a hood. I’d bought plastic sandals in the French Quarter last Summer and they completed my rubberized ensemble. Most women had very cute galoshes and I suppose I’ll need a pair at some point.

In any case, we swayed and sang and hit beach balls in the rain and wind while Van Morrison sang beautiful songs beautifully and played a wide variety of instruments. It was great.

Then it was off to the Jazz Stage to see a bit of TBC Brass band (TBC stands for To Be Continued). The band started in 2002 when some high school kids got together, borrowed instruments that were literally held together by duct tape and made a name for themselves playing for tourists on the corner of Bourbon and Canal. For music and videos:


(my favorite is their rendition of Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean in the  bottom video entitled TBC Brass Band Big 7 second line)

Traditionally, locals finish Jazz Fest at one of two concerts, The Radiators are a favorite among younger people, the Maple Leaf crowd and Tulane alumni. Everyone else goes to the Neville Brothers. If you haven’t heard of the Neville Brothers (really?), they are one of the many musical dynasties in New Orleans. Trombone Shorty is one of the Andrews’ family and the Marsalis family is another local dynasty. I’m sure there are more, I’m still learning.

The Nevilles played some local favorites, Pocky Way and Fiyo on the Bayou as well as some of those slow, pretty Aaron Neville ballads. For videos and music:

Since I’m not a true local, I wanted to see living legend B.B. King on the way out.


At 84, he sat through his set but he was still the man. Unfortunately, it was the only concert I attended (or attempted to) that was under a tent, which meant limited space. The crowd outside the tent was pressed tight trying (often in vain) to catch a glimpse of the seated bluesman. There were no outdoor speakers so it was hard to feel the music. Then, the rain really kicked in, so we called it a day.

Leaving the fairgrounds, we passed one of the many unofficial vendors who sell beer or rain ponchos on the sidewalk. She was selling bottled water, but she sold it with a really beautiful chanted tune, “Ice cold water… one dollar.” Wish I had a recording of it.

The walk home through City Park was beautiful. The Live Oaks were dripping with Spanish moss that moved like a head of natural curls in the wind. As I walked on sand scraped swollen feet with a bruise from the spare shoes in my bag hitting my belly all day, rain sticking the rubber poncho to my thighs and overly aware of having to pee,  I thought about the oil spill and all that our city may have to face. The government offers no comfort, BP, Halliburton and Transocean either. But I take comfort in knowing that among the many things that make this city unique is the people’s willingness to be uncomfortable. When I lived in New York, I was crowded into a subway once in awhile and walked a LOT, but there were very few physical hardships. In L.A., there was traffic, but I was sitting in a comfortable car in comfortable weather listening to music. Here, people walk or bike miles, carrying packs of plastic weather gear, even changes of clothes, they sweat in 100% humidity (no joke), get eaten alive by bugs (though not so much yet), wade through mud and puddles, get covered in wind blown sand and spend entire days drenched in rain or cooked by sun just to enjoy some music. These city folk are not like any I’ve encountered before.

When it was all sung and done, we gathered in the Treme, to watch HBO’s Treme and I thought how great it was that this show exists. We can’t give you the experience of Jazz Fest (though I did see several people from Treme so perhaps they were shooting), but you can sit around your TVs as we sit around ours and we can all experience the show together. Maybe you won’t laugh or shout out when we do, but it’s a taste and every tatse of New Orleans I’ve ever had left me wanting more.

Apparently, a lot of you like fly swatter dancing man from my first day of Jazz Fest, so I’ve included a few more photos of him. Sorry I couldn’t capture any of his amazing leaps and twists. Enjoy.

1 Comment

Filed under Concerts, Culture, decorations and costumes, festival, Local Cuisine, oil spill catastrophe, parade, walking

One response to “Jazz Fest: singing in the rain

  1. Laura … I am really enjoying your blog!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s