Went on a long humid walk to my third YLC (Youth Leadership Council) Wednesday at the Square.
Billy Iuso & the Restless Natives opened the show. New Orleans has many music dynasties including the Nevilles and Andrews families. Iuso invited his daughter, Aria (8), to join him onstage and sing along. She was adorable and so brave, standing on that stage with a giant microphone in her little face and a big crowd stretched out before her. Supposedly, Iuso’s 2 young sons also perform at times.
The concert series is free and all food and beverage proceeds go to YLC so it’s not only a cheap date, but one you can feel good about. The crowd was thinner this week and far more local. My favorite guy was somebody’s Paw Paw in a psychedelic shirt with an image of Jimmy Hendrix staring from his back (pictured below).
There were many musicians in the crowd including Grady Champion, the 2010 International Blues Challenge award winning blues singer and harmonica player.
He was getting ready to play jazz all the way to Chicago with Big Bill and Mud Morganfield, the sons of Muddy Waters, on a train leaving the next day to celebrate National Train Day. He told me he was walking by Lafayette Square and was drawn in by the music. When I got home and looked him up, I was impressed by his credentials and by his, now obvious to me, humility.
Between shows, I walked away from the crowd but I think Super Bowl champion, Shockey, came onstage. There were t-shirts shot from a cannon and Saintsations again, but if you’ve been following the blog, you already saw all that.
Next onstage at the Square was Junco Partners. They were really great. I don’t have much of a vocabulary for the different kinds of great the music is here but I can report that they ended with some fun cover songs and we all sang along and danced in the humidity.
Afterward, I headed down to the French Quarter to Bourbon Street. We’d heard that Rebirth Brass Band was playing in the street for free!
They’re the band Treme used in their first episode in the Second Line scene. As I mentioned in my post, I’ve got the music in me, brass bands are fast becoming my favorite. I’ve always liked them bunches, but now that I have access to the best of the best all the time, it’s a full blown love affair.
A word on locals and Bourbon Street. As you may have noticed if you’re watching HBO’s Treme, New Orleanians tend to avoid Bourbon Street because of the drunk and disorderly tourists who come to town, drink themselves silly and leave again without ever leaving the Quarter. Heck, I know locals who can be downright snotty about Bourbon. But, local Louisianans come to Bourbon Street year round and I wouldn’t call someone from Hammond or Slidell a tourist. I’ve been coming to Bourbon with my cousins, who are local to the state but not the city, for decades and I have a lot of fun memories of good times there. And as a teenager, I’d go from my home in Maryland to Georgetown, D.C. to hang out but it never occurred to me that I would be called a tourist. I lived 40 minutes away.
I lay all that out for you so that you understand how amazing it was that the New Orleans locals I was with, who NEVER go to Bourbon, were the ones wanting to go – that’s how awesome Rebirth is and that’s my point.
The block party in front of Rita’s Tequila House was to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. There were hot girls walking around in the street carrying big trays of tequila shots for sale. A really cute cop stopped to talk to one of the really cute waitresses and I was again reminded that it’s still new to me that it’s legal to sell shots in the streets. I still leave half full Diet Cokes at restaurants and bars while everyone else carries cocktails and beers in go-cups. I’m sure I’ll make the adjustment to my newfound freedom and respect as an adult.
I got to meet a lot of the band and I was, again, struck by their humility. In L.A., we’re encouraged to market ourselves, promote ourselves. I thought the trombone player was amazing and wanted a photo with him, but when he found out I was in a Tarantino movie, he said that I was the famous one and that he wanted a photo with me. I couldn’t understand how he could think a working actor was more cool than a Rebirth trombone player – until they started to play.
There were a bunch of locals who knew what time it was and what a rare treat this was. But, the tourists just kept walking past. I kept wondering where they were headed that would have better music than this? They had to pass a plastic bucket to collect dollars and most of the crowd didn’t contribute. There were groups of tourists who would stop and hang out, but it was obvious that they had no idea who they were listening to. So, let me tell you who we were listening to.
I’ve mentioned them in this blog at least 5 times and included photos in my French Quarter Fest post. The band was formed in 1982 by the Frazier brothers, Phillip and Keith, Kermit Ruffins (who left in 1992) and marching band members from Joseph S. Clark Senior High School. The split with Ruffins was amicable and the town is definitely big enough for the both of them. Go to this site and hear a town favorite, nearly an anthem, Do Whatcha Wanna.
And go here to play another favorite, I Feel Like Funkin’ it Up and a fun cover of Chuck Brown’s I Feel Like Bustin’ Loose.
Listen to some of it while looking through photos of the day’s events.