Satchmo Fest celebrates the life and music of Louis Armstrong, a native of New Orleans. It kicks off with a Friday night pub crawl, followed by a weekend full of live music, dancing and great food. The festival takes place at the Old U.S. Mint (1835). Built under Andrew Jackson, it is the only place in the United States to have been used as both a Confederate and a U.S. Mint.
As with many festivals here, there’s more than one stage. In addition to the outside stages, there was one on the third floor of the (air conditioned, thank goodness) Mint. Yes, listening to a concert in a pedestrian government issued room isn’t the same as bouncing beach balls through the crowd outside, but many of us still danced ourselves silly.
I’d gone alone, but found friends right away and joined them on the dance floor as we listened to the powerful, beautiful voice of Margie Perez with Ensemble Fatien. For a video and info:
At some point, a musician jumped down onto the floor and spun while ferociously playing a handmade giant xylophone-type instrument hanging from his neck. He spun faster and faster, like a Tasmanian Devil, never missing a beat. It was so thrilling, it was actually frightening – in a good way, like on a roller coaster.
We left as they started the next event, a swing dancing class. I loved seeing all the women and girls in pretty, feminine dresses, tapping their heels and spinning.
I went shopping with friends then joined members of Ensemble Fatien for a beer at the Apple Barrel, a cool hang on Frenchmen Street. Like so many places here, the bartender is part of the conversation, part of the experience. Ours was a tattooed fellow with sideburns you couldn’t help but notice, a cool, fun addition to an already fun group.
But, I had to say my goodbyes and return to Satchmo Fest for my beloved Rebirth Brass Band. I found a good spot near the stage with room to dance, and was delighted to spot DancingMan504. Some moms and kids led a second line, pumping their umbrellas through the crowd. An older gentleman danced with a tambourine at times, an umbrella at others, and sometimes with both. Another guy showed off his flexibility with high kicks and splits. He even did a kick over the head of a startled, but amused guy dancing with a jumbo-sized cocktail. A smile child squealed with delight as his mother poured cold water from a go-cup. Everywhere I looked, people were so alive and happy.
Rebirth played for so long, I had to grab some shrimp remoulade (a cold preparation) to refuel. I pumped my shrimp into the air with every “Hey!” the band inspired. They hit all the crowd favorites including Feel Like Funkin’ It Up, their redux of “Casanova” and, of course, Do Whatcha Wanna. I danced until my clothes were sopping with sweat.
On my way back to my car (parked for free just 4 blocks away!), I smiled to a man a on a bike who was smiling at me and we both realized we knew each other. I started to see that I’m becoming more a part of my community. I used to go out alone trusting I would meet people who would treat me like a friend. Now, many times that I go out alone, I run into actual friends.