Kermit Ruffins played this week’s Harvest the Music benefitting Second Harvest Food Bank. The free weekly event at Lafayette Square takes place every Wednesday at 5 pm through November 3rd.
I was unable to attend last week’s concert in the Square featuring Dr. John, so I was thrilled to be back at the Square for more music, food, crafts and neighbors.
I’ve seen Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers before at their Thursday night home, Vaughan’s. For some history on Kermit and a taste of seeing him at his regular weekly gig read my post:
And to hear some of his music:
It was another gorgeous day so the square was fairly packed with the lawyers in suits, babies on blankets and cast of regulars I’ve grown so accustomed to. Turns out they’ve grown accustomed to me too. My absence last week was noticed by DancingMan504 and others.
Kermit plays a mix of covers from old jazz standards to rap but much of it is reworked. Imagine a brass band version of Halftime (Stand up and get Krunk) or Fly Me to the Moon. And maybe it’s the eclectic range that gives Kermit Ruffins his staying power. A founding member of Rebirth Brass Band, he left the band in 1992 and began playing with his Barbecue Swingers. A central part of the music scene here, Kermit attracts many other city favorites to play along with him. Naydja CoJoe joined him for 2 songs in the first set. With the confidence of an Eartha Kitt-like diva, she roused the crowd, inspiring them to wake up and enjoy the Wednesday. Her bluesy version of Summertime was beautiful.
During the break, I had my usual crab cakes from Lucy’s Retired Surfer’s Bar.
As well as some irresistible-looking mac and cheese that people kept walking by with. I followed it to the source, Miss Linda’s Soul Food. When I got to Miss Linda’s booth, the women serving the food were even more appealing than the comfort food. Gotta love the South.
The second set started with another fun mix of tunes including I Love You More Today than Yesterday, I Can See Clearly Now and Saints in the Super Bowl. As dusk disappeared into dark, the music became a much sexier nighttime collection of hits. The drummer, Derrick Freeman, took the mic and sang Maze’s Joy and Pain merging into Sly and the Family Stone’s Family Affair. He sang, “One child grows up to be… Drew Brees! One child grows up to be… David Vitter!” We can all agree on Drew Brees but the crowd had a mixed reaction to the Vitter reference. Mostly, we laughed. Yes, this is a magical place where dreams can come true, where an injured quarterback with an uncertain future can become Super Bowl MVP and where a politician can get caught with hookers and stand up for BP and still have a shot at reelection.
Michael Baptiste joined the gang onstage for a lively, soulful rendition of Try a Little Tenderness. Though I want to respect the musician’s rights to all of their recordings, I’d hate to pass up an opportunity to share the moment. Whoever made it had poor sound quality but you’ll get the idea.
Then Ms. CoJoe brought Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr. (pronounced doop-see) to the stage. Rockin’ Dopsie is the washboard playing frontman for The Zydeco Twisters, following in the footsteps of his accordion playing father. Though he’s the first washboard player to front a Zydeco band, he’s best known for his dance moves that easily rival James Brown’s.
He’d been told the band had played it earlier, but Dopsie put his spin on Ooh Pooh Pah Doo. Naydja came back onstage and set up Bobby Caldwell’s What You Won’t Do for Love and Kermit rapped rewritten Katrina-centric lyrics to Notorious B.I.G.’s Big Poppa. Corey Henry joined the party to rap the next verse, peppered with local references. It was a hell of a show, like sustained fireworks with a grand finale, a burst of stardust in the night sky. They capped the evening with the crowd pleaser and hip gyrator, the theme from Treme.