The Saints didn’t play this Sunday so the city turned out in full force for the 4th annual Po-Boy Festival.
For those not in the know, a Po-Boy is New Orleans’ version of a submarine sandwich invented by Bennie and Clovis Martin. Former streetcar conductors, they opened Martin Brothers’ Coffee Stand in the French Market in 1922. In 1929, transit strikes rose across the nation and, in solidarity with their former coworkers, the Martin brothers vowed to keep the strikers of Division 194 fed. When they’d see the strikers coming for a meal, they’d say, “Here comes another poor boy” and the name stuck to the large, overstuffed sandwiches they doled out.
The festival featured great food and music as well as crafts, contests, activities and local history lessons. Located on Oak Street in Uptown, the festival stretched from Carrolton to the levee and featured 3 music stages. Entering the festival, we passed Los Po-Boy-Citos, a latin soul band.
I don’t miss much about Los Angeles culture, but I was glad to hear Latin music after so long without it. I’d stumbled onto the Fiesta Latina on Saturday but all the stages were on break – no music. Better luck next year.
The Po-Boy Festival was so packed that we popped off Oak for a few blocks to try to make it down to the main stage near the river. Coming back onto Oak, we passed the Pinettes Brass Band, the world’s only female brass band.
The stage was down a side street and people sat on the porches of their homes, selling cans of soda and watching DancingMan504 and a cute young girl dance themselves silly.
Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes were in full swing when we finally made our way to the River Stage. I’d met Johnny Sketch a couple of times, even featured a photo of him in his fleur de lis yarmulke on this blog, but I’d never heard him play. With a degree in classical cello, Johnny Sketch even invented an instrument that looks like something from Prince’s collection and plays like a smaller cello on a stand. Look for it on display in this clip of the band playing Ca Va Chouia recorded at Rock n’ Bowl (though he doesn’t play the instrument here).
The band has been playing since 2001, so they’re super-synced while still keeping a fun, funky tone. They even had a pretty ditty, “Sweet Chalmette,” an ode to the tacky glory of Chalmette, LA. Find a clip of the tune here:
Next up on the River Stage was Jon Cleary, an extraordinary pianist with a rich voice. A native of England, Cleary has spent the last 20 years studying and contributing to the sound of New Orleans and was even featured on HBO’s Treme last season.
As to the food, because of there being no Saints game, the lines were long and the best stuff ran out early. I’ll sum my culinary experience up by saying that, in general, you shouldn’t buy gumbo from a ceiling fan repair shop.
On the way out of the festival, we passed Papa Grows Funk, a funk band founded by pianist, John “Papa” Gros. This guy gets around, playing with a number of artists in town. I last saw him perform with Anders Osborne for the Harvest the Music opening concert. For a taste of Papa Grows Funk:
After the festival, I finally went to see RED. Though the movie had been open for over a month, and though it was a Sunday night, the theatre was nearly half full. One of the funny things about living in L.A. for so long was watching movies then walking out into the city where they were shot. RED was shot partially in New Orleans, I even auditioned for a part in it (they picked the right woman, Audrey Wasilewski was perfectly cast). The movie was a ton of fun and the perfect blending of my L.A. and N.O.LA worlds.
As if all that weren’t enough to call this a fairly perfect weekend, the Hornets are now the last undefeated team in the NBA.
AND, I found the most fun store, Greg’s Antiques and Other Assorted Junk. The outside is like a sculpture garden of salvaged windows and Who Dat! signs worked from metal scraps. Inside is a sea of gorgeous and reasonably priced antiques. There’s even a room with everything from old lanterns and door hinges to a Mardi Gras Indian costume.