Another perfect weather day with sunny skies and a breeze coming off the river. We passed by the International Stage and watched a band from France, the Traditional Cody Clan, play New Orleans standards. This city loves any excuse to dance but New Orleans is a place full of Jitterbuggers, Two-Steppers and Fox Trotters so you never know what you might see. There were a few young couples who’d obviously taken some lessons and 2 small girls trying to imitate them. What a treat.
Then we headed to the Abita Beer stage and caught most of Brother Tyrone. Inspired by James Brown, he began singing at 8 and has been a soul man ever since. It’s really all I need to say about him – soul. Don’t take my word for it, try out these tracks from his album Mindbender.
Lunch was another Cochon de Lait Po Boy ($7, a sub stuffed with pulled pork and cole slaw) from Love at First Bite and Fried Seafood Cakes $4 and Barbecue Shrimp ($5 which is all about butter and garlic, not a grill) from Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Lines were getting longer and space was getting tighter as the 500,000 visitors to the city seemed all to descend on Woldenberg Riverfront Park.
And who could blame them as Kermit Ruffins was next onstage. A founding member of Rebirth Brass Band, he left the band in 1992 and began playing with his Barbecue Swingers. Though Ruffins plays all year round, often for free, the thrill is never gone. Awareness of him has certainly increased as he plays himself on HBO’s Treme but he seems to have meant what he intimated on the show when posed with the idea of becoming famous – and leave all this? Though the show wasn’t as intimate as last Fall’s concert in Lafayette Square benefitting Second Harvest, it was action packed with Miss Tambourine Green‘s (so named for her beautiful green eyes) and someone on washboard punctuating the beat.
He was also joined by the lovely Mykia Jovan. Trained in the film industry at NOCCA (New Orleans Center for Creative Art), an epiphany turned her failed screenplays into lyrics and her true voice found its path. We were also treated to a song by Kermit’s daughter, Neshia Ruffins. With Derrick Freeman on drums, Kevin Morris on bass and Richard Knox on keys, the band was festive and familial.
As a sidenote, I’ve begun to notice how many songs from this region are about food. Is there any other region with so many dish references and even love songs to food? As another side note, when sharing limited space with others (as we all must at times), remember your manners and try to find a spirit of cooperation. It’s especially good to remember on days that are marathons and not sprints.
By the time Little Freddie King took the stage, the crowd was getting pretty thick. For some context and rather lavish praise on Mr. King, check out my post from last Fall’s Harvest the Music concert at Lafayette Square. In addition to Bobby Lewis on harmonica, bass player Anthony Anderson and drummer “Wacko” Wade Wright, King brought second line fixture, Jennifer Jones, onstage. She was covered in brightly colored silk flowers as she had been when I first saw her at this same festival last year. Then, she was a colorful oddity, now she (along with DancingMan504) is how I know I’m in the place to be.
Throughout the day, I’d met some lovely people including a family I’d photographed at last year’s Oyster Fest and a couple from Long Island who’ve come to love the city, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when the couple next to us offered space on their blanket. It turned too-crowded-for-fun into just crowded and with great company. Long food lines led us to trying the Cajun Muffalotta Sausage Burger and Red Beans and Rice Sausage (both $6) from Harbor Bar & Grill and 2 Guys Sausage. It wasn’t my favorite food day as all our choices were dictated by line length, but everything was pretty darn tasty.
The grassy stage-front area was standing room only by the time Walter “Wolfman” Washington took the stage. Though Washington didn’t play the guitar with his mouth as I’d hoped based on having seen him at Tipitina’s on my birthday last year, he was as sexy-cool as always, serving up rock-bluesy soulful licks with bassist Jack Cruz, Jimmy Carpenter on saxaphone and Antonio Gambrell on Trumpet.
As night fell (and my limited skills with my camera made themselves obvious) Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and Orleans Avenue closed the evening with a standing-room-only crowd for as far as we could see. Along with bassist Mike Ballard, drummer Joey Peebles, percussionist Dwayne Williams, guitarist,Pete Murano, saxophonist Tim McFatter, and baritone sax Dan Oestreicher, Shorty tore the stage up.
Yes, we’d just seen him 3 days before at Lafayette Square and yes it was too crowded, but the show was well worth the trouble. When On the Sunny Side of the Street began, it hit me that Andrews might once again hold the incredibly long single note using circular breathing. I was ready with a timer and announced the time as it passed, “One minute thirty… Two minutes… Three minutes… Three minutes 15 seconds!” The crowd went wild but I now was certain he could do that for hours.
The other highlights were certainly his energetic original Hurricane Season and his Prince-like tune, Show Me Something Beautiful. We went home glowing with the memory of great music and my first sunburn since college. Only my thighs, but dang.