Time again for my favorite festival of the year – the 29th annual French Quarter Fest. The largest free festival in the South, the festival now runs 4 days starting with Locals Lagniappe Day – a day dedicated to the locals before the crowds arrive on Friday. French Quarter Fest features over 70 local, non-chain restaurants and more than 800 local musicians and international musicians playing local music on 18 stages throughout the Quarter.
A cool front brought a sunny day in the 70’s. We headed over to Jackson Square for one of the most popular plates of food, the Goat Cheese and Crawfish Crepes and Eggplant Stuffing combo plate from Muriel’s for $9. Then we tried K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen‘s Butterbeans and Rice with Trinity, Chicken, Pork, Andouille, Tasso and Duck ($5). Then we made a stop at the Royal House booth for Crawfish Cakes topped with Crawfish Cream Sauce, a favorite from last year ($6). And we finished the meal with some Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya ($5) from The Original New Orleans Po-Boys.
Between the variety of offerings and the paper-plate prices, I feel like I could eat festival food everyday. The only thing better at this festival than the food is the music. With even more variety and the lowest price possible (free), choosing musical acts feels like a 4-day spree so full of bounty that you couldn’t possibly see everyone you want to , but you’ll never lack for options.
Maybe I sound like a broken record with my first musical selection, but I prefer to think of myself as a devoted and consistent fan of Rebirth Brass Band. Kirk Joseph’s 504 Brass Band was on the Riverside Legacy Stage near the Aquarium when we got there. Kirk Joseph, son of trombonist Waldren “Frog” Joseph, was one of the founding members of Dirty Dozen and can be found playing with Treme Brass Band. The band featured other Treme members, like velvet-voiced Kenneth Terry, as well as treasures from other bands.
Then it was time for this year’s Grammy Award winners, Rebirth! To say “you had to be there” may not help you much, but it’s all too true. We stood front row and let the speakers do our ears in but it was worth it. They played songs from throughout their history as well as the inspirational Who Dat song, Do It Again, to which we all chanted. (Though it was a blast being champions, the Saints have always been great underdogs and we Saints fans still dare to Believe!)
Then, it was like they all ate their spinach and suddenly had a great burst of energy as they played a 5 or 6 song non-stop marathon of hits. By the time they got to the unofficial city anthem, Do What You Wanna, the crowd was in a frenzy. I’m privileged enough to be able to compare Rebirth performances (3 times just in the last month or 2). The show at d.b.a. a couple of weeks ago was insane, but there’s nothing like an outdoor concert surrounded by neighbors and newcomers with your toes in the grass and a breeze coming off the river. And that last blast of songs was so amazing, like a ride on a rocket through the space and time of jazz and funk.
Afterward, we once again took advantage of the plethora of food booths. The Red Fish Grill took 1st place for best seafood gumbo at this year’s “Got Gumbo?” event, so we grabbed a bowl of their smoky Roasted Duck and Andouille Sausage Gumbo $5. Every year at Jazz Fest, the longest line is for the Crawfish Bread. Now, you can get the same calzone-like cheese and crawfish stuffed bread from Lakeview Harbor at French Quarter Fest ($6). Since it was a Thursday and the shows had all ended, we didn’t even have to wait in line.
I can’t wait to see what else the weekend holds!