Thank you New Orleans Oyster Fest for moving from that aggressively hot blacktop parking lot to the breezy, grassy Woldenberg Park! The festival, including the artists booths and many wonderful food selections, was much more spread out this year and the crowd for the stage was manageable, like the very-local Thursday crowd at French Quarter rather than the jam-packed Saturdays and Sundays. It almost made me nostalgic for the times before the Saints Superbowl win and HBO’s Treme helped remake the city’s image.
We sampled a few of the oyster offerings before enjoying the unique sound of Bonerama. Featuring 3 trombonists, the band plays everything from NOLA standards to Allman Brothers covers. The festival is only 3 years old and, so far, I’ve attended each year. The first year, in 2010, Bonerama was the only band I had time to see before joining a second line for the wildlife killed by the BP oil disaster. The spill had been going on for over 6 weeks with no end in sight. We all felt the dread of wondering if the first Oyster Fest would be the last. I remember Bonerama’s soulful take on Led Zeppelin’s When the Levee Breaks, a song that truly resonated after the Storm. You had to be there, sizzling in the sun on hot blacktop, to truly appreciate how hard it was to tell whether people were crying or sweating. It was a beautiful moment. Though the jury is still out about whether our oysters and their harvesters will survive the effects of the spill, the festival gets better every year.
Between concerts, we went in search for more food. Normally, we would follow the smoke to whomever was serving this year’s chargrilled oysters (Drago’s this time) but the line was SO long. Though we still have yet to eat at Royal House, we’ve come to count on them for great fest food. This year’s menu consisted of very tasty Oyster Patties with Fried Oysters and Crystal Beurre Blanc ($7) and Shrimp and Grits ($6).
The festival closed with “Soul Queen of New Orleans,” Irma Thomas. A treasure I’ve elaborated on many times before, Irma never disappoints. For those feeling romantic, she inspires slow dances and cuddling. For those in the mood for a party, she brings it and then some with her second line medley complete with kerchiefs and umbrellas. For more about this Grammy winning teen-mom of 4 who graduated college at the age of 60, click here.
Throughout the day, we continued to run into my costars and crew from Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. The folks from L.A. will be gone soon so it was good to get a few last hugs in. As for the local hires, it’s nice to have a whole new group of acquaintances who have shared this Django journey. Small world story of the day, I left my visiting mother sitting at a table and when I returned, she’d struck up a conversation with a women who turned out to be the mother of one of our featured background actors who I’ve been working with for weeks. My L.A. to NOLA journey continues to evolve.