One of my favorite things about spring in New Orleans is all the festivals. Every “hump day” is Wednesday at the Square with free music as well as restaurant booths providing wonderful fest food with proceeds benefitting the Young Leadership Council (YLC). Oh – and plenty of Abita beer and cocktails. The YLC seeks to build leadership while taking on projects that strive to improve the quality of life in NOLA. This week’s show opened with Andrew Duhon.
Duhon, a native of the city, let the losses of Katrina infuse his blues/folk songwriting. His songs danced between whimsical and confessional leaving the personal for a cover of Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5. Though many in the crowd are dressed casually, one of the funny things about Wednesday at the Square is the mixture of tie dye and urban bohemian with the suited people coming straight from work in the nearby offices and courthouse. The song was oddly appropriate for them even if it stepped out of Duhon’s oeuvre.
I feasted on Greens and Cornbread ($5) from Ms. Linda the Ya-Ka-Mein Lady, winner of the Food Network’s Chopped: Pride of New Orleans contest, and Pulled Pork with Cheese Grits ($6) from Squeal. I passed on getting a Nectar Creme sno-ball from Plum Street and went for another Parfait Dessert ($4) from Cafe Adelaide. Instead of just strawberries, this time the confection included blackberries and blueberries. Unlike the other booths, Cafe Adelaide’s proceeds benefit Donors Choose, a charity designed to help public schools students. Teachers across America submit wish lists and projects and you choose what you’d like to help fund. You get a photo of the project, a letter from the teacher and an accounting of the expenses even if you only donate a dollar. Over $50 gets you hand written thank you notes from each student.
One of my favorite things about NOLA is how many events give back to the (usually local) community. In addition to the money raised by food and drink sales, Wednesday at the Square also features booths for other non-profits to connect with the community. The tables are assigned by lottery. As readers of this blog know, I’m a huge fan of Raintree Children and Family Services (providing services to foster children, children with disabilities and the families that care for these children) so I was delighted to find they finally got a table and I look forward to attending their annual Gala next month.
There’s also an alley of artisan booths with locally made jewelry, paintings, clothing and more. It’s a great place to find inspired gifts and one of a kind treats. The Saintsations wandered the crowd providing smiles and photo ops for fest goers.
Next to take the stage was Col. Bruce Hampton, Ret. Hampton is a “surrealist musician” from Georgia who’s been playing since the 1960’s. He’s been called, “the grandfather of the jam band scene” and has been mentioned as a mentor by members of Phish, Blues Traveler, and R.E.M. His music had a haunting quality that evoked images of long hair flowing in water or Spanish moss blowing in the wind.
The Colonel also has a film career of sorts playing Morris the band manager, in Billy Bob Thornton’s Sling Blade. Last year, a documentary entitled Basically Frightened: the Musical Madness of Col. Bruce Hampton centered on Hampton’s musical genius as described by Thorton, Dave Matthews and more.
It was a beautiful and brisk sunny day and I’m left looking forward to local favorite Marcia Ball next week! Wish I had the names of the band members but enjoy the photos of the amazing flying dog.