The final day of this year’s French Quarter Fest began with a huge rain storm that blew in after midnight. For the lucky people who found themselves still out at music venues after the power went out that night, bars were lit with candles and bands went unplugged. The rain soaked the ground and messed up food booth and stage equipment so the day started around noon. The rain also scared off a lot of people who drive in from Baton Rouge or Mississippi, etc. so the crowds were much thinner. Despite the day’s wet beginning, it was gloriously beautiful – 70’s and sunny with breezes. And after 2 solid days of festing, we were happy for a shorter more low-key afternoon.
A colorful trio of African dancers from Ivoire Spectacle greeted us at the Old U.S. Mint as we ate another Satchmo Dog ($8) from Dreamy Weenies and Lamb Sliders (2 for $6) from The Three Muses. Behind the Mint, The Tin Men played. Guitarist Alex McMurray is a “never left” who attended Tulane years ago and… never left. Like the other members of the trio, he plays in several bands and his own band played French Quarter Fest earlier in the weekend. Sousaphonist Matt Perrine won Offbeat Magazine’s award for best tuba player 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Percussionist Washboard Chaz of Chaz Fest rounds out the trio. Chaz Fest is a 1 day concert series begun by musicians (including The Tin Men) who’d been rejected by Jazz Fest. Though today many of the Chaz Fest musicians have played Jazz Fest, the day continues to be a more like an evening on Frenchmen Street and I’m looking forward to it!
I was thrilled to find no line for Dunbar’s Fried Catfish and Potato Salad ($7). Saturday, it was forever long all day. We passed Linnzi Zaorski playing for a packed floor of swing dancers on our way to see the kids of England’s K College on the International Stage in Dutch Alley. I first saw their band 2 years ago and was impressed with their talent and soul – and comforted by the idea that our music was being studied and explored so far from here. The kids are graded on their performance and I was even more intrigued by what they must be learning in that school when the head of the Music Department, Julie Parker, explained that they start the program as regular students, not prodigies who audition for entrance. I wasn’t able to see the whole show but was treated to 2 of the 3 bands. I found it particularly cool that both saxophonists I saw were women. I don’t know the names of the students so feel free to comment if you do.
Paul Sanchez and the Rolling Road Show played with the Mississippi River as their backdrop. Their folksy, sometimes funny, music has been featured on HBO’s Treme and all of the members have appeared in episodes. Paul Sanchez is a prolific songwriter and the man behind Nine Lives, the musical adaptation of a New York Times Best Seller by Dan Baum about The Storm. The band includes drummer Eric Bolivar, keyboardist Davis Rogan, ukulelist Debbie Davis, Aurora Nealand on alto saxophone (another female on sax!?!) and vocalist Arsené Delay.
In a moment of life imitating art imitating life, Sanchez explained to the crowd that Treme‘s Steve Zahn character “Davis” was inspired by Davis Rogan and in the show, Zahn came to Sanchez (playing himself) to ask him to write a Katrina “opera” (like Nine Lives) and that Davis Rogan then played in Zahn’s band on the show. Then The Rolling Road Show proceeded to play the sardonic Katrina ditty they’d written for Treme‘s “opera.” It’s just another example of the reality built into the extraordinary Treme. I’ll be sad to see it end next fall and I feel grateful to have been a part of the show.
We made our way toward the stage by the Aquarium and enjoyed a bit of the Treme Brass Band‘s set while eating a fest food favorite, Crawfish Bread ($6) from Lakeview Harbor. The band continues to evolve yet hold firm in the wake of Uncle Lionel’s passing but I couldn’t help but miss his presence.
One of the best things about the layout of the festival is that the stages are spread throughout the Quarter affording the opportunity to wander all over the city from landmark to landmark experiencing local cuisine from soul food to fine fare and tons of free music. Our Sunday wanderings took us from the Mint to the Aquarium before we headed past Jackson Square to finish the weekend with one last Rouses Family Platter of crawfish, corn, potatoes and sausage ($25) while the All for One Brass Band played in the street. What a weekend!