French Quarter Fest is known as the “largest free festival in the land” and as “The World’s Largest Jazz Brunch.” It’s also been my favorite festival since I first attended in 2010 – and that’s saying a lot in a city with hundreds of festivals a year. With over 20 stages all over the French Quarter, the fest offers 4 days of local music and food. We managed to see 6 bands and eat from at least 6 restaurants in one afternoon.
We started the day in Jackson Square with a crawfish crepe from Muriel’s and Crawfish Louie from Court of Two Sisters. Then we headed to the river for Tank and the Bangas, a wild and wonderful group with personalities as colorful as the women’s dresses.
We stopped for a Abita Strawberry Beer because when it’s in season, you kinda have to. We grabbed a duck and mushroom strudel from Broussard’s then found a spot on the lawn for the Joe Krown Trio featuring Walter “Wolfman” Washington. It was a gorgeous, breezy day – perfect for listening to masters at their craft while watching ships roll past on the Mississippi.
Next up was Irma Thomas, “Soul Queen of New Orleans.” She knows us all to well, so after singing a few beautiful songs the crowd didn’t know as well, she promised and delivered all of our favorites. She even played, “It’s Rainin'” when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. She even played my very-favorite-of-my-favorites, “Heart of Steal,” a song she recorded with Galactic. Her band always looks like they’re having a blast. I apologize for running out of time to label all the band members but their names are available in other posts about Irma on this blog.
Next on the Abita Stage was PJ Morton – keyboard player with Maroon 5. We’ve heard a lot about him lately so we were looking forward to the show and he didn’t disappoint. The band was energetic and Morton was recently nominated for a Grammy for “Only One” featuring Stevie Wonder. (SO MANY of the artists this weekend have Grammys or have been nominated – it’s an embarrassment of riches). Morton also played his hit with Adam Levine, “Heavy.” But the crowd favorite was definitely “New Orleans Girl,” the best song about the women of this city since Louisiana LeRoux’s 1978 hit, “New Orleans Ladies.”
We had crawfish boudin from Rouses and crab cakes from Lakeview Harbor, then a Nectar Creme sno-ball from Plum Street. The stage closed out with Bonerama, a rock band with 3 lead trombonists – Mark Mullins, Craig Klein and Greg Hicks (again, apologies for not labeling the band). Bert Cotton killed it on guitar, as usual, but the fascinating thing about this band is their ability to make their horns sound like guitars. There are even times, say during “Whipping Post,” when their trombones sound nearly-Hendrix-like in their electric guitar-ish warblings.
A highlight was certainly when Trombone Shorty joined the band onstage and just killed it on the horn. He looked whimsical with curly-cues painted on half his face. Seems no one can resist the pull of “festing.”
We ran into many friends, danced, sang and ate ourselves silly. It was a fantastic day. On our way home, we passed Beau Soleil with Michael Doucet finishing up their set. The Cajun music, with it’s beautiful violin solos, was soothing like a lullaby – a perfect way to end the day. 3 days to go…