The People United for Armstrong Park concert series began its 5th season with Treme’s own prince, Glen David Andrews. French Quarter Fest, the free 4 day local music and food extravaganza, just ended on Sunday. Days later, Billy Iuso and Honey Island Swamp Band played Wednesday at the Square, a free concert series. (I was stuck waiting on the Cox cable guys). And now, Thursdays in the Park are back – more booths of food, cocktails and crafts and more free music!
Bands set up in three different areas so that there was almost no downtime between sets. We missed Fifth Ward Weebie and DancingMan504 leading a youth dance but we arrived in time to catch the last few songs from the Landry-Walker Marching Band AKA The Chargers Marching Band AKA the “Orange Crush.” Though the school has undergone a massive merger, Band Director Wilbert Rawlins Jr. has been the steady rudder in the storm.
Rawlins and the band were featured in the uplifting and heart-wrenching documentary The Whole Gritty City. He’s led them to the half-time show at the Saints – Vikings game that took us to the Super Bowl. The band also played in the Saints Victory Parade and are regulars in Mardi Gras parades. They’ve even marched in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena and they’re available for HIRE.
I ran into another Whole Gritty City hero, Derrick Tabb, cofounder of The Roots of Music, a non-profit youth band that offers school tutoring, comprehensive music education, a hot meal and a ride home to at-risk kids between 9-14. He was a CNN hero in 2009 and, as a snare drummer, he won a Grammy in 2012 with Rebirth Brass Band. Also, he’s just cool people. And he’s the brother of Glen David Andrews, the evening’s headliner.
Andrews new CD, Redemption, dropped a week or so ago and debuted in the jazz Top 40. He and I spoke in this INTERVIEW about his personal “Redemption,” growing up in the Treme and being part of a musical family (he’s also cousins with Trombone Shorty and the list goes on and on and on – 3 generations currently perform).
The show was terrific as always. James Martin killed it on sax and Josh Starkman was in rare form on the guitar. By now, most of his concert-goers know the words to new songs, Bad By Myself and Surrender. And, as always, he played plenty of other favorites and standards.
I would’ve loved to stay all night but it was raining and unseasonably, unreasonably cold so we turned in. As we finished our evening, I heard whistles and general party noise coming our way. In New Orleans, we say “happy” a lot – “Happy Jazz Fest,” “Happy Mardi Gras,” etc. There’s even a group of bicyclists who ride through town on Thursday nights yelling, “Happy Thursday” to anyone in earshot. If you’re in the right place at the right time on a Thursday, you can be among those greeted by these Thursday enthusiasts. Fun!
Next week, the Armstrong Park series continues with Kermit Ruffins, Big Freedia and the Star Steppin Cosmonaughties. The kids stage on Congo Square will feature Baba Luther Gray leading a drum circle followed by Rejected Youth Nation with Omari Neville.