Saturday was the third wonderful day of the 32nd annual French Quarter Fest. Crowds were lighter for rumors of rain but the day started beautifully with the talented and highly disciplined kids of The Roots of Music. Founded by Derrick Tabb, the snare drummer for the Grammy Award winning Rebirth Brass Band, the Roots program provides at-risk youths 9 to 14 year olds with instruction in music history, music theory and an instrument as well as ensemble performance preparation. Additionally, they provide academic tutoring, homework assistance, mentoring, round-trip transportation and a hot meal 5 days a week, 12 months a year. Plus, they’re AWESOME! In a city where we could have had our pick of oodles of ridiculously talented bands, we hired a baker’s dozen of the Roots of Music kids to play our wedding second line.
The last song of our Roots of Music wedding second line parade (other than Saints, of course) was Pharrell Williams’ Happy so we got a kick out of them playing it for the crowd. After the show, we ate a flavorful Prime Rib Debris Po-Boy ($7) from the Rib Room. Then it was back to the Abita stage for Irvin Mayfield and New Orleans Jazz Orchestra playing children’s songs. Treme Prince, Glen David Andrews sang a few tunes and surprised us with yet another talent – whistling. Seriously great whistling.
Next to join was Grammy Award winner Leon “Kid Chocolate” Brown then “Prince of New Orleans,” Davell Crawford. It was hard to leave the lullabies and childhood favorites (and seeing who would come to the stage next) but lunch was calling and we decided to sit inside for a meal – my favorite downtown lunch, K. Paul’s. We had a Dancing Shrimp salad, Shrimp & Corn Maque Choux soup and fresh fruit.
Then it was back to the Abita stage again for Louisiana Music Hall of Fame inductee Little Freddie King. Mr. King is the musician featured on this year’s French Quarter Fest poster. A true bluesman, his guitar licks and been-there-felt-that voice are more than enough reason to love Little Freddie King. But, I always look forward to seeing what he’ll wear. I happen to know his socks had guitars on them. Then there’s his showmanship. In his mid-70’s, he’s still dropping deep lunges and scooting around on one leg. Even Mardi Gras Indian Big Chief Juan Pardo joined the festivities, singing and dancing around in his elaborately beaded and feathered suit.
We walked through the French Quarter past some of the 23 stages before landing at the Mint for a Nectar Creme Plum Street Snoballs ($4) and Lagniappe Brass Band. A funky party band, they got everyone from toddlers to the senior-set moving. The rain had started to fall but it just mixed with the sweat and the good times kept rolling. Lagniappe played everything from Black Sheep to Blackstreet and from Nirvana to the Super Mario song – and they did it less as medleys and more like mash-ups – crazy-cool, clever and surprising. I want to give an extra shout-out to the drummer, Jams Marotta, whose hip-rolling, ass-shaking, feet-moving beats seemed to lay the foundation for the funk.
Also surprising was the little girl whose second line footwork got a crowd of grown men to gather around and cheer her on. When her 2 friends joined in, some of the guys pulled out their phones to record their feet. With people eating crawfish on the lawn and toddlers running around while their parents danced, it felt like an awesome backyard barbecue.
The show ended like most do at the Fest – with a singalong of When the Saints Come Marching In. Does any other city have a song they hear as often as we hear that one? And yet we still love it. A storm moved through so we grabbed a family meal of fresh-boiled crawfish, sausage, corn and potatoes from Rouses’ and headed inside for awhile.
Stooges Brass Band was next up at the Mint. They started their set with Oran “Juice” Jones’ The Rain with a Wind it Up teaser. Though they play some traditional brass songs, they’re known for their hip hop/R&B/funk sound. But what really sets them apart from other funky brass in town is that they dance. Not only do they have little routines and moves worked out, they even have a dance they taught the umbrella-toting, poncho-covered crowd. It was a blast.
Sorry I wasn’t able to do links this time or label many of the photos.