Sunday, the closing day of French Quarter Fest, was a drizzly one so we started at one of the many indoor activities – the “Let Them Talk…” interview series at the Mint. Author John Broven led legends Allen Toussaint and Deacon John in a discussion of Cosimo Matassa, founder of both J&M Recording Studio and Cosimo Recording Studio. The event started and ended with Toussiant on the piano and Deacon John singing for us. Matassa was a local legend who is credited with helping to develop the rock and R&B sounds of the 50’s and 60’s. Fats Domino, Little Richard. Ray Charles, Dr. John, Ernie K-Doe, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Cooke, Aaron Neville and the legends on the stage in front of us were just a few of the artists Matassa worked with as both studio owner and engineer.
It was wonderful watching Toussaint and Deacon John reminisce about this great man. I only knew him as the sweet man who rang up my groceries at his family store since 1924, Matassa’s Market. But in New Orleans, the guy bagging your groceries might have just been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the week before (seriously). In 2013, he was also inducted to the Blues Hall of Fame. He passed at 88 in September of 2014. Toussaint said of him, “We were all just having fun but he saw the big picture.” As they talked about a time when local radio stations supported local music, I got sad (again) wishing that our radio stations still did that today. WWOZ nearly stands alone.
One of the great takeaways from the event was our introduction to the Cosimo Code, both an actual code and an amazing website. Red Kelly, one of the founders, took us through the features – the best of which is that you can scroll through the entire library of Cosimo’s career by year and, wherever possible, there are play buttons to listen to the songs. Another highlight was Allen Toussaint sharing about his days in trampoline and diving shows at Lincoln Beach with John “Scarface” Williams of Huey Smith’s Clowns. “The closer we got to death, the more they liked it.”
Afterward, we walked through the French Market passing a young and terrific brass band playing on the street and stopped to see what was on the International Stage. Sweden’s Sulan City Stompers were another reminder of how far-reaching New Orleans Jazz is.
Then we looped back to the Mint for Treme Brass Band. I was thrilled to see trombonist Corey Henry in the mix but I always miss bass drummer, dapper dresser and smooth ladies man Uncle Lionel since his passing in 2012. They played I’ll Fly Away in his memory and I was transported back to his amazing second lines and memorial. The show was high-energy and pro-tight and the crowd loved it. Lots of shows at French Quarter Fest end with When the Saints Go Marching In but Treme Brass Band nailed it. The organizer tried to get them to wrap things up but as they continued to play and a saxophone solo gathered steam, she gave in, fell to her knees and waved off his sax’s “heat” with a kerchief.
Rockin’ Dopsie and the Zydeco Twisters played on the Zydeco stage in the middle of Decatur Street. Rockin’ Dopsie is a buff beast on the washboard with moves Jagger wishes he had and his band looks to be having as much fun as the party people they riled.
We caught a few songs from Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers on the Abita stage and arrived in time to hear young diva Nayo Jones sing At Last. But it was time to eat so we headed past the Aquarium for Mini Steak Sliders with BBQ Butter (2 for $8) from Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Praline Connection’s yummy (and vegan) Mustard Greens and Red Beans & Rice ($7). Boucherie provided our decadent dessert, Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding ($5).
Glen David Andrews is almost always the best show of French Quarter Fest in my opinion and his 2011 show with Amanda Shaw is still one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended. Listening to his music, you get to know him, his story, his values, his feelings, his fierceness and his sweetness. It’s like reading from his diary or listening to his heart. And he feeds off of crowd energy, always asking crowds to push forward to the stage. So, I wasn’t surprised when he asked if security could move the barriers surrounding the VIP section. The area was more than twice as large as previous years but only held 6 tables and 4 people sitting at them. I took him to mean someone should move the barriers forward but the crowd began pushing them aside and surrounding the stage.
Andrews couldn’t have been happier and the crowd was loving it. But I later heard reports of people having been manhandled by NOPD as they pushed the barriers back into place behind me. As we sang about serenity, Jesus, seduction and partying, members of the NOPD, Audubon security and Fire Department gathered and discussed. Someone in charge seemed as confused as we were as to why it would be a problem. It was the last show of the last day of the festival so why not move things? Why not inconvenience 4 VIP’s for one hour of a 4 day fun-fest? Why not give the artist what he needs to give an unforgettable show and the audience a great grand finale to an amazing long-weekend of music loving?
So, they let us live by the NOLA code of “Do Watcha Wanna” and Glen David Andrews and his incredibly talented band delivered yet another intimate and rowdy show. They started with Ernie K-Doe’s Here Comes the Girls and covered other local favorites throughout the night. There were also plenty of originals like his bouncy Like Mike (Rockstar) and a singalong to Foreigner’s I Want to Know What Love Is. He was amazing and his band killed it.
It was eerie walking back through the Quarter. A quiet fell over all the stages and the streets emptied out just in time for a giant downpour. I’d say that’s a perfect end to my favorite fest. Apologies once again for not being able to do more links and photo labels.