As usual, it was hot-as-heck for Satchmo Fest but the music and food were worth the sweat. Celebrating the life and contributions of Louis Armstrong, the festival moved to Jackson Square this year. Like last year, they charged a $5 admission – a move that still has its kinks (like local employees and neighbors can’t just walk in to grab a plate or a cocktail). The festival featured 2 stages with one focusing more on traditional jazz and the main stage offering a few more-modern takes on Satchmo’s sound.
PresHall Brass was playing Friday as we made our way around the square checking out the food booths. We started with Louisiana Blue Crab Cakes over Spring Mix with Remoulade Sauce ($8) from Lakeview Harbor then had a refreshing Strawberry Lemonade, ($9 large) from Cool Fruit Sensations fresh squeezed juices. They mashed the fruit in front of us and even let me decide how much sugar to add.
The midday heat drove us inside for a movie break but we stayed in the theme with Bayou Maharajah, a documentary on James Booker. Booker was described as “the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced” by Dr. John and heavily influenced Harry Connick, Jr.
The fabulous and funky Soul Rebels were finishing up when we returned to Jackson Square. We feasted on a Prime Rib Debris PoBoy, ($7) from the Rib Room and The Praline Connection’s Vegetarian Plate: Red Beans and Rice and Mustard Greens ($7). We shared the table with a lovely bridal party in town from New York and Boston then finished our meal with a frosty Nectar Creme, ($4) from Plum Street SnoBalls while the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band played standards.
The misting fans cooled us down enough to stay for Big Sam’s Funky Nation as the sun set behind the Cathedral. Big Sam got the crowd on its feet with a mix of funky takes on standards as well as pop covers like Uptown Funk.
Saturday started at the Jefferson Parish Library where I sat on a panel for the Second Annual JPL Mystery Writers/Readers Festival. Our panel discussed “New Orleans as a Mystery Character” and I enjoyed sharing about the local inspirations for my book, The Secret of the Other Mother: A Charlotte Reade Mystery.
Back at the festival, we enjoyed a “BLT” from Crepes a la Cart – a Tomato, Basil & Mozzarella Crepe ($7, add $1 for bacon). The Original Pinettes Brass Band is one of my many favorites. The all-female brass band won the Red Bull Street Kings in 2014. They opened with their original, Ain’t No City Like the One I’m From, and got the crowd singing along then played a mix that included a cover of Adele’s Hello.
We got another Vegetarian Plate from The Praline Connection then a Cafe au Lait and Swamp Mint double dip from Quintin’s Ice Cream ($6). We had to take a pass, but the newly opened Henry’s Original Buttermilk Drop had Mac & Cheese ($5), Stuffed Bell Peppers ($8), 3 Buttermilk Drops ($5) all done as a plate for $15.
Charmaine Neville mixed so many genres during her set that at one point she covered the Flintstones theme song. DancingMan504 joined her band onstage and added his familiar second line dancing peppered with his signature giant jumps high in the air. The evening closed with the Brass-A-Holics, a high-energy brass band that got the crowd moving as they showed off some dance moves of their own.
Sunday, we tried the Zapp’s Cochon de Lait Pie (made with Cajun Dill Gator-Tators Zapp’s) from Koz’s Restaurant ($7) while the New Orleans Swamp Donkeys played. I was excited to try another flavor from Cool Fruit Sensations so we got the fresh-squeezed Watermelon Lemonade this time. LOVED.
We caught the Satchmo Summerfest parade with the Treme Million Dollar Baby Dolls and DancingMan504 and explained the second line tradition to a bewildered-but-delighted tourist.
The deal of the fest was definitely the Jerk Chicken Plate with Rice, Veggies and a Baked Chicken Curry Pattie ($10) from Palmer’s Cuisine. Delicious and so filling, I have no idea how my husband also managed a Creole Hot Sausage PoBoy ($7) from Vaucresson Sausage Co. We finished with Cornet Restaurant’s Banana Nut Bread Pudding ($5).
James Andrews and the Crescent City AllStars filled the stage with musicians like Bonerama’s Greg Hicks and some of Irma Thomas’ Professionals. The Treme Million Dollar Baby Dolls danced and we all sang along to local favorites like Ooh Poo Pah Doo and Treme Song. With dozens of people already onstage, the tribute trumpeters joined including Yoshio Toyama and Kid Merv.
They closed out the fest with a fun and funky version of Happy Birthday (to Satchmo) then, like many of the fest’s bands, played What a Wonderful World. We all shouted Who Dats and sang When the Saints Go Marching In as the glorious chaos onstage went into a fever pitch and the band second-lined through the crowd. It was pretty spectacular – one of those “I love my city so much” moments.