Because people have jobs, Thursday can be the least crowded day of the entire Jazz Fest schedule. Add a cold rain until after lunchtime and things got off to a very slow start. I volunteered to work in the Kiwanis beer booth to raise money for local children’s activities and got to spend the day remembering everything I love about Jazz Fest. The “shoe forecast” called for boots owing to the rains the night before – todays showers weren’t predicted. But I loved seeing all the fashion fun “boot weather” brings out (favorite pictured below). My friend, Wendy, and I ended up wearing the exact same pair – extra funny since we met when she dressed my character in The Loft years ago.
We set up the booth, got a requisite Crawfish Monica, then wandered to the nearby Acura Stage to watch Cha Wa. I was thrilled the Mardi Gras Indian band played my favorite of all the Indian songs, Indian Red. Singing and swaying in the windy rain, I felt like I was at church, like I was having a private spiritual experience alongside others having their own experiences.
We worked a shift in the beer booth and got to meet people from all over the country, from Montana to Puerto Rico. Then it was back to the food booths for more southern goodness. We dropped by the New Orleans Gulf South Booksellers Association (NOGSBA) Book Tent to check out this year’s offerings. Proceeds of the tent go to child literacy. I’m thrilled to be returning to the fest this Saturday (3-4pm) to sign copies of my latest Charlotte Reade mystery, The Hidden Huntsman. The follow up to local best seller, The Secret of the Other Mother, part of The Hidden Huntsman takes place at Jazz Fest!
A social aid and pleasure club paraded past then we wandered through the artisan booths taking in amazing craftsmanship and creativity from painters, sculptors, clothing makers and more. Wendy and I both loved the tent of locally made costumes. I took a photo of a social aid & pleasure club costumer at work on ribbon lengths. She looked up at me and said, “This woman’s got my daddy on her phone.” Turns out I was photographing Wynoka Boudreaux, daughter of Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, National Endowment for the Arts’ 2016 National Heritage Fellowship winner. I’d painted a portrait of the Big Chief years ago, photographed it and used Zazzle to turn it into a phone case. It makes me happy every time I use my phone (which most people know I generally hate using).
We caught Free Agents Brass Band just as they were launching into my favorite of their songs – We Made It Through That Water. I was back at church again, swaying and singing and feeling alive.
We hadn’t made any plans ahead of time since we weren’t sure when our breaks would be, but I knew I had to catch The Roots of Music led by Grammy winner Derrick Tabb. One of my favorite marching bands, we chose them for our wedding second line parade – and they were amazing. The Roots of Music program provides at-risk youth from ages 8-13 with music lessons, school tutoring, a hot meal and a ride to their front door for hundreds of our kids.
We headed back to the beer booth for another shift. The Voice of the Wetlands was playing as we arrived and landed just as they launched into my favorite Anders Osborne song, Louisiana Rain. I’d seen the set list from his own show and that song wasn’t on it. It was clearly my lucky day.
After meeting hundreds more music lovers in search of beer, we had another round of food booth goodies before hitting the Congo Square stage for super-groovy Tower of Power. Seductive as heck, they had the crowd slow dancing and hip grinding. We ran into local songstress Margie Perez fresh from her performance and I realized I was dancing with 2 of the characters from my latest book! The Charlotte Reade mysteries feature some local characters as themselves in fictional situations and both Wendy and Margie have parts to play on the latest story – as do Derrick Tabb and The Roots of Music. My fictional and non-fictional worlds were colliding.
We ended the day at the Jazz Tent with the legendary Herb Alpert. All day, I’d had magical moments. I ran into about a dozen friends, ate myself silly and heard legends playing my favorite songs as if they’d cued them up just for me. I saw lots of fanciful hats, served up suds and smiles and generally remembered that despite the recent overcrowding and price hikes, Jazz Fest is still an amazing way to spend a day.