French Quarter Fest ended with a cool and breezy day perfect for picnicking and dancing to local favorites. We started early at Jackson Square with a refreshing Crab & Artichoke Citrus Salad ($8) from Jaques-Imo’s Cafe then beat the lines for Muriel’s Crawfish & Goat Cheese Crepe ($7). Keyboardist Kashonda Bailey of the all-female Pinettes Brass Band had let us know she’d be playing with MainLine so we made our way toward the stage near the Aquarium to check them out. I’m such a fan of Kashonda that I’ve even named a character for her in my upcoming New Orleans-set Charlotte Reade mystery (5th in a series). The band was great – high energy and determined to bring smiles and tapping toes.
On our way back downriver, we stopped for Brisket Tacos (2 for $8) and yummy Curry Shrimp Rundown over Coconut Mango Rice ($9) from The Rum House. Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes were onstage behind the Old U.S. Mint when we arrived. The band’s members include graduates of Loyola playing funky, dirty originals. Though I love the cool of barefoot Johnny and his kooky mini-cello-type personally-invented instrument, it was the mermaid saxophonist who stole my focus. In hair-to-fingernail shades of aqua, she was as mesmerizing to watch as she was talented. As usual, I ran into a few friends in the crowd including Billy Slaughter, my costar in several movies and TV shows as well as a commercial.
The over-20 stages of French Quarter Fest spread from the Mint to the Aquarium so not only do we get our steps in, but walking from stage to stage takes us past stages and food booths we might otherwise miss. Washboard Chaz played with the Palmetto Bug Stompers to an outdoor dance floor full of fancy footwork and twirling dresses. A new stage on the Mississippi River featured the vivacious and leggy Anais St. John.
Before settling in for our last band of the Fest, we hit Walker’s Southern Style BBQ (AKA Love at First Bite) for our 3rd Cochon de Lait PoBoy of the Fest ($9). We also tried their Street Corn in a Cup ($5). Other than green onions, I have no idea what was in it, but dang – shoulda been getting that all along.
Bonerama has great originals and covers of local traditional favorites, but they’re best known for their amazing ability to make their trombones sound like electric guitars wailing rock anthems. I’d hoped the release of their new Bonerama Plays Led Zeppelin album would lead them to perform plenty of those Zep favorites – and it did. An already great show was made better by one final feather in the local legacy cap. Like so many here, Mark Mullins son, Michael, grew up surrounded by musicians. Now a high school senior at NOCCA, he joined the band onstage and showed the crowd the future of festing remains in good hands.