Friday, more of the eventual 20 stages of indigenous music and over-50 local food booths opened for French Quarter Fest. My favorite festival of the year, it’s also one of the city’s most profitable – generating an economic impact of $190 million in 2019.
We walked past the dance lessons in full swing at the French Market before starting our day near the Aquarium with Valerie Sassyfras of America’s Got Talent fame. Her memorable original, Girl’s Night Out, may not have gotten her past the second week of competition, but it made her a cult celeb.
Miss Sassyfras put on quite a show. At some point, she sang Hide the Pickle as a pickle character danced around hiding behind feathers. Valerie and her showgirls danced with inflated pickles – then broke into a pickle fight that eventually centered around the pickle character.
There were different themes like feathers, T-Rex masks, whips, and cowboy hats – and lots of moves that involved backsides. Sassyfras even incorporated an accordion -and high kicks – together. It was a lot of fun and the crowd was sad when she was cut off for time.
Lunch was Fried Green Tomatoes & Shrimp Remoulade ($10) from Cafe Dauphine, then back to Jackson Square for Paella ($8) from Paella NOLA, and one of my fest-favorites – Jacques-Imo’s Cafe’s Crab & Artichoke Citrus Salad ($9).
We passed through Dutch Alley and discovered a marionette painting in a standing theatre. The puppet’s artwork was whimsical and upbeat and it was fascinating to watch the puppeteer manipulate such pretty canvases – and from such an odd angle. You can watch the puppet painting HERE and see photos below.
Rickie Monie & Traditional Jazz Ramblers played the Dutch Alley stage as a couple danced. Normally that area is the International Stage, so I was surprised to see a Ninth Ward native leading the band.
On the opposite end of the French Quarter from the Aquarium-adjacent stage, Magnetic Ear took the stage in front of The Mint. I immediately recognized baritone saxophonist, Dan Oestreicher, from Trombone Shorty’s band, Orleans Ave. Their originals had a New Orleans funk/Eastern European vibe and fest-fav, Aurora Nealand, joined for a couple songs along with Tiffany (fill in my blank).
Between bands, we ate NOLA Crawfish King Seafood & BBQ’s Whole Hog BBQ Plate ($12). Locals who’ve eaten owner Chris “Shaggy” Davis’ crawfish boils know he doesn’t lay off the spice for visitors. Even the pickles were spicy in his BBQ Plate with beans. The booth’s sign said the dish pairs well with Abita’s Purple Haze, so we had that too.
I love the Original Pinettes Brass Band – the original all-female brass band. Now there’s a few guys in the mix, but most of them are youngsters getting their stage training, like the trombone-toting kid from Satchmo Summerfest 2018. The Pinettes kept the crowd moving with a mix of covers like Katy Perry’s Roar, and originals – like my favorite, Ain’t No City.
While waiting for Irma Thomas to take the parking lot stage next to Jax, we grabbed Southerns’ spicy version of Award Winning Chicken Sandwich ($10) and some Crawfish Mac & Cheese ($10) from Food Network’s Chopped winner, Miss Linda, The Yakamein Lady.
Miss Irma is far too beloved for such a limited lot, so the crowd was thick and sprawling by the time the Soul Queen of New Orleans took the stage. Owing to a mic-battery issue, the always-on-time pro had to delay her entry for nearly 10 minutes. Sadly, that meant we could only stay for a couple of her songs before heading to The Arena for the Pelicans Play-Off game.
The music continued for us as Big Sam’s Funky Nation played in the courtyard outside the venue. Throughout the game, local musicians performed live – including Choppa singing Choppa Style with Master P watching from a court-side seat.
Still not sure what’s going on with my gallery feature, but enjoy the photos. Next up – more festing!