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Columns > Annabel Lukins - Both Sides of the Rail

Published: 2009/05/20
by Annabel Lukins

Theres Somethin About New Orleans

Theres somethin about New Orleans
I felt like I was home as soon as I started to drive from the airport, my heart raced as the multiple miniature street lamps cascaded down the road. I hadnt visited since Katrina, and I was eager to immerse myself in the city I love to call a true treasure. Its clear that shes damaged, you can still see the dark water lines on homes around town, its clear that the rebuild is still far from complete.
Yet, theres somethin about New Orleans…something that screams from the top of the cast iron balconies. Maybe its the percolating rhythms and sounds of Jazz, maybe its the smells of fresh chicory coffee from Cafumond, maybe its the scent of fresh crawfish, maybe its the fragrance of Jasmine flowers draped over porches on St CharlesI cant put my finger on it, but its something real and something bigThe Big Easy, the soft and mellow energy that New Orleans encompasses.
I love it there. In fact, its the most unique and culturally stimulating city in the states I have ever spent time in.
My main reason for going to Jazzfest was to announce Jam Cruise 8. We all get so caught up in being online and marketing on the Internet that we forget how powerful it is to reveal information on stage, in front of 1000 people! So Thursday night, I co-hosted a party at the Howlin Wolf with the Royal Family (Soulive, Lettuce, etc). It was WONDERFUL. I have never been so proud of our passengers while on shore. There were close to 100 people wearing Jam Cruise t-shirts on top of the HUNDREDS of others that sail with us year after year. Plus, we made a lot of new connections. We had a little VIP section that made it easy for everyone to find each other.

At set breaks, I broadcasted all details from the stage. The crowd went wild, emotions were flying, enthusiasm contagious. I even dragged Ivan Neville out and handed him a mic to announce his participation, which included not only a set by Dragon Smoke, but Ivan declared himself the host of the poker tournament. Karl D arrived at the club just in time to jump in and pronounce KDTU back with a vengeance! Little cute Adam Deitch also threw his 3 projects out to the crowd.
5:00am, time for bed, its ONLY night 1
(NOTE FROM ME: THE REASON I AM NOT GETTING INTO FRIDAY NIGHT IS BECAUSE AFTER A WONDERFUL NIGHT SEEING ROBERT RANDOLPH & THE FUNKY METERS, THEN SEEING STEVE KIMOCK THEN HEADING TO THE NEW ORLEANS ALLSTARS, I LOCKED MY KEYS IN THE TRUNK AND IT TOOK THEM 12 HOURS TO GET THEM OUT. NEEDLESS TO SAY, IT WAS THE ONE BUMP IN THE ROAD ON MY TRIP, BUT I WASNT GOING TO LET IT SPOIL THE WEEKEND)
Friday and Saturday at the fairgrounds. First stop, Gospel Tent. Talk about finding God, I arrived only to be thrown back to the enchanting voices of 40 spiritual members belting 5-part harmonies and praising life. Id say that started my day off right.

How about some music marketing at its bestwe designed a Jam Cruise flag to be hung throughout the weekend at the stages. The Krewe de Blender kids helped us fly high. It looked beautiful blowing in the wind.

One of the most exciting parts of the fairgrounds is walking around and listening to artists youve never heard of before. Check out the incredibly dressed Big Chief Peppy & The Golden Arrows Mardi Gras Indians.

I think there were one million people at the Fairgrounds on Saturday for Bon Jovi. No, Im serious. I high tailed outta there as fast as possible after a little Dr John & Kings of Leon, but I couldnt take it, you couldnt walk anywhere. GREAT for New Orleans, dont get me wrong. Heres a cool shot I took from the back of the Acura Stage grounds.

The city REALLY came alive at night, as I was hitting 4-6 shows. I wore a Jam Cruise shirt every day and with the help of our loyal passengers, we gave out 13,000 flyers with all details about our 2010 event.
Now I dont USUALLY do a play-by-play of an evening, but Saturday night was record breakinghere was my schedule:
8:00pm I went to the Maple Leaf for a 9th Ward Benefit featuring George Porter, Ivan Neville, Ian Neville and Russ Batiste. The music was hot and so was the crawfish I ate out on the street. The local ladies laughed at me because they could eat one so much faster than I could. I told them I preferred the struggle. I took a moment while vibing off what was happening on Oak Street. THIS SO COOL, I LOVE NEW ORLEANS!
9:30pm Next stop, Tips Uptown for PBS with Page, it was ROCKING by 930pm when I arrived.
10:30pm I headed to the Monkey Hill Bar for the show of my weekend: Anders Osborne. Anders and I have been buddies since I was in college and I have always been in love with his music. Its rare that I get to see him live so I took in as much as I could. My hands and jaws were clinched tight with every jam, my eyebrows were raised, my head was shaking in disbelief, his guitar sounds were so precise and clean that I found myself laughing out loud numerous times during the set.
12:00am Cant stop therenext up, Greyboys & Galactic at the Wolf. These are my boys, seriously. I always have fun hanging with them and seeing their show. Well having both play in one venue was even more of a treat.
2:30am, it was time to head to the Quarter for Bustle at Tips FQ. I spent 20 minutes drooling over No Quarter > Kashmir and hung with a bunch of peeps. WHEREVER YOU GO in New Orleans, you run into more people you know, its INSANE.
4:00am Outside the New Mastersounds at HOB who did I run into but my old buddies, Darren and Eric of Particle! We all went inside and the band was clearly having a great time.
5:30am, I decided it was time to call it a day. WHAT A DAY IT WAS!

Sunday at the FairgroundsFirst stop was finding Anders Osborne and giving him a HUGE hug after what I experienced the night before.

Now, part of my DAILY routine was devouring Crawfish Monica.

After a lovely day, I headed back to the car. I love this photo. This image defines culture in New Orleans. Upon dropping a dollar in the bucket, he told me that he was playing so that he could pay to give inner city kids free music lessons. Pretty special, right?

As I continued on my walk, I came across two locals that exemplified Jazzfest. I bet these two didnt leave when the hurricane hit. I bet these two dont move much through the two weekends of Jazzfest. I bet these two have been married for as long as the festival has been running, 40 years. I bet these two have A LOT of stories to tell if we asked them. Their sign (along with the flag) was too representative not to capture. It made me proud to be a part of something bigger than me.

Late night on Frenchman Street seriously, it has its very own world going onBrass Bands on the corner, people hanging on the side walk, music coming out of NUMEROUS venues within a 50 feet radius. Its quite a party out there.

After a few hours of debauchery down on Frenchman Street, I headed to my final show, Dumpstaphunk at Tips. The energy was fierce; the band was high off performing at Tipitinas, the sold-out show was packed with tired but pumped up fans. Seriouslynow I know I help run Jam Cruise, so Im not trying to say that I am a wimp here, but what happens in New Orleans is OUTRAGEOUS. The Fairgrounds are filled with more than you could ever ask for all day time, restaurants are packed in the evenings, and night shows go until the sun is upand then people do it all over again.

Theres somethin about New Orleans. Its more than anything I mentioned above. Its like a proud parent that brings you to life by feeding you heart and soul until its time to go.
Once Dumpstaphunk was finished, I headed to the airport for a 6:00am flight. I sat back on the plane in complete awe of what I had accomplished and experienced in 4 short days.
I cant wait to get back again

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