Thursday April 24
Thursday April 24
3:20 a.m. EST
I awake to the distorted sounds of Elton John blasting from my clock radio. I think I’ve slept for around 15 or 20 minutes at most, a great way to prepare for 12 nights in New Orleans. I gather up my suite case, backpack, acoustic guitar and laptop and head downstairs. Moments later, a taxi arrives and I’m off to Logan Airport. The cab driver tries to make small talk, but my brain is still sleeping peacefully back in my warm, empty bed. I’ll miss you sweet bed.
Thursday April 24
9:20 a.m. CST
Louis Armstrong International Airport
New Orleans, LA
Apparently, there’s a new FAA mandate that requires a minimum of one screaming baby on all domestic flights, so the plan to sleep on the plane is aborted. Bleary-eyed and nauseous, I walk through the chilly airport en route to the baggage claim when suddenly my spirits are lifted and I’m reminded of New Orleans’ charm. Blaring from a House of Blues souvenir shop is the old school studio version of Bob Marley’s "I Shot the Sheriff." Music has never sounded so good. I stop to slowly tie my shoe in order to hear the rest of the song.
I meet up with Relix staffer Aaron Benor in the lobby of the plush Fairmont Hotel and we check in. I have a habit of immediately turning on the television upon arriving in a new hotel room. The local news is on and as it comes back from commercial a brass band rendition of Edgar Winter’s "Frankenstein" is playing. It’s the fucking CBS affiliate the real news and they’re playing ‘Frankenstein.’ The anchors are bobbing their heads. Only in New Orleans.
We pass Frenchy’s art gallery and decide to head in and say hello. The gallery is filled with psychedelic paintings of everyone from Les Claypool to Galactic to Bela Fleck & the Flecktones. Frenchy is heading for the door, on his way to the fairgrounds, and tells us not to miss Quintology, a local jazz fusion outfit.
Serendipity strikes as I enter the fairgrounds for Day One of Jazz Fest. The first music I hear is Bonerama’s cover of "Frankenstein." Unfortunately it’s the group’s last song, but I’ll catch more Bonerama later in the week. I make it to the Jazz Tent and Quintology is absolutely transcendent. Guitarist Brian Seeger is just shredding and drummer Simon Lott can’t stop smiling. Lott’s hip hop beats are offset by the traditional jazz comping of pianist Brian Coogan and the exploratory walking basslines of Tommy Sciple. It is by far the highlight of my day at the festival, although I am also turned on to new music including the jubilant bluegrass fusion of La Volee D’Castors of Canada and the pocket funk of Ivan Neville’s Dumpsta Phunk.
Dirty Dozen Brass Band kicks off its 11-night residency at Twi-ro-pa, a new venue to the jam scene, which opened this year. The crowd is ready to dance and the band delivers with covers of The Meters’ "Cissy Strut" and Outkast’s "The Whole World" (not exactly a common cover compared to "Cissy"). Next door, in the venue’s larger room, a hilarious 80s cover band called ‘The Molly Ringwalds’ is tearing shit up. Each member is dressed as a different 80s icon: Dee Snider on guitar, Freddie Mercury on keys, Tommy Lee on drums, one of the Devo cats on guitar…etc. A cover of ‘Separate Ways’ ignites the drunken crowd. Relix colleague Tyson Schuetze turns to me with the line of the night: ‘All this great music in New Orleans right now and we’re watching this.’ We stay for the rest of the set though.
One of the great things about New Orleans is the open container policy or lack thereof. The crowd at Tipitina’s is spilling out onto the street, as patrons pound beer and partake. Hell, there’s even a bar set up outside on the sidewalk. Galactic takes the stage just as we make our way upstairs and through the packed, sweaty bodies. The band is playing its typical breed of hardcore funk (inspired by the punk and hardcore backgrounds of some of its members). Saxophonist Skerik and percussionist Mike Dillon both sit in for much of the first set. Drummer Stanton Moore is on fire, bouncing up and down on his stool as he excitedly pounds away at his kit, grinning ear to ear. As you’d imagine, there is a festive vibe in the air unlike anything I’ve felt since New Year’s. A large percentage of the crowd seems to be from out of town and for many this is the first night of vacation. Alcohol flows like water.