Monday April 28
Monday April 28
I'm a man of habit. I need to start each day with a cup of coffee and bagel, and in New Orleans that's not as easy to find as crawfish. Actually, it's been nearly impossible in recent years for me to establish any sort of routine during Jazz Fest. This ain't Boston or New York, where Starbucks is on every corner. Alas, I spot the green and white logo, just four blocks down Canal Street, hidden in the Sheraton Hotel. Generally, I'd opt for a local coffee shop, but I'll settle for the Buck any day. All is right in the world as I sip a tall cup of Joe and read the USA Today sports page.
Instruments A Comin Benefit
I can't stay away from this place and why would I want to? Tonight's vibe is much different, as most of the drunken tourists have left town, leaving only drunken locals and a smattering of traveling die hard music fans. When I jump out of the cab, George Porter Jr. and Dr. John are standing on the street corner, chatting away. No one seems to care. A few feet away, Stanton Moore and Leo Nocentelli are laughing about something. Meanwhile, a couple hundred or so people socialize in the street, which has been closed off for the evening block party. Inside, Anders Osborne and Henry Butler perform to a few dedicated souls, (hey it's early) as most are enjoying the jambalaya and ribs being served on the sidewalk.
A local DJ introduces Nocentelli and Walter "Wolfman" Washington, both of whom are being inducted into the Tipitina's Walk of Fame. Everyone gathers around as small, circular plaques honoring each musician are unveiled. When welcoming Nocentelli, the disc jockey leads the crowd in an a capella rendition of The Meters's staple, "Cissy Strut." Hundreds sing the famed melody line in unison, as drinks everywhere are hoisted into the air. Both Nocentelli and Washington give brief speeches, both explaining that they're not big talkers. "I let my music do the talkin'," Nocentelli casually declares.
This is about as "New Orleans" as it gets. A true all-star line-up takes the stage, featuring keyboardists Dr. John and Ivan Neville, bassist George Porter Jr., drummer Stanton Moore, guitarist June Yamagishi and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band Horns. The funk is thicker than mud. Moore and Porter Jr. play a game of cat and mouse, alternating between locking in and laying out. They stare each other down, communicating by way of raised eyebrows and exaggerated head bobs. George accents the downbeat for four measures, then plays on the offbeat for a few measures, while Stanton laughs his ass off. There is an indescribable element to funk, measured only by feel. It's not something you can teach, but everyone on stage has it tonight. It's the real deal. Duh.
For the fifth day in a row, I've skipped dinner due to time constraints, so we grab a plate of ribs and rice as we jump in a taxi. The cab driver is like a character out of a movie: greasy hair, dorky glasses and a weird mesh hat. I'm trying like all hell not to spill food all over his cab, but he's flying through the streets, almost purposefully hitting every pothole. He puts on the old classic "Red Beans & Rice" and blares the stereo, thinking it's hilarious as he accelerates. We're not amused. My face is covered in barbecue sauce and jambalaya litters my lap. Lee Ann nearly stabs herself in the eye with a rib bone and Dave's white shirt is stained in a few spots. It's probably one of those things that will be funny when we look back on it. I don't think we tipped him very well though.
The club is pretty empty as the Malachy Papers take the stage. It's Monday night after all and even in New Orleans people need a night off wrong. By midnight, the place is packed. Stanton Moore, fresh from Tips, jumps out of a cab outside and takes the stage minutes later with "The Frequinox." It's yet another "all-star" ensemble, comprised of Moore and bassist Robert Mercurio (Galactic), Keyboardist Robert Walter (20th Congress, Greyboy Allstars), saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr. (Headhunters, Dr. John) and guitarist Will Bernard (Motherbug). The group rehearsed just once, but sounds as tight as full-time touring band. Bernard's soaring leads inject a more rock and roll sound than I had expected. Special guest Skerik engages Harrison in an electrifying sax duet, which reaches a deafening crescendo, matched in volume by the crowd's swollen cheers.
During set break, we head outside for some fresh air and run into several familiar faces. There is a large number of musicians, managers and agents in attendance tonight and this could very easily be New York City. For a night that had very low expectations, this is actually shaping up to be quite the party. We can't walk three feet without bumping into someone from the Northeast. Everyone asks the same question: "What are you doing later?"
The glamorous life continues. I'm back at the hotel surrounded by three beautiful women, a bottle of tequila and baby oil. Or, I'm slaving away at my laptop until sunrise again.
You make the call.