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Jazz Fest Daily Diary

Published: 2003/04/30
by Jeff Waful

Tuesday April 29

Tuesday April 29
Fairmont Hotel
6:15 p.m.
For the first time since I’ve been here, we’re planning to have a real sit-down dinner. Determined to find a great local restaurant, we’ve consulted the latest issue of Relix, which features a Jazz Fest preview complete with local musicians’ favorite bars and restaurants. Nearly everyone in the piece chose Jaques-Imo’s, but we already have reservations there for tomorrow night. We decide to go with one of Stanton Moore’s picks, an upscale seafood establishment called GW Fin’s.
8:02 p.m.
GW Fin’s
The restaurant is packed with well-dressed doctors from a medical conference in town. I attract a few puzzled looks when I strut in, wearing jeans and a short sleeve button-down (I thought I had dressed up). The place is only a block off of Bourbon Street, but it feels nothing like New Orleans inside. The food and service however, are impeccable. I order a Bloody Mary, which is a far cry from the tomato juice and vodka imitations that a few of the local bars in Boston try to pass off as authentic. The spicy cocktail is heaven in a glass, brimming with colorful garnishes and warming my brain before it’s even half-gone. The pre-dinner biscuits are served fresh from the oven every couple of minutes and are as delicious as any pastry. Teams of waiters just keep on coming with hot trays of the damn things. Salad hasn’t even arrived yet and I’m nearly full.
8:45 p.m.
Our appetizer arrives casually late, but that seems to be the pace here (accept for those feathery biscuits that won’t leave us alone). The lobster dumplings are drowning in a cream sauce so rich it tastes like chocolate.
9:21 p.m.
After a stellar caesar salad, the entr arrive. I’ve ordered the red grouper, which is smothered in crawfish etouffee. Although my stomach is over capacity, I manage to enjoy most of the amazing meal. Good call Stanton. And for the record, unlike last night’s cab ride, we tip extremely well.
10:59 p.m.
Mermaid Lounge
Charlie Hunter
The Mermaid Lounge is a quaint little dive bar with above average ambiance, but a bad layout. Apparently the club was forced to relocate the stage because of noise complaints that came when the warehouse across the street was recently converted into condominiums. Now, the bar takes up more space than it should and the stage is in the worst possible spot. With Hunter sitting for the show, unless you’re in the front row or standing on a chair, you can’t see him. It sounds great however even from the yard out back, which is where we sit, sipping beers and socializing with the locals. Suddenly a scorching blues guitar solo emanates from within and I rush inside to see who the special guest is. To my surprise, it’s Hunter. I’ve never heard him play such standard, soulful licks. Gone are the flanged, Leslie tone and the jazzy licks. Charlie is a man possessed, and the band stops playing to marvel at his outburst.
12:36 a.m.
Dragon’s Den
Stanton Moore, Robert Mercurio, Jon Cleary & Eric Lindell
Through the lively stench of Thai food, I climb the rickety stairway to the Dragon’s Den. The room is lit almost exclusively by red light, which illuminates the dancing billows of cigarette smoke. The dr is funky and romantic, an odd mixture of Victorian and oriental, with antique lamps and oversized mirrors everywhere. I’m told that the building has been condemned several times and it seems appropriate given the weathered floorboards and narrow walkways. I can hardly move, as the packed bodies boogie to the roadhouse blues of the jubilant quartet. It’s refreshing to see the rhythm section of Galactic playing outside the parameters of funk/jazz fusion. The vibe is intimate and wild, with people dancing everywhere, exchanging grins and clinking bottles of beer. There is a kinetic charm to the bar, which a friend describes as an "opium den." The energy reaches a fever pitch as Cleary shreds a classic honky tonk piano solo with Moore locking in, accenting each bar with humming bird chops.
Not bad for a Tuesday night.

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