Whirlwind Wendy’s 1997 2nd weekend Jazz Fest Review:

This year marks my third consecutive pilgrimage to the Jazz & Heritage Festival in New Orleans. Each year seems to get better and better despite some snafus. Such as looking for our lost rental car with Brian from San Francisco and friends. Our little misadventure was actually quite amusing. Invisible Cowboy was gigging in a nearby backyard ... Lucky gave us really bad directions.... Listened in on a rehearsal via a street window and consequently got our bearings and some more directions from the musicians!

That night we went to Medeski, Martin & Wood (MMW) and the Dirty Dozen. The Dirty Dozen were in rare form. I didn’t want them to stop doing their thang!

For me, Jazz Fest means rubbing elbows with a great group of people from all over that share the same passion for great music, good food and that have that joie de vivre in their blood!

I arrived in New Orleans on Wednesday night just in time for the Meters’ show at the House of Blues. The place was jam packed and everyone was dancing! It was a good start to my Jazz Fest weekend! I spotted Steve Apple and Alan Dorchak among the masses and went over to make their acquaintance. Soon after, we proceeded to take the merrymaking to Benny’s for some Monkey Ranch (Anders & Theresa Osborne, Dave Malone & Reggie Scanlon from the Radiators, Willie Green from the Nevilles and Mark McQuain). I must say I really did enjoy myself there! When I wasn’t dancing, I had the best seat in the house (on top of the speaker next to the stage). The next morning I found those plastic “monkeys in a barrelî in the darndest places! After Benny’s, Alan, Steve and I headed to the Hummingbird for a 5 a.m. greasy spoon (and fork) breakfast. My stomach was humming for hours after that fine meal!! My gastronomic experiences could only improve at this point!

After cat napping for a couple hours, I headed to the fest with my sister Bonnie. Before heading to the Polaroid stage, we made a pit stop at the snow cone booth for a nice and icy pink lemonade. We stayed for a few of Clarence “Frogmanî Henry and then went over for some Eddie Bo. We backtracked to catch all of Anders Osborne which I couldn’t get enough of!! The food booths were beckoning me at this point, so we split a shrimp po’ boy and an order of crawfish beignets. I wasn’t too impressed with the po’ boy, but the crawfish beignets with a tasty remoulade sauce were good. You’re better off getting the cold, spicy shrimp salad po’ boy which was one of my favorites and very refreshing! Before the Blues Travelers, we stopped at the House of Blues to hear the very tail end of Galactic. I look forward to hearing more of them during their tour of South Florida.

I stashed away a small coconut pie for a “munchie emergencyî in my backpack which was gobbled up at day’s end. Make sure you buy your pie(s) early in the day! Every afternoon the booth was sold out! There’s always next year to try the sweet potato and apple pies!! Yum-o!

I kept crossing paths with these really nice people. Like minds think alike! At the end of the day, we met again at the Ray Ban stage behind the sound booth. It was particularly a pleasure to meet “Tango” from San Francisco! Sorry we missed you at the Snafu affair! Hope to see you next year!

Later that evening, I went to Tipitina’s for the Radiator’s “Leave the Planetî party. This was my first Snafu party and it lived up to its reputation! The Pet De Kat Krewe was front and center and having a blast! Met Da ve from the chat board and his friend Gerry (or Ger to his close friends). Very nice guys, indeed.

Friday, we brunched at the Praline Connection on Frenchmen. It’s great stick-to-your-ribs soul food! I ordered the fried chicken which was crunchy on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside. On the side, I had collard greens, cornbread and macaroni & cheese. And a copious supply of sweet tea to wash it all down! My sister had the Friday Special which was very special indeed. Fried catfish that practically melted in your mouth with shrimp jambalaya, potato salad and cornbread!

After brunch, we were on our way to the fairgrounds. Somehow we managed to park free everyday except one. It took a little patience and luck! Friday was our day for continuous wandering from stage to stage. We caught a little bit of everything. Bruce Hornsby, Steve Riley, Michael Ray & the Cosmic Krewe, Coco Robicheaux, and Cyril Neville & the Uptown All-star Review, etc... I wasn’t very impressed by Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. We left Dopsie to rock on without us. Wandered over to the Congo Square to catch Cyril’s last song. It was well worth the hustle. Supposedly, the rest of the show wasn’t as good n’ funky. I enjoyed the day, but not as much as I did on Thursday and Saturday!

Stopped in at Luizza’s for the rendezvous and met some of the chat board krewe and other assorted festers. After a few beers, my sister, Da ve, Gerry and I went over to the CAC to score some tickets to Bela Fleck. No such luck! A plan B was necessary, so we eventually made our way over to Donna’s for the Soul Rebels. This is one fine, kick ass brass band! The best and only way to truly enjoy yourself there---is to be upfront and juking with the band! Take care though...the area surrounding the club can be a bit dodgey. The late night munchies set in, so we followed the tracks to the 24 hour St. Charles Tavern. Nothing to write home about---but it did the trick.

Saturday before the fest, we did take-out macaroni and cheese, cornbread and iced tea from the Praline Connection. It’s a test-proven, guaranteed hangover remedy! It’s almost as good as Becky’s mac and cheese casserole served at the Zydeco Brunch! Love those crispy bits!

Remember the weekend lines to buy festival tickets were god awful, so buy those tickets in advance!!! My highlights from Saturday’s lineup were George Porter, Jr. & the Runnin’ Pardners and Fats Domino. George Porter, Jr. was beyond cool. The energy level was high and everyone was dancing! His little daughter was stealing the show with her cute moves and big smile! And need I say anything about Fats....let’s just say I wanted to stay on that hill and find my thrill! Earlier in the day, we had a Cookie and the Cupcakes break which was worth sittin’ for a spell at the House of Blues. Elvis made an appearance at the House of Blues stage wearing a lovely white polyester jumpsuit. A photo opp I just couldn’t resist!

Dropped by Luizza’s again for some cervezas and a jitterbug twirl with Pebo, a blues singer from New York. I’m still waiting for big bands and swing to make a comeback! Forget the 70’s, give me the 40’s any day! Pebo, see you at the Talkhouse in Long Island this summer!

While there, we were entertained by a children’s street band playing pots, pans and glass jars. Beats selling lemonade any day! Wandered around the MMW show and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I really liked their funky stuff! Their more avante garde side really wasn’t my scene. Nonetheless, I had a great time and I was glad that I checked them out! Bonnie’s bout with bronchitis was getting the best of her, so she called it a night. Since there was more music to be had in the Crescent City, I made my way to Benny’s and found it shut down by New Orleans’ finest. Deciding that one can never get enough of Anders Osborne, I found myself at the Howlin’ Wolf. Fortunately for me, he overslept and I was able to catch most of the show! Nice venue, good acoustics, and two bars...try it you’ll like it!

Sunday morning....the festivities were sadly drawing to a close! Our flight was at 3:00 p.m. and we weren’t going to the festival! I offered to be “bumped” off the flight, but there weren’t any takers! Too bad, because I was all ready to make a beeline to the fairgrounds! Next year come hell or high-water, I’m festing for a week!!!