Been down in New Orleans, Louisiana with friends for the bettah part of a week+..attending the 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. This has been my second straight year attending the festival and yet I am and will be considered a newbie until I have attended a minimum of (10) festivals!!
Yes, the festival has this kind of a draw and you can feel it all ovah the city..from the folks that live in the historic Lower 9th Ward who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina and are hawking bottles of water outside the Fairgrounds for $1, to all the many incredible eateries where you have to have reservations to eat cause they are filled to the gill 24-7...and all the sold out hotels, motels and bed and breakfast accomodators who have to say no to you if you had not booked a room months in advance!!
The first words out of everyone is.."ya'll here for Jazz Fest?"
My friends Kevin & Marie have been making Jazz Fest a yearly treat with other friends for years and last year they invited me along..this year I invited along my friend Carol and as expected Kevin & Marie made my friend their friend real quick!
I got into New Orleans last Thursday afternoon and made a beeline to Bourbon Street to get a Po-Boy (one can not go to New Orleans and not get a po-boy), listen to some music and DRINK:>).....it turned into a late night w/ Kevin & Marie down on Bourbon Street and then ended ovah at the St. Charles Tavern on St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District..... I picked up Carol at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport on Friday and after a little freshening up at the bed and breakfast over on Magazine Street (Terrell House) where we stayed for the week... we headed ovah to Jazz Fest to catch Robert Plant and Allison Krause...Plant rocked the place with "When the Levee Breaks" along with a few other Zep chestnuts to make me one happy man!!
Another Friday night treat at Jazz Fest and maybe my favorite of the weekend was Buckwheat Zydeco performing a classic by New Orlean's own "superstar" Fat's Domino's ....."I'm Walkin' to New Orlean's"
Immediately post Friday night Jazz Fest we set up shop outside Liuzza's by the Track to drink gin & tonics & their famous Bloody Mary's complete with the stringbeans...if you have nevah had a Bloody Mary with stringbeans then this alone is a reason to head to New Orleans!! Hangin' out in front of Liuzza's post fest is tradition for many..everyone sets up their chairs on the sidewalks..gets a cocktail @ Liuzza's and then the post party begins with more live music ...yes the party is on the sidewalk and street outside the saloon-ONLY in New Orleans!! ...Worcester can't approve a liquor license at the local golf course or for local events without creating unnecessary "bad publicity" for an event or the city and yet New Orleans has festivals with thousands and thousands ATTENDING - and no problems and it can????
Our first incredible New Orleans culinary orgasm was at NOLA Restaurant in the French Quarter on Friday night after Jazz Fest and the post party at Liuzza's by the Track..it is one of Emeril's restaurants in New Orleans and a must for anyone looking to really dine out when on vacation...one needs to make reservations well inadvance of Jazz Fest weekend..all I can say is class with a capital CLASS!! Just a great foodie experience and it wasn't to expensive - about $90 a person:>)
Saturday was Woodstock all ovah again as it rained for a good chunk of the day and we spent to much time looking for cover instead of listening to music....Carol dragged me over to hear Billy Joel at the Acura Tent and the last music to be heard on Saturday @ Jazz Fest and I'm glad I followed!! I was surprised to see so many thousands out in the rain listening to Billy Joel and his band...there were places where the water was 1-3' deep...muck everywhere and not a sad puss on anyone's face:>) I'm glad that in 10 years I'll be able to tell folks I sucked it up and hung out in the rain with many others...including Carol:>) Like Ted William's last ball game at Fenway in the 60's where only 6000 attended but 100,000 today say they were there..I can say I saw Billy Joel in torrential rain at the 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival!!
Saturday night was the second culinary orgasm of the weekend...a crowd of us went to K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen also in the French Quarter..this restaurant is owned by the legendary New Orleans chef, Paul Prudhomme and he is known for his Louisiana style cajun cooking with all those great spices..the "Chicken & Andouille Gumbo" along with an order of the "Fried Oysters" are killah and a great way to start off dinner!
I had watched the "Biography Channel" on Chef Prudhomme after last years Jazz Fest and I was so interested in him and his style of cooking that I offered to buy dinnah for all my pals if we could get reservations there..and we did!! Getting to pick a restaurant on Jazz Fest weekend with this crowd is tough..so I upped the ante to secure the orgasm:>)
Sunday at Jazz Fest was fun but wet...very wet!! More great music in the rain that included lot's of Gospel (the Gospel Tent drew a lot of folks cause of the rain)..Irma Thomas the legendary Soul Queen of New Orleans , Elvis Costello w/ another New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint and R&B superstar Al Green to end the 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival!!
Irma sang "Sweet Memories" and it was a great treat and a song I am hung up on right now as it was an apropo song for the weekend spent with great friends..the link is from a past Jazz Fest with Allen Toussaint playing the piano...but it sounded as fresh at 2008 Jazz Fest as it was many years ago..when Irma & Allen played it together!! Irma is the star on this years 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival poster....the posters have become huge collectors items...I picked up this years unsigned by the "poster artist" and have ordered a "poster artist" signed one also as well as picking up last years with Jerry Lee Lewis as the star on the poster and signed by the "poster artist"..I picked up last years poster for $250.00 but the values on other web sites are running at $300+ right now..the 2006 poster with Fat's Domino on it is retailing right now at $1700+.
Most of the gang split back to Boston on Monday...Carol stayed till Tuesday and I got out of New Orleans on Thursday...Carol and I listened to a lot of good local music on Sunday night to Monday night....day tripped around the French Quarter all day Monday...coffee sippin' and people watchin' at Cafe du Monde in the French Market is a great way pass the time away...the chicory coffee takes a little getting used to and the beignets (french donuts) are different but part of the New Orleans culture...so when in Rome do what the Romans do!!
I also bought my very first painting from a local New Orleans artist....nothing fancy or expensive-just a real New Orleans theme (you will have to come to my summer Jazz Fest in July to see)....around the perimeter of Jackson Square is a cadre of local artist's who paint all day and sell their goods..the art hangs on the wrought iron fence around Jackson Square thus it is called "off the fence art" in New Orleans:>)
My last "Big Night" in New Orleans was Tuesday night and I spent it at the Funky Pirate Blues Bar on Bourbon Street by myself (Wed. night I relaxed my livah:>) listening to "Big Al Carson" Internationally Known, Home Grown..467lbs. of Blues!!! Big Al Carson plays four nights a week at the Funky Pirate and he has become my local New Orleans favorite....his nightly shows remind me of the many nightly "Little Joe Cook" shows I used to go to at the Cantab in Central Square-Cambridge..yah always knew where "Little Joe Cook" was in Cambridge and you always know where "Big Al Carson" is going to be when in New Orleans:>)
Great trip with friends...4 stars to all the locals in New Orleans for making this years Jazz Fest one to remember and I am sure for many others ...New Orleans is a great American City and we need to support it in it's REBIRTH!! This was my second Jazz Fest and my third time to New Orleans...hitchhiked thru it in 1980 when I was 18 on my way to Arizona from Tampa, Florida..I'll be back for many years to come...nothin but "Sweet Memories" about New Orleans:>)
2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival pics to be posted here soon!!
See 2007 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival pics