Day 5 / The Daze Between ... Monday, April 29


Sleeping in never felt quite as good as it did after the last four days. We didn't set foot out of the Staybridge until sometime after 10, missing the breakfast scrounging completely (and not really missing it). We headed straight to PJ's on Canal Street, got coffee, and headed down to the riverfront to sip and enjoy the warm sunshine and the kind of fresh air that you get on the day following three-plus inches of rain. It was magnificent.

We continued along the riverfront, enjoying the sights but also looking for a place to eat. We passed Jackson Square and Café du Monde before setting sights on the open-air Market Cafélocated on the point of Decatur and North Peters Streets. It seemed just right for what turned out to be an early lunch. We were seated with a rear view of the Joan of Arc statue at the tip of the point and also near some empty chairs with a sign that said "We Play for Tips!"

Laurie got iced coffee, I got café au lait, and then, sure enough, before too long a small jazz combo took to the chairs and began to play some basic New Orleans jazz. Nothing fancy, but it just sounded so good on a warm morning. I ordered a bowl of gumbo and Laurie had a Greek salad. Not your typical breakfast, but it was 11:30 after all. When we went in we had no idea we were going to get music, so this worked out just great, despite the fact that apparently one of the wait-staff walked out, which slowed things down quite a bit. Fortunately, we had no idea what we were doing next, so we just didn't care.

At one point, a mother walked her young girl, maybe three years old, up to the band to put some money in the tip jar. She became fascinated by the trumpet player, who played to her, sang to her, and let her handle the trumpet. Very sweet, the whole thing. It just continued the laid-back mood of the day.

When we were done and I was waiting for Laurie, I went across the street, where there was more shade on a walkway that led to the river. I have said several times that one never knows what one is going to encounter in New Orleans, and this was proven once again by the fact that a couple passed me by. They were walking their pet ... goat.

We continued on to the French Market. We passed through its interesting food section (thank heaven we didn't come in here hungry), then got to the flea market and found that to be a bit overwhelming. There is certainly an interesting array of merchandise, and some of it was right up our eclectic alley. Another time we might have done some shopping. However, on this trip it was not a priority.

We headed further downriver, by the Old U.S. Mint and onto Frenchmen Street, with no particular goal other than to see what it looked like in the daytime. On the way back into the French Quarter, we stopped at Cafe Envie and Espresso Bar for a dessert and more coffee. To say we were mellow today would be an understatement. 

Continuing upriver, we were soon back at Jackson Square. We found ourselves at the small park above the French Quarter Visitor Center looking straight at St. Louis Cathedral – the money shot, as it were, in every tourist's portfolio of New Orleans photos. There is a seating area that slopes down to the street, and at the bottom was a band playing New Orleans jazz. 

You really don't have to roam very far to hear music being played on the street in New Orleans. In this case, it was provided by the International Neurosurgeons Jazz Band. Apparently there was a neurosurgeons convention at the New Orleans Marriott hotel this week, and this band was doing a concert in conjunction with the convention.

We listened to the jazz for awhile, then walked around Jackson Square, looking at the artists who work and display their work on either side of the square, in front of the historic Pontalba apartment buidlings with their wrought iron balconies. And of course there was a brass band playing on Chartres Street near the cathedral. At the top of the square is the cathedral itself, flanked by the Cabildo, the old city hall, on the left, and the Presbytère, built to match the Cabildo, on the right. The Presbytère originally housed the city's Roman Catholic priests and authorities. All three date back to the 1700's. The cathedral is still in use and the other two house museums. Fortune tellers and sleight-of-hand magicians are always set up in front of these buildings.

We found a shaded bench in the circle around the statue of Andrew Jackson and just hung out for a little while more. This is the way to vacation!

It was, however, time for something to eat. After a quick search in the Jax Brewery shopping center which ended up empty, we found the New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood Company across Decatur Street from the brewery. As luck would have it, oysters were half price for the late afternoon, so we split a dozen and a half while I had draft Abita and Laurie had a bloody mary. This was a local chain restaurant but the oysters were fresh, the service was friendly, and the French doors were open to the street, making for one more laid back experience. 

As we were winding up our time at the restaurant, the skies turned gray and rumbly, so we decided to head back to the hotel rather than get caught in another rainstorm. Unfortunately, we were too late. Fortunately, we were able to duck into the New Orleans Marriott on Canal Street and act like neurosurgeons before the heavy stuff started to come down. We hung out in the Starbucks in the lobby. Fortunately this storm was just passing through and we were back on the street in an hour.

On the way back to the hotel, I realized that my backup sneakers were perilously close to becoming soaked like my main pair of sneakers were yesterday. Conveniently, there was a Payless Shoe Source on Canal Street, and I got me a spiffy pair of Champion sneakers to serve as my Jazz Fest mudders. It's a good thing I got them, too, because when we got back to our room in the Staybridge we were greeted by the most unpleasant aroma of my wet sneakers from yesterday. We bid those nasty things adieu as I took them down to Poydras Street and deposited them in a city trash can. 

Around 6:30 went to Mother's for a takeout dinner. I got a grilled catfish po'boy, and Laurie got a crawfish étouffée omlette. How cool it is to have Mother's across the street.

It was about 8:00 when we went over to the Poydras Street cab stand and took a ride of about four miles up Tchoupitoulas Street to Napoleon Street and Tipitina's. On the bill tonight was the Instruments-a-Comin' benefit concert sponsored by the Tipitina's Foundation. Simply put, the Foundation puts instruments in schools, and we were pleased to support it – in this way particularly. 

The benefit was advertised to be a who's who of New Orleans funk and it did not disappoint. It was a mob scene outside, but once we got ourselves into the correct line and then inside (always rub the head of the bust of Professor Longhair when you enter Tipitina's) we found that the place was almost empty because, even though it was close to the advertised starting time, well, Tip's apparently runs on New Orleans time. In this case, though, it was a good thing because Laurie staked out a spot right on the barrier in front of the stage, a bit to the right and a bit in front of the speakers but with a clear view of the stage ... and pretty close to the end of the bar, too. By the time we left more than five hours later, the place had become as crowded as crowded can be. However, we managed to hold our places and see some great sets. Nobody held back for this event!

One of the really cool things about being in front of the stage was that all the artists had to walk in front of us on their way to the backstage area where they hung out before they went on. So we got to see and greet everyone as they arrived.

First up was Walter "Wolfman" Washington and his backing band the Roadmasters, joined by "Papa" John Gros of Papa Grows Funk on keyboards. Next was Galactic, who did a couple of songs and then were joined by the outstanding guitarist Anders Osborne. Among the songs they did was a jaw-dropping take on All Along the Watchtower. Then came the New Orleans Suspects, followed by Dumpstaphunk, fast becoming our favorite band ... ever. So here's another one from them. During the rap that begins the obligatory (and why not?) Put It in the Dumpster, Ivan Neville had to put the mood he was in because his keyboards were on the wrong side of the stage in the dumpster. 

I don't recall it, but the person taking all these linked videos must have been standing right next to us.

Dumpstaphunk was followed by our introduction to the three-trombone extravaganza known as Bonerama. Unbelievable. They were joined for part of their set by members of the New Orleans Suspects. Next up were another new band to us, Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes. Johnny Sketch, who we would spot in the crowd at the Gentilly Stage after Galactic's set later in the week, plays an electric cello on some songs. Who would have thought that we would see cellists twice in four days in New Orleans? Next up were Big Sam's Funky Nation. We love Big Sam, what can I say?

At this point it was approaching 2 a.m. and we had been standing in front of the Tipitina's stage (and speakers) for a loooonnnng time. Getting a bit tired, and also a bit concerned about the crowd that would be looking cabs when this thing finally let out, we decided to call it night. We passed up two bands we hadn't seen before, the Honey Island Swamp Band and Flow Tribe. Well, that's not entirely true about Flow Tribe, because we have seen bits of their sets at Jazz Fest last year and this year. It's nothing personal, Flow Tribe, we will catch you sometime.

Out front, we found a cab to share with a couple of women who happened to be staying at the W Hotel, just diagonally across Poydras Street from the Staybridge. We talked the whole way back about this and that. It is amazing how this city brings out the friendliness in everybody. 

The first of the Daze Between was remarkable. Hanging out in New Orleans is every bit as much fun as going to Jazz Fest!

© Jeff Mangold 2012