Day 9 / Friday, May 2

9-18


On Friday morning, the 2014 drill: get up, get ready, ... oops, just coffee at the Staybridge breakfast buffet, there was no food to be found ... go back to the room and slather on sunblock and gather tickets and cameras and phones, and head out to walk to the shuttle buses at the Sheraton. 

The weather today was simply perfect. Sunny, 73, low humidity, very light breeze. Mother nature is making up for last year in a big way. The umbrella remained at the Staybridge.

Breakfast today was served as soon as the shuttle bus delivered us to Jazz Fest. We’re really starting to like the early arrival and food before the shows begin. This saves having to sacrifice music for food after the festival gets hopping. 

I stopped at Vaucresson's stand (see Day 11 last year) and got me a crawfish sausage po'boy. Served with Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy, it was indeed the breakfast of champions. Note the spicy Creole mustard. 

Laurie had butter beans and collard greens from the Praline Connection, whose restaurant is located on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans. 

          

There isn't much soul food cooking being done at Jazz Fest, and that's a shame, but the Praline Connection is doing its best to fill the void. Don't let the name fool you; they aren't selling their signature spoon-dripped pralines at the Fair Grounds. They are serving up the authentic food that has made them a household name throughout New Orleans. Founded by Cecil Kaigler and Curtis Moore, the Praline Connection opened in 1990 on Frenchmen in the Marigny neighborhood, and it’s still there. They are also in one of the food courts in the Louis Armstrong International Airport.

Like many local businesses, Praline Connection went through tough times following Katrina in 2005. The restaurant’s building sustained little damage, thanks to its location on the edge of the French Quarter, but they did have to close a second location. They managed to survive and get themselves back on track to the point where began serving at Jazz Fest a few years ago. For the non-vegetarians, they also serve their famous crispy wings and chicken livers with hot pepper jelly (the real soul food) as well. 

After we ate, guess where we started the day? You got it, the Friday cubes led us to the Fais Do Do Stage. Leading off today was 96-year-old Cajun fiddler Milton Vanicor with the accomplished Cajun accordionist Chris Miller and various members of Vanicor’s family and Miller’s band, Bayou Roots (this link is a video). 

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Vanicor, who played with Cajun legend Iry LeJeune in the 1940s and 1950s, is an important part of Louisiana music history, but he didn't record his first album until just last year. It was produced by Miller, and the Bayou Roots band (minus their fiddler) accompanied him. The music today was nothing but pure family-style Cajun. Not too many play this type of music anymore, so it was really fun to hear it. 

In addition to Vanicor, on stage were his nephew, Orsy, who played the pedal steel guitar, and daughters, Linda Marcantel and Jeanette Aguillard, both of whom played acoustic guitars. (Jeanette's husband, Jimmy Aguillard, is a Cajun musician who is a very talented composer and singer of Cajun songs in French. She and her daughter are in a Cajun singing group called Les Amies Louisianaises.) Milton's grandson Jim Marcantel played second fiddle, and his granddaughter Emily Marcantel played a what I always called a triangle, but in Cajun country is known as a tit-fer. Players from Chris Miller's band were Ray Ellender on guitar, Tim Broussard on bass, and Danny Peet on drums.

Vanicor was raised in Branch, Louisiana, which is between Layayette and Eunice. He grew up hearing live performances by such seminal Cajun and Creole musicians as Angelas LeJeune and Amédé Ardoin. From the late 1940s through the early 1950s, Vanicor, along with his brothers Ellis and Ivy, his nephew Orsy Vanicor, and his brother-in-law Asa LeJeune, were Iry LeJeune’s supporting squadron as the Lacassine Playboys. Orsy was too young to perform in clubs, so they would sneak in him in and promise the club owner that Orsy would never go near the bar. 

Vanicor’s association with LeJeune, the blind accordionist responsible for the intrument’s resurgence in Cajun music, was a deeply rooted one. He first met LeJeune as a child living with his future wife Odile’s family when the two courted in the 1930s. Around the time of LeJeune’s breakout hit Love Bridge Waltz in 1948 (here played by Milton in 2013), he moved in with the Vanicors for a spell, which led to the formation of the Lacassine Playboys. During their run together, Vanicor played on such legendary LeJeune recordings as Grand Nuit Special, Bayou Pon Pon, and La Valse de Grande Chemin

Eventually, the demands of late-night dances and supporting a family took their toll, and Vanicor abandoned the nightlife around 1954. From that point forward he limited his playing to family gatherings. Only recently, to fill the void after Odile’s passing in 2008, did he begin to play in public again. At that time he started to attend the Saturday morning jam at Marc Savoy’s Savoy Music Center in Eunice (Savoy, a musician, historian, and craftsman, has been hosting a weekly acoustic Cajun music jam in his shop in Eunice, Louisiana since the 1960s; see more about him tomorrow). There, he rekindled old friendships and caught the attention of new admirers. In 2011 and 2012, Vanicor was featured in Savoy’s entourage at Jazz Fest.

Almost immediately, Vanicor and his daughter Linda Marcantel were deluged by requests for a CD, and Miller was enlisted for the task. Miller opted to record Vanicor at his home in Welsh instead of a studio. "The more I got to thinking about it," he recalls, "this is not what he was about. He was not so much a gigging musician as he was a home musician. Although he did play with Iry, that was not that long of a period of time professionally." Since Vanicor lives near a set of train tracks, Miller got the idea of recording a train coming into town and bookending the CD with it to symbolize traveling by train for a visit with Vanicor at his home.

Here is a link to an in-depth interview that roots music historian Devon Léger conducted with Vanicor a couple of years ago. It’s definitely worth the time; you can see how unassuming the Cajuns are, and how music is just a natural part of their lives. Sometimes I think they must wonder what all the fuss is about. Here's the family on the back porch and in the living room playing just for fun. Here he is, all by himself, showing grandson Jim how he played Vien M'Chercher with Iry LeJeune. Here's what it's like at one of the Saturday jams at the Savoy Center, and here's the scene at Jazz Fest.

After this very cool show, we hurried over to the Grandstand’s courtyard and the Lagniappe Stage to catch the Gloryoskis, three very talented musicians: the avant-garde, French leaning, audio looping cellist Helen Gillet; the folk-singing acoustic guitarist Myshkin; and the traditional jazz oriented, ukelele playing Debbie Davis. Remember the Tin Men last week? Well, sort of like them in their genre, the Gloryoskis are probably the world's best ukulele, guitar, and cello trio. Not only is the instrumentation a bit out there, but the backgrounds of the three musicians are so diverse that you could hardly imagine the collaboration working. But it really does. This was about as pleasant and engaging a set of music imaginable. As they say, sometimes it all comes down to chemistry; the three meld together wonderfully.

The friendship and comradery in the New Orleans music community helps, too. You'll find Davis and Gillet in any number of groups and collaborations around town. We had seen Gillet last year as part of the Mardia Gras Indian Orchestra. The idea for the Gloryoskis came while Davis and Myshkin were watching Gillet at Washboard Chaz's annual party (appropriately called Chaz Fest) in 2012 and, as Davis recalls, "We were rhapsodizing about how great Helen is and we both said, 'I want to do that up there with her.'" Later that year, Davis walked into Three Muses, where Gillet had a gig and "we sat at the bar and bemoaned the fact that both of us had gotten rejected from Jazz Fest and that we needed to do something. Myshkin’s name came up, and we texted her from the bar about playing together, and she texted back 'Yes, please' before we finished our drinks."

Davis says that the band works off of Myshkin’s great "originals with their weird instruments and harmony; Gillet’s originals, French pop songs and obscure covers from a deep, obscure pool that she can pull from; and my stuff that makes you cry. We’re all pretty good at making people cry individually, but put us all together and in the tear-jerkers department, we’re deadly."

The music they make is quiet at times and then, in a flash, loud and boisterous. Their covers of Velvet Underground’s Pale Blue Eyes and Alex McMurray’s Diamonds in My Hand were almost melancholy while the Pretenders' Back on the Chain Gang was a rocker. The sung-in-French Drive My Car brought out a sexy groove to the Beatles classic. The trio's voices combine wonderfully, with Myshkin’s old-timey blues inflections contrasting nicely with Gillet's formal chanson leanings and Davis' pop and show-tune vibe, and their stage presence is really nice. 

Here's a video of them at Jazz Fest doing Blue Gold and Harmless, and here they are doing the Bill Halley's wonderful song Miss the Mississippi at a (dark) club. And here's my video, featuring Drive My Car. I'm thrilled that Debbie embedded this video on her website. Wish it could have been a better video for them. This performance was yet another treat from the Lagniappe Stage. 

Coming back into the infield from the Grandstand, we got pulled into the crowd at the Jazz and Heritage Stage by the yellow-shirted Pinstripe Brass Band. A brass band is always a good way to get you moving again after having set a spell at the tents or Lagniappe Stage.

Although the brass band tradition reached endangered species status in the 1960s, a wonderful resurgence has recently taken place. In the mid-1970s, with the formation of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, it became hip to play in a bress band again. The form came back in exhilarating fashion, and in that most important of ways: youth. The younger generation fueled this resurgence with enough tradition to preserve the form, and added enough contemporary musical and cultural trends to make it attractive to their peers.


The Pin Stripes, as they are commonly called, are part of that revival, which just keeps getting stonger and more interesting. The band first came together in 1977 when a bunch of guys were hired to be backup to the late Doc Paulin’s Brass Band at the Endymion Mardi Gras Ball. Manager, snare drummer, and singer Herbert McCarver recalls, "We all wore pinstripe suits."

Most of the members of the Pin Stripes are from uptown New Orleans and grew up in either the 11th or 12th wards. Some got their start playing with the Olympia Brass Band, Tuba Fats' Chosen Few, or Doc Paulin’s Band. Since 1978, they have been a regular feature at the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club's annual Mardi Gras Ball and parade. They also perform at the annual parades of the Scene Boosters, Young Men Olympians, Better Boys, and Second Line Jammers. In addition, you might catch them at one of the many jazz funerals held throughout the city.

So, you may be asking, what is a Social Aid and Pleasure Club? Not what you might be thinking (shame on you). These actually are the people that you see strutting, dancing, jumping, and high-stepping underneath decorated parasols, blowing whistles, and waving feathered fans on the streets of New Orleans. As such, they are the organizers, originators, and sponsors of the second-line parades for which the city is famous. The brass band that follows the parade’s grand marshal and club members, who are always dressed in coordinated suits and classy hats, blast out exuberant rhythms to propel everyone’s high-spirited march through the streets. The club and brass band are known as the first line, and the audience that forms behind the parade to join in the festivities is the second; hence the term second-line parade.

African-American social aid and pleasure clubs aren’t just about parading, however. They grew out of organizations of the mid- to late 1800s called benevolent societies, which many different ethnic groups in New Orleans formed. Serving a purpose that today has largely been supplanted by insurance companies, benevolent societies would help dues-paying members defray health-care costs, funeral expenses, and financial hardships. They also fostered a sense of unity in the community, performed charitable works, and hosted social events. Benevolent societies always had strong support in the African-American population, and some scholars trace the roots of the African-American societies in particular back to associations of West African cultures from where the majority of New Orleans blacks originally came.

For the burial of a member, African-American benevolent associations would often hire bands to play somber, processional music on the way from the church to the cemetery. On the way back, the music would become upbeat and joyous with mourners now celebrating the deceased’s life; tears about the person who had passed gave way to gratitude that the person had even been blessed to exist. The brass bands that played in these processions, known as "jazz funerals," mixed military marching music with African rhythms.

In modern times, social aid and pleasure clubs no longer serve all the former functions of benevolent societies, but they do continue to unify communities and neighborhoods and are source of cultural pride among those communities. 

Before Hurricane Katrina, the were 40-some African-American social aid and pleasure clubs in New Orleans, and a different club "rolled" just about every Sunday except during the extreme heat of the summer. While the parades were rarely advertised or well publicized, second-line devotees would know the time and location of the route. Social aid and pleasure clubs are now struggling, but some are still parading. Those who love the tradition come out and bring a handkerchief to wipe away tears and to wave aloft.

        

Back to the Pin Stripes. Their sound combines R&B, jazz, blues, gospel, and soul, all with rhythms from the parades. It is absolutely the music of the people of New Orleans who know how to celebrate life with a second-line parade or mourn the passing of a friend with a jazz funeral. The music is a tradition, but that doesn’t mean that it’s stagnant. The brass bands have always adapted to popular music tastes of the day, and the Pin Stripes excel at it. 

In most cities across the country, kids interested in music typically want to be hip-hop or rock stars. Even in New Orleans that’s true. But only in New Orleans do kids also want to play in brass bands. Only in New Orleans is it possible to walk down the street and see youngsters playing the trumpet or the trombone on the front porch. Bands like the Pin Stripes, along with their female counterparts the Pinettes (see Sunday), are city-wide heroes. Which is particularly cool when you consider that tuba just isn’t happening anywhere else!

A shoutout to all the members of the band, who you will see in this video from the Jazz and Heritage Stage: Snare drum and lead vocal, Herbert A. McCarver III; bass drum, Lionel Lee; tuba, Mark Smith; trombone, Robert Harris and Jeffery Herbert; trumpet, Brice Miller, Raymond Jones, and George Johnson; reeds, Rickey Paulin and Dwight Miller; percusion, Oscar Washington and Terrence Hilliard.


Ultimately we were heading for the Gentilly Stage, but we had enough time to take the long way around the track to see what was happening at the Acura Stage and Congo Square. 

At Acura, we stopped for a few minutes of Cowboy Mouth, about as raucous live music experience as you could ask for. Formed during the glory days of grunge, Cowboy Mouth forged a different sound, one that's rooted in rock, punk, blues, and the attitude of New Orleans, a town known for its week-long parties and swampy, southern vibe. Bandleader Fred LeBlanc, who came from the punk band Dash Rip Rock, pulls double-duty as the group's frontman and drummer, leading the charge with his larger-than-life personality and percussive attack. In a decade filled with angsty alt-rock, Cowboy Mouth definitely stood out, and their sound continues to get audiences hopping 20 years later. They even had a top 40 hit with Jenny Says (that was the, this is now).

"Cowboy Mouth isn't so much about the people onstage as it is about the feeling in the crowd," says LeBlanc. The people onstage certainly help, though. LeBlanc shares the stage with guitarist John Thomas Griffith, Matt Jones on second guitar, and Casandra Faulconer on bass. "Our shows are celebratory, life-affirming experiences," LeBlanc continued. "We try to turn every show, no matter where it is, into New Orleans during the middle of Mardi Gras. It's an unique live concert experience. It's like a southern gospel revival without the religion." 

Anyone in the large crowd awaiting Christina Aguilera's headlining show who was unfamiliar with Cowboy Mouth may have been surprised by the crazy energy. Crowd participation at a Cowboy Mouth concert isn't optional, it's required. Not satisfied with polite audience reaction, Fred tells the crowd that they will have to make a lot more noise. As he pounds his drum set, he explains that Cowboy Mouth shows are a time to forget about anything that may be bothering you, to go nuts and have a good time. 

Fred: "And the name of the band is ..." Crowd: "COWBOY MOUTH!"

Fred mentioned that it was "diva day" at the Acura Stage, with Mia Borders, Amanda Shaw, Theresa Andersson, and Aguilera on the Acura Stage with, inexplicably to him, him. So he looks at bass player Casandra Faulconer and declares that she must be a diva because it certainly wasn’t him.

For the uninitiated, here's Cowboy Mouth at Jazz Fest. Want more? Here's another, with the diva-day line and the truth, that we are, on this day, in the greatest place in the greatest city in the world!

After awhile, we continued around the track to the backstretch, where you pass Congo Square. There, Brother Tyrone and the Mindbenders were wrapping up their set, so we stayed for that, and we continued Fred LeBlanc's theme by being taken to church by this incredible soul music. 

Tyrone Pollard calls his music "slap yo mama-type soul. It’s not just salt and pepper soul. It’s the real deal." But even in his home town, Pollard is little known outside the Central City and Treme bars he’s worked for 30 years. Why? Who knows. 

Dale Triguero, owner of the Canal Street club Chickie Wah Wah and former owner of the Old Point Bar books Pollard often. "He's unbelievable," Triguero said. "It would be criminal for people to not know who he is. It’s that real. He has no idea how talented he is."

Pollard grew up in Irish Channel and graduated from Walter L. Cohen High School. At age 8, he sang James Brown’s I Feel Good in a talent contest. He later incorporated elements of Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, and Willie Hutch into his voice, and considers Cyril Neville to be one of the "baddest" singers around. "Somewhere along the line I heard Bobby 'Blue' Bland, got hooked on the blues, and I’ve been there ever since," he said.

Given the low wages (he recalls a 10-piece band splitting $60) he decided not to pursue a full-time music career. As a teenager, he often worked at his father’s gas station. That prepped him for a lifetime spent in automotive-related jobs — parts driver, warehouse worker, undercoat applicator. "Music was something I did on the side," he said. "I always wanted a job. I had bills to pay, and I knew I had that money. Music was my play money. Most of the time I’d buy records with it."

In 1999, Brother Tyrone released his debut album, "Blue Ghetto," and it quickly became a local hit. The success of the album led to his first Jazz Fest appearance in 2001. In 2005, he found himself right in the thick of the mess after Hurricane Katrina. He had to trudge through the water with his family until he reached the relative safety of the New Orleans Convention Center and eventually made his way out of the chaos to Baton Rouge.

Brother Tyrone's highly regarded 2008 album "Mindbender," on which he collaborated with guitarist Everette Eglin, is an inspiring collection of classic covers and original tunes. If You Ain't Cheating is a profound look at the struggles and loneliness that people faced post-Katrina. "Mindbender" features Tyrone's core group of fantastic New Orleans musicians that includes keyboardist Marc Adams, bassist Jack Cruz and drummer Wilbert "Junkyard Dog" Arnold. Even his backing singers are unique: two gospel-singing pastors, Reverend Mark Sandifer and Brother Joey Gilmore. They are fantastic in their own right.

Anyone who has ever seen Brother Tyrone and the Mindbenders perform live can attest to their talent. Brother Tyrone feels the music with every inch of his body, mind, and soul. His music is hooked to the past but not stuck in it. "When I’m looking for something," he says "I’m looking for soul. I’m just a soul person. It’s got to be soulful for me to do it." After the exhausted Tyrone was led off stage only to return again (and once again) à la James Brown in the day, we can say that he and the Mindbenders are going to be high on the must-see list next time we are at Jazz Fest.

Here's 1, 2, and 3 videos from the Crescent City Blues and Barbeque Festival, held in October 2014. And here's what we saw at Jazz Fest (my video), plus a good long one from last year in the Blues Tent.

We made it to the Gentilly Stage in plenty of time to see the complete performance by Hurray for the Riff Raff. We were all ready to catch this great band last year on Day 4 when the skies opened up for the first time, driving us to the Jazz Tent for a spell. That day, we saw just the end of their set after the rain let up a little, but you can read some about the wonderful singer and songwriter Alynda Lee Segarra on that day's report. 

The year between then and now has brought nothing but good to Hurray for the Riff Raff. They've released a critically acclaimed album, appeared on Conan and Letterman, and began to tour nationally. The attention is well deserved.

Segarra writes socially conscious, yet lovely roots-pop that examines themes like love, death and justice with a surprising sense of timelessness. Her days as a street performer have given her a great stage presence and the group of musicians that surround her are very, very good. Fiddler Yosi Perlstein, in particular, on tunes like Lookout Mama and Slow Walk, wrapped his strings around Segarra's voice perfectly, a testament to their longstanding association. 

Former Hurray for the Riff Raff guitarist Sam Doores, now with roots-rockers the Deslondes, joined his old band for most of the set. He added harmonies on the elegiac St. Roch Blues and guitar and hand-claps, variously, on songs like the rollicking Crash on the Highway and End of the Line.

Segarra as a songwriter generates outstanding stories and draws her music from sources ranging from Appalachian folk to modern rock and everything between. In both lyrics and music, St. Roch Blues references the classic Baby Please Don't Go. Lake of Fire is '60s beach pop. The feminist murder-ballad answer song The Body Electric is American roots by theme, but with an unmistakably Beatles guitar sound. But that's OK. As the Times-Picayune says, borrowing, translating and updating is the essence of the folk tradition. The more she writes, the more Segarra reveals a keen ear for the breadth of music.

Most of Segarra's songs come from her own experience. Here is how she describes St. Roch Blues"Sam Doores and I wrote this song in honor of a neighborhood called 'St Roch' back in New Orleans, and for some friends who left this world too soon. But we also like to think of it as a prayer, for the city of New Orleans, for those feeling desperate and down, for you and I to live together in peace. I hope it brings you comfort and strength."

The other members of the band on stage today were Callie Millington on bass, Charles Garmendia on drums, and Casey Wayne McAllister on keyboards and other stuff. Here's the rollicking, hand-clapping Little Black Star. Here are two longer performances (one and two) from this year, both from KEXP radio in Seattle, one in studio and one in a theater. Finally, here's a playlist from the 2014 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco. Here's my video so you can see how we saw this great performance by a group of real up and comers. 

We continued along the racetrack, completing an entire loop at the entrance to the Grandstand, except that we turned the other way into the infield and the entrance to the Economy Hall tent. There, we were pulled in to the performance of Mark Braud, trumpeter extrodinaire from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and his Jazz Giants. We didn't even know Braud had his own band. Then again, we didn't know Pres Hall sax man Clint Madegin was behind the New Orleans Bingo! Show, either. The way people play in lots of different groups and combinations of musicians in New Orleans is one of the best thngs about it. You just never know who you might see on stage with any given group.

Braud, who is 41, joined the Preservation Hall Jazz Band as one of its youngest members, but he hardly lacked in experience. As nephew to previous Preservation Hall Jazz Band trumpeters Wendell Brunious and John Brunious, and grandson of legendary trumpeter John "Pickey" Brunious Sr., his education as a musician began practically at birth. The sounds of traditional jazz entered his consciousness as a child, when his parents brought him out to hear the music in New Orleans clubs. By the time he began studying music at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts as a teenager, he'd already played the trad-jazz hot spot, the Palm Court Jazz Cafe, and he already knew in his heart that playing music would be his love and his vocation. "The sound was in my head," he says. "Once I started playing the trumpet I knew what I wanted it to sound like. It was just a matter of my putting in many hours of practice and gaining some experience."

Braud started his career with the Olympia Kids, a young players' offshoot of the Olympia Brass Band, and soon went on to jobs recording, touring and gigging with New Orleans legends of both traditional jazz and R&B, including Eddie Bo, Henry Butler, Harry Connick Jr., and Dr. Michael White. Although he keeps returning to the traditional jazz arena, his favorite players in that field remain the individualists, artists like Frog Joseph and Percy Humphrey, who put their own stamp on the time-honored style by bringing their own diverse musical experiences to the table. That's why he adds a dash of the modern to the traditional New Orleans jazz. 

                      

Braud's Jazz Giants today were Tom Fischer on clarinet, Lucien Barbarin on trombone, David Torkanowsky on piano, Neal Caine on bass, and Herlin Riley (here filmed at Snug Harbor) on drums. That's quite an esteemed and diverse lineup, believe me. 

Here is my video, can't find any others. More good stuff. Some people park in Economy Hall all day at Jazz Fest, leaving only to eat. The more you are in there, the more you can understand why! It's just fun!

It was getting on time for a food break before the day's closing performances got too much closer. I chose the ever delicious Crawfish Monica from the Kajun Kettle foods. The link is to a 30th anniversary interview with Monica herself. Over 1 million served. That's a lot of crawfish, folks.  

Laurie did a repeat, too, the platter with a sweet potato pone, spinach and artichoke casserole (link to recipe) and seafood au gratin (link to Emeril's recipe from his Jazz Fest episode). That's from Miranda's Ten Talents Catering. It's creamy spinach and artichoke with a crispy wedge of sweet potato pone, dense and cake-like, with a crunchy, nutty topping. The rich seafood casserole only adds to the tastiness.

The sweet potato pone's roots are in a street food known as pain patate. The 1902 "New Orleans Guide" describes "a kind of pie or cold pudding made of sweet potatoes" sold at the French Market by women who also sold calas (rice fritters) and pralines.

Mary Land's 1969 "New Orleans Cuisine" lists pain patate, or sweet potato cake, as one of many street foods of old New Orleans, along with ginger cake, calas, almond sticks (baton amandes), pralines, brioches or coffee cake, sassafras and other roots, peanuts, and boiled shrimp. Later, snowballs of crushed ice and fruit flavoring, taffy candy, and gumbos supplemented the first foods of the banquette. Usually these edible wares were sold by African American women wearing bright tignons and balancing on their heads large baskets of their products.

"The custom on Sunday was to parade around the Place d'Armes (now Jackson Square) where small stands sold fruit, sweet cakes and ginger beer. Greek sherbert was a favorite Sunday pleasure as were candied fruit. Along the levee oyster men were kept busy opening fresh oysters for customers," Land writes. What a scene that must have been.

The traditional recipe calls for black pepper as an integral part of the pain patate. That added a slight bite to the sweet potato's flavor. This link, where I got the history, has two recipes, one with pepper and one without.

Our next stop was going to be the Gentilly Stage for Alabama Shakes, but we had enough time to fit something else in, so we chose Irma Thomas in her annual performance in the Gospel Tent. There's no secret to this anymore, it's just Irma singing classic gospel songs in the style of New Orleans legend Mahalia Jackson, and it's become wildly popular. We managed to get into the tent and find some seats on the bleachers in the back. Unfortunately, we were on one of the lower rows, and by the time Irma took the stage we couldn't see her for all the people standing in front of us, despite the efforts of the ushers, and we could barely hear her for all the commotion. So we decided to look for something else. 

We found something else and then some at the Fais Do Do Stage. There, we encountered another jaw-dropping performance by somebody we had never heard of before. This time the artists were Alejandro Escovedo and the Sensitive Boys. The music is best described as something between punk and alt-country, with blazing guitars. It kind of reminded me of Killing Joke's sound back in the Eighties (get it?). What I don't get is how this guy never appeared on either of our radars for as long as he has been around.

It's not like Escovedo has been in hiding. Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, USA Today, and Entertainment Weekly have all done glowing profiles. He’s appeared on Austin City Limits, Late Night With Conan O’Brian, Today, Tonight, with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and at the Democratic National Convention

Fans decry his lack of recognition and mainstream success, but Escovedo sees it differently. "I'm quite grateful and glad it's gone this way," he said. "I'm comfortable to have been able to experiment, to have had creative freedom and to have played music for a good reason."

The son of Mexican immigrants to Texas, Escovedo is from a musically rich family that includes percussionist brothers Pete and Coke, rocking sibling Javier, and niece Sheila E. In the late 1970s he helped found the San Francisco area punk band The Nuns, which opened for the Sex Pistols on the final performance of the British punk band’s disastrous, self-destructive 1978 American tour.

"I never rebelled against my parents' music," Escovedo, now 59, said about his ethnic heritage. "At the time it was against the music establishment. Punk has always been part of my musical makeup; it's a good way to get out your pent-up aggression and energy, and sometimes it’s a good contact sport."

In the 1980s he moved to Austin and helped to start the alt-country movement by forming the cow-punk band Rank and File. In New York, he moved on to a more hard-rocking band, True Believers, and then another punk-oriented outfit, Buick MacKane.

In 2003, after having lived with hepatitis-C for many years, Escovedo collapsed onstage in Arizona as a result of the disease and hovered near death for many weeks. Without medical insurance and in ill health for several years, Escovedo could not pay his substantial medical bills, resulting in crippling debt. A veritable who's who in music, including his niece and brothers, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, John Cale, Son Volt, the Jayhawks, Ian Hunter, and Jennifer Warnes, rallied around him, producing a tribute album of his songs and a series of benefit concerts.

"That was very, very flattering, and humbling. I was almost embarrassed. I didn’t feel worthy," he admitted. "But it was such a beautiful, beautiful gesture. The entire experience gave me a new perspective, and appreciation, of life. It’s given me a wake-up call telling me how precious it all is and how lucky I am." Here he is doing a tribute of his own, to Lou Reed after he passed in 2013. This is awesome. Escovedo led a four-hour all-star tribute to Reed this year at SXSW in Austin.

Escovedo is now in the best creative and physical shape of his life. That was evident on the Fais Do Do Stage. "I'm having more fun now than I've ever had," he says. He was having a lot of fun today, and was very conversant with the crowd, which by the way never stopped growing as the set went on. At one point, he crouched over the microphone and told the crowd, "Don’t give up on love."

Here's Escovedo at Jazz Fest doing Tom Waits' Goin' Out West, Neil Young's Like a Hurricane, and another with more of Like a Hurricane leading into the Clash's Straight to Hell. Wow. If you want a whole lot more (and nobody would blame you if you did), archive.org has a number of live recordings.

              

Now it was time for the awesome Alabama Shakes. This show was every bit as good as we expected. We located ourselves again in the middle of the Gentilly crowd, just under the second bank of speakers, which gets you a pretty good live music experience without being too crowded. 

Raised in Athens, Alabama (that's right, Athens, Alabama; not Athens, Georgia ... surprisingly), lead singer and guitarist Brittany Howard started getting serious about music in high school. She met bassist Zac Cockrell at East Limestone High School. The pair started playing together, eventually adding drummer Steve Johnson and guitarist Heath Fogg to their group. In 2011, Alabama Shakes released an EP that attracted national attention. They released their debut album "Boys and Girls" in 2012 and since then their ascent in the music world has been astonishing (and well deserved). 

Howard's parents provided her with music from Elvis Presley and Motown, but her main musical inspiration came primarily from her older sister Jaime, who died from cancer in 1998. "I always felt out of place," she said. "I wasn't a cool kid but I wasn't a nerd either. I had trouble finding my place. But when I found the music, I had a place of my own."

Howard took up the guitar in her youth, and by the age of 13 she was writing songs. Around this same time, she became friends with Cockrell. The two shared a love of music and started playing together. After they added Johnson and Fogg, they dubbed themselves the Shakes and later Alabama Shakes. After high school, Howard worked as a letter carrier for the Postal Service for a time before the band made it big.

The band got its big break via the internet in July 2011. Justin Gage, who runs the Aquarium Drunkard blog, posted one of their songs on his site and the response to their rocking soul sound was phenomenal. Before long, the band was being pursued by record companies. They went on their first national tour as the opening act for Drive-by Truckers that fall.

Also that fall, Howard received raves for her performance with the band at the CMJ Music Marathon. Critics hailed her as the next Janis Joplin, a comparison that she doesn't really agree with. "I don't think I sound like Janis Joplin. I'm a woman with a raspy voice," she explained to Newsweek. She said that she believed she sounds more like AC/DC frontman Bon Scott than Joplin.

In 2012, the band picked up two Grammy nominations for "Boys and Girls." At the awards show in February 2013, Howard lent her distinctive vocals to a musical tribute to Levon Helm (wow!). Later in 2013, Alabama Shakes hit the road for an international tour. This time around, however, they were the headliners, not the supporting act. While thrilled with her success, Howard told Newsweek that "even if nobody cared, I'm still gonna make music."

Here's most of the show, professionally done by axs.tv. Ben Tanner is playing the keyboards. My video has the hit Hold On (announced by Brittney as 'karaoke time'), so you can see how we saw this really good band, who represent everything that's good about the roots rock revival. Want more? Bless archive.org!

After awhile I got a case of Jazz Fest roaming fever, so I decided to check out a couple of other stages. On the way out of Gentilly, I stopped at La Divina's stand to get a spicy chocolate gelato with a shot of espresso. What more can I say? It was a rich early evening treat!

Where to roam? The tents were tempting, with Charles Bradley and His Extrodinaires at Blues and Pharoah Sanders at Jazz. 

Instead, I went into Congo Square to catch a couple minutes of Chaka Khan. This was a very professional and very dynamic show by the Queen of Funk, originator of hits like Tell Me Something Good and Ain’t Nobody with the trendsetting band Rufus, and I Feel for You as a solo artist (here with one of the original rappers, Grandmaster Melle Mel). "I always love to play New Orleans," she said. "I’ve had only good experiences playing New Orleans. The people are always really wonderful. It’s one of those places where I seem to connect very well with the people, you know?" It was very cool to see her again (the last time was just a few years ago, in 1984 at Merriweather Post Pavilion). Here's one and two videos of the scene at Congo Square. Chaka Khan can still bring it.

After a couple of songs, I decided to end the day at the Fais Do Do Stage with Cajun rockers the Lost Bayou Ramblers. Laurie had decided to do that, too, so we met in the back and worked out way toward the front. You'll find all the info about these guys and their truly creative, exciting brand of music, in last year's report on Day 3. I can't even say the set was any different than last year's, but it doesn't matter. This was just a good, fun, rockin' way to end the day. I mean, anybody who can end a show with My Generation in Cajun French has got to be good, right?

      

Here's a closer up than us video from today's show, and here's what we saw from further back. For a little more, these three (Steh, Bernadette, Mammoth Waltz) are up close and personal from Jam in the Van when the van was parked in NOLA during Jazz Fest. There are 90-some Jam in the Van videos in their Jazz Fest 2014 series and you can (and should) spend a lot of time there! Besides, it's sponsored by Lagunitas, which is really good beer.

So that was about it for the day. Laurie had leftovers for dinner, but she accompanied me across the street to Mother's, where I got a Ferdi special: that's a baked ham and roast beef po'boy topped with debris (the roast beef that falls into the pan drippings ... unbeleivable, it melts in your mouth, and the ham isn't too far behind it). Oh, and there's gravy, too. And coleslaw and pickles. 

Laurie got a Bloody Mary to go. She reported that Mother's does not make a weak bloody mary. Between that and the enormous Ferdi sandwich, we couldn't decide if we wanted to go out this evening or not (realize that by the time you get back to the hotel from Jazz Fest it is pushing 8 p.m., and add to that getting the dinner and then eating the dinner). We decided on the "or not." So, in lieu of an evening activity, it's time to play a game of 'Did you know that Mother's uses in a year ...'

Did you know that Mother's uses in a year:

175,000 pounds of ham and roast beef
40,000 pounds of turkey
30,000 pounds of homemade sausage
250,000 biscuits and even more eggs
90,000 pounds of jambalaya
25,000 soft shell crabs
250,000 pounds of cabbage
150,000 loaves of french bread
3,500 pies (pecan and sweet potato)
1,500 gallons of spicy Creole mustard
... and an honest ton of hot pepper sauce


9-36
© Jeff Mangold 2012