Day 12 / Monday, May 4

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12-08

Today's morning activity was packing for the trip home and cleaning up our home away from home for the the last 11 days. We didn't attempt breakfast downstairs. Instead, we cleaned out the leftovers in the refrigerator, which made for some strange breakfast eating. We continue to enjoy the Staybridge. It's a bit quirky in some ways, but the advantages (location, kitchen, abundant good coffee, free laundry, friendly staff, and that ice water with lemon that Laurie always gets when we come in through the front doors) definitely outweigh the minor disadvantages. And they improve the place every year. 

This year was an odd-numbered year, meaning I didn't have town elections the next day and therefore didn't have to be at the office at 4:45 a.m. That meant we could take the late-afternoon flight home. Therefore, after we checked out, the nice people at the front desk stowed our bags in a locked room, and we were free to roam around for several hours before leaving for the airport. 

Once we set foot outside, we did a bit of familiar and a bit of unfamiliar. First up was coffee at the PJ's at the Doubletree on Canal Street. It's really nice to sit outside here in the morning, in the shade of the trees and the buildings, especially when the weather was like it was today. By the time we got out, the temperature was hovering around 80, and once again the humidity was reasonably low and there was a light breeze off of the Gulf of Mexico. It was perfect. We lingered for quite awhile.

     

When we got going again, we walked up Canal Street to Royal Street and turned right, into the French Quarter. By this time our main goal was lunch. We roamed around looking at some of the usual suspects, but for once we walked down Toulouse Street (there's a reference for Doobie Brothers fans from the 1970's) and discovered, within sight of St. Louis Cathedral at the corner or Toulouse and Chartres, the Chartres House restaurant. 

This was a place where we could hang out a long, long while. It's in a very old building, and it looks like they took over a number of divisions of that building, It's huge. You have to walk a long way, through a number of rooms and a typical French Quarter courtyard to reach the restrooms. There's an upstairs with balcony dining, too. We sat in the very front, with a view of the street. There was some local color seated at the bar, including a gentleman wearing an Uncle Sam hat, and that was about all we needed in order to feel very comfortable. 

By the way, Toulouse Street was named for an illegitimate son of Louis XIV.

Laurie had a Bloody Mary, made with their specially infused vodka, which sits in a huge container at the end of the bar (shown above), while I went straight to an Abita Amber. Lunch for me was the classic blackened redfish. It was served with jambalaya and some steamed vegetables. Laurie had a portobello mushroom cap marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette, grilled and served on a jalapeño-cheddar bun with a remoulade spread. We passed on dessert. 


After luch we walked over to Jackson Square and sat for a good long time, listening to the birds chirping, the sounds of the city, and of course the musicians. It was a liesurely morning and early afternoon, but all too soon it was back to the Staybridge by way of the walk along the river and onto the Airport Shuttle

Our driver seemed to be all business while we toured around the Central Business District picking up more passengers. It took awhile before we realized that he had a really subtle sense of humor and was really quite funny. Once we were heading to the airport he really loosened up, pointing out the sights along the route to the airport with commentary and letting us in on on one of the worst-kept secrets in New Orleans: Everyone says it's a very friendly city. Well that's true, and the reason for that is because we all have to work for tips!

We had a great flight home on the usual United Airlines flight, leaving right on time around 5:30, flying over the sadly deserted Fair Grounds (that's the picture at the top) and arriving back at Dulles Airport around 9:00. Alyssa picked us up at the usual door leading out of the baggage area and that brought a great trip to an end. It was pretty close to perfect.

Final thoughts? Well, as always, New Orleans is friendly, quirky, and full of music. Nothing negative to say about it, at all. Anyone who goes there and goes with the flow is going to have a great time. I do wish somebody could control the weather, though. I don't mind rain, but it seems like every time it rains it's a monster storm, as on the first two days and then a week ago on Monday. Wow.

As far as Jazz Fest is concerned, the major issue was the crowd, especially on the second Saturday, the day with Elton John, T.I., and Ed Sheeran. The entire infield, particularly in the area near the Acura stage, was essentially gridlock. You couldn't get in or out, and that caused a lot of people to express concern about safety. Plus, people set up chairs on the track at all three main stages, making it virtually impossible to get from one place to another. The track, because of its width and the fact that it circles the Fest, is the best way to get from point A to point B. Except when it is clogged with chairs. Jazz Fest doesn't limit admissions. In fact, they sell tickets by the weekend. If you bought two tickets for the second weekend, they have no idea which two days you will attend. So they can't prepare for a huge crowd as maybe they should. 

A secondary issue at the main stages is the shrinking of the standing area in front as the areas for those with deluxe ticket packages and guest passes expand. The boundary of the area for people with chairs has not moved back and people like us who move around a lot and don't carry a chair with us are getting squeezed between them. That needs to be fixed. The chair people are creeping into the standing area, and some people without chairs are setting up big tarps all over the place to claim way more space than they need. That needs to be fixed, too.

Jazz Fest has recognized these problems, and it will be interesting to see what they do next year to bring some relief and keep everybody happy. It's still a pretty well run festival. For being so big, it still has the feel of a friendly local affair.

Of course, the yakkers and chatters are still omnipresent. We just move. Every year you find yourself wondering why they pay to attend a music festival and then not listen to the music, but a lot of people use Jazz Fest as a get-together or reunion, so it is somewhat understandable. Those who turn into motormouths when they drink too much, however, are another story. I'm no prude, but we saw some really wasted people on more than one occasion this year. Jazz Fest can't be responsible for individuals, of course, but maybe selling beer in case lots on hot summer days isn't such a great idea, especially when you have no idea who is going to be drinking it.

Those are just thoughts. We weren't consumed by negativity at all. The second weekend weather was simply wonderful, and all of the music we saw was, too. Jazz Fest does a great job of presenting an incredibly diverse program. The only problem with that is that you can't be in more than one place at a time. For the fourth year in a row, we had a great time!

So the usual thing here is to mention who we missed seeing. This list is getting shorter as we continue to check off local artists that we have wanted to see. Also, we have learned that we can spend a bit of time away from each other to see multiple artists when our interests diverge a bit. Laurie likes more contemporary acts, while I like to stick to the traditional. We are also become experts at managing the cubes. We know that sometimes you have to leave a performance a bit early or come in a bit late in order to maximize the music. That works very well. 

Anyway, here's who we missed. At the Acura Stage, early on the first day, Johnny Sansone and the Honey Island Swamp Band. Big Sam's Funky Nation were on during the rain on the first Saturday. On the second weekend, Davell Crawford did a tribute to Fats Domino in front of the mob on Saturday, and Anders Osborne preceded the Meters on Sunday. And of course Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue closing out Jazz Fest. 

At the Gentilly stage, we haven't seen Mia Borders since 2012 and would definitely like to see her again. The Revivalists were on during the rain on the first Saturday, and we still have not seen an Allen Toussaint performance at Jazz Fest (although we see him all over the grounds). On the second weekend, Alison Krauss and Union Station on Thursday, The Honorable South and Chicago on Friday, and the Radiators reunion opposite the Meters reunion on Sunday.

Over at Congo Square, Jimmy Cliff was rained out after a short time on the stage on the first day. On the second weekend, Third World on Thursday, an Erica Falls solo performance on Friday, and Walter 'Wolfman' Washington and the O'Jays on the final day.

In the Blues tent, we missed Larry Garner, Jonathon 'Boogie' Long, Jimmie Vaughan with Lou Ann Barton, Vieux Farka Touré, Robert Cray, Carolyn Wonderland, Robert 'Bilbo' Walker, Lil' Buck Sinegal, Eric Lindell, Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials, Reverend John Wilkins, Jarekus Singleton, the Royal Southern Brotherhood, Aaron Neville, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and Buddy Guy, among many others who we have seen and really enjoyed before. I've said it before, and I will say it again, you could spend all seven days just in the Blues Tent!  

In the Jazz Tent, on just the first day we missed John Michael Bradford and Butler, Bernstein, and the Hot 9, and Snarky Puppy was rained out. Also: the Wee Trio, Cassandra Wison, Kenny Garrett, the Stephanie Jordan Big Band, Kyle Roussel, Christian Scott, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, the Astral Project, Terence Blanchard, and the Christian McBride Big Band with Dianne Reeves and Jeffrey Osborne.  

At the Jazz and Heritage Stage, Alexey Marti and the Latin Urban Minds, the 101 Runners, Bill Summers and Jazalsa, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and the Golden Eagles, and a whole lot more brass bands and Mardi Gras Indians. It's a good stage to just walk by and soak in what's going down there, and we do that a lot.

At the Fais Do Do stage, Lil' Nathan and the Zydeco Bigtimers were rained out on the first Friday and BeauSoleil had a 40th anniversary celebration. Also any number of Cajun and zydeco bands, both new and seen previously.

At funky little Economy Hall, there's always traditional jazz being played. We're not  that familiar with those artists, but whenever we are there we enbjoy them. The classic Tremé Brass Band played on the first Saturday, and they are always good. Henry Butler and Dr. Michael White did a tribute to Jelly Roll Morton, and Dr. White did a set of his own. The Pfister Sisters, a vocal trio with Holley Bendtsen, Yvette Voelker, and Debbie Davis are very cool, and I still have not seen clarinetist Doreen Ketchens. On the last day, Kermit Ruffins did a tribute to Louis Armstrong, which I'm sure was very crowded!

I don't get particular about the Gospel Tent, and don't need to do a lot of research on the artists there. The general rule remains: when passing by, always stop for a minute to have a listen. All of the music there is fantastic. However, the Blind Boys of Alabama performed there this year, and you don't often get a chance to see them.

You'll find great variety and many interesting choices at the little Lagniappe Stage. We don't get there often, but should stop by more. We missed the Rayo Brothers, Tom McDermott, Grayson Capps, Richard Comeaux, Little Maker, the Coyotes, Ray Abshire, the Deslondes, Ruby and the Rogues, Sweet Cecilia, Kelly Love Jones, Kenny Brown, Mem Shannon, Sasha Masakowski, and Ed Volker

As for the food, let's see, there is plenty of food I would like to have again, and do, but is there any food that I still haven't tried? Those that stand out are Catering Unlimited's fried chicken; Cajun Nights Catering's alligator pie; Fireman Mike's shrimp, sausage and okra gumbo; Guil's crawfish po' boy; Ms. Linda's fried pork chop sandwich; Ajun Cajun's shrimp yakisoba (pan-fried noodles); Jamila's lamb stew with basmati rice; Praline Connection's grilled chicken livers with pepper jelly; Fatty's cracklins; TJ's shrimp remoulade po' boy and Cajun chicken and tasso with Creole rice; Lil' Dizzy's crawfish bisque; and Down Home Creole Cookin’s BBQ pork ribs, BBQ turkey wings, and meaty white beans.  

So, that's it for another year. We hope the year until Jazz Fest 2016 will pass quickly and easily. There will of course be a 2016 report. As usual, I can't promise when it will be done, but when it is, we'll see you then! 

And remember, Live Music Is Better ...!



  

© Jeff Mangold 2012