Day 12 / Monday, May 8

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This was one of those years when we got to take an afternoon flight instead of leaving first thing in the morning due to my work schedule, so we got to take it easy this morning as we packed for the trip home and cleaned up our home away from home for the last 11 days. We brought some coffee and a bit of food up from the breakfast downstairs to go along with the leftovers we cleaned out of the refrigerator. It was a beautiful, clear morning in New Orleans. One of the best things about our room was the sunshine pouring into it every morning (well, almost every morning).

We continue to enjoy the Staybridge. It's not the Ritz by any means, but it suits our needs for a long-term stay very well. The location and the price can't be beat, and the kitchen with full-size fridge, the good coffee and ice water available anytime in the lobby, and the free laundry make it that much better. The staff, who by now we know well, and they know us pretty well, too, is very responsive to any problems. And they make improvements in the place every year.

After we left our suite for the last time and 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 we had to leave for the airport.

We stepped outside into scattered clouds, a slight breeze off the Gulf (when there was a breeze at all), and temperatures hovering around 82 degrees. There was some humidity, but not enough to really make a difference. All told, it was another beautiful day in the Crescent City.

First up was a stop at Envie for coffee and a bit more food. Envie is just a great place to linger on a beautiful morning. With its open-air front, you feel like you are outdoors regardless of where you are sitting. The café, like the rest of the city, had a very relaxed, winding-down sort of vibe. People are getting back into their routines and New Orleans feels more like a city than it does during the Jazz Fest weeks that just ended.

When we finally got going again, we had some errands, as in getting stuff for the people back home, to take care of, so we walked up to Royal Street and roamed around a few shops and galleries, but wouldn't you know, we ended up on a bench in Jackson Square, listening to the birds and the city sounds, including the musicians, watching the people, and soaking up the warm sunshine. Eventually, though, we made our purchases, mostly at Leah's Pralines. This place has been around since 1944. In addition to a variety of pralines, they make brittles, frosted pecans, dessert sauces, artisanal chocolates, and a full line of Creole seasonings. And there are samples galore!

After a lot more strolling about, our time was winding down, and we needed to have some lunch. Since we were near Canal Street, we decided to try the Palace Café, a place that we have had our eye on ever since we've been coming to New Orleans. We've had our eye on it because it's across the street from the Sheraton, where we wait for the shuttle buses, and also on our primary route into and out of the French Quarter. So we see it all the time.

The Palace opened in 1991 in the historic Werlein's music building. It serves contemporary Creole food in a beautiful room divided by a spiral staircase that leads up to more seating and the Black Duck Bar, which is known for its 120 different kinds of rum. In the picture, we were seated in a booth on the other side of that wall on the right. The kitchen is behind a window at the back of the room.

We got our table without delay. The restaurant was comfortable and the service very friendly and efficient. Most of the patrons seemed to be locals on a lunch break. Truly, Jazz Fest was over. 

My lunch was grilled Gulf fish topped with crabmeat and served with baby carrots, haricots verts, and brown butter vinaigrette. That was accompanied by a Holy Roller IPA from the Urban South Brewery on Tchoupitoulas Street. Never heard of that one before. 

Laurie had Shrimp Tchefuncte (Gulf shrimp, Creole meunière, roasted shiitake mushrooms, popcorn rice, and green onions). The recipe explains what Tchefuncte is and how to make a meunière a Creole meunière. Dessert was rum cake with homemade cherry rum ice cream and candied pecans. It was, all in all, an excellent last meal for the trip.

    

And that was pretty much it. We walked back to the Staybridge, got our stuff, waited out front for the Airport Shuttle, got the Shuttle-rific tour of the Central Business District as the shuttle picked up other passengers, and were at the Louis Armstrong International Airport and through the TSA Pre check in before we knew it. We got some food in the airport to eat on the plane from the Copeland's at the gate. I had a Thai shrimp wrap and have no record of what Laurie got.

The 5:30 p.m. flight home was smooth and on schedule, with a beautiful full moon visible out the window as we headed north and east into the twilight. We got into Dulles International Airport after dark, were picked up and delivered home by our daughter, and collapsed after 12 essentially nonstop days.

 

So it's customary to provide some final thoughts on the last day's entry of this blog, which as all can see has taken on a life of its own. It takes a long time to assemble it and the photo and video pages, but it's beyond fun to relive the experience for the better part of a year. By the time I'm done it's almost time for the next one!

This year was more like a back to normal trip, as in Laurie was with me the entire time, I wasn't recovering from a hellacious flu just before the trip, and Prince didn't pass away the day before the festival started. Plus, while it did rain a lot on the first Sunday and the Wednesday before and the Thursday of the second weekend, either the Fair Grounds people or the Jazz Fest people, I don't know who, had seen to it that a lot of work was done on the drainage on the grounds and there was no massive flooding like last year. That was the only major change made this year, and it wasn't even apparent ... until it was needed, and then it was noticeable and appreciated.

As always, the music we heard at Jazz Fest was beyond compare. I assembled a quick list of highlights, and the diversity of these artists is what makes Jazz Fest an experience like no other: Mr. Sipp, Mokoomba, the Storyville Stompers Brass Band, the Midnite Disturbers, the Mavericks, Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and the Golden Eagles, George Porter Jr. and the Runnin' Pardners, Charlie Gabriel and Friends, the 101 Runners, Anders Osborne, the 79rs Gang of Mardi Gras Indians, Jeffery Broussard and the Creole Cowboys, Nathan Williams and the Zydeco Cha Chas, Goldman Thibodeaux and the Lawtell Playboys, John Mooney and Bluesiana, Irma Thomas, Big Chief Bo Dollis Jr. and the Wild Magnolias, the Jambalaya Cajun Band with D.L. Menard, Big Chief Juan Pardo and Jockimo's Groove, Galactic, and the Meters. I could add more, but I tried to avoid the artists I only saw for a short time. But to be honest, almost everything could be called a highlight.

My list above did not include highlights from the Jazz Tent, which is a major reason why I love this festival so much. It's not easy to see great jazz performances where we live. The Jazz Tent gives me almost enough to last the year: Astral Project, the gorgeous, deeply moving set by Abdullah Ibrahim and Ekaya, Maceo Parker, Lee Konitz, Terence Blanchard and the E-Collective, Kenny Barron, Khari Allen Lee and the New Creative Collective, and Nicholas Payton and the Afro-Caribbean Mixtape. Wow!

The music we heard outside of Jazz Fest was outstanding, too. The evening at the Civic Theater with Leyla McCalla and Hurray for the Riff Raff was roots rock at its finest, and what a treat it was to see the Preservation Hall Jazz Band up close and personal with Jon Batiste and Stay Human in the storied Preservation Hall. And speaking of up close and personal, even though we were squeezed in the audience, it was awesome to see Richard Thompson's solo acoustic set at the House of Blues

Food-wise, beyond Jazz Fest, which is always all good, we had a couple of great dinners out at our favorites, NOLA and GW Fins. We also tried a couple of new places,  Red Gravy and Capdeville. These were good as well. Of course, we were at old standbys Mother's, Lucy's, Daisy Dukes, Royal House, and the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen, too. There are just so many food choices in New Orleans that it's hard to decide where to go and when. We have a whole lot of places still on our eating radar.

There were a number of evenings on this trip where we didn't do that much or did nothing at all, but that means we were never really out of our comfort zone, which makes for a very relaxing vacation.

So the usual thing here is to mention who we missed seeing. I'm not going to list local New Orleans artists that we have seen before and missed this year because there will be plenty more opportunity to see them again, both at Jazz Fest and at home. The list does not include people who were rained out on the first Sunday.

On the first Friday, I know Laurie saw Trey Anastasio at the Gentilly stage, and I know that would have been really good. We saw Pedrito Martinez back in 2012, and he was at Congo Square with a new band this year. In the Jazz Tent, Stephanie Jordan's Big Band, and in the Blues Tent, Johnny Sansone and (still) Aaron Neville.

On the first Saturday, Jon Batise and Stay Human on the Acura stage, Alabama Shakes on the Gentilly stage, Usher and the Roots at Congo Square, the Uptown Jazz Orchestra of Delfeayo Marsalis in the Jazz Tent, Jonny Lang in the Blues Tent, and the Caesar Brothers Funk Box at the Jazz and Heritage stage.

I should have checked out some of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on the first Sunday because we lost Tom Petty later in the year. Given a choice, I'll generally take the older artist for that very reason, but Petty wasn't that old. D.L. Menard was, and it was bittersweet to have seen his last Jazz Fest performance, jst like it was for that of Stanley Dural of Buckwheat Zydeco last year. Cajun music took a double hit this year with the passing of Menard and also the great Belton Richard (see Day 4 in 2012 and Day 4 last year). Richard's pure Cajun waltzes are simply wonderful music, and while he was not a fixture at Jazz Fest like Menard, he, too, will be missed. 

On Thursday leading off the second week, Tower of Power at Congo Square, Quiana Lynell and the Lush Life Band and the Jesse McBride Big Band in the Jazz Tent, and Eric Lindell in the Blues Tent.

On the second Friday, Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds at the Acura stage, Lake Street Dive at the Gentilly stage, Tyler Kinchen and the Right Pieces and Earth, Wind and Fire at Congo Square, William Bell and Rhiannon Giddens in the Blues Tent, and Margo Price at the Fais Do Do stage.

Snoop Dogg at Congo Square on the second Saturday plus the Groove Masters and the SF Jazz Collective playing the music of Miles Davis in the Jazz Tent. Chucho Valdés in the Jazz Tent on the second Sunday.

Foodwise, I went through the list and came up with the following that I still have not tried: a BBQ turkey wing (served with meaty white beans and coleslaw, which I've had before), grilled chicken livers with pepper jelly, crispy wings with collard greens and fried okra, crawfish pie, fried shrimp po' boy, alligator pie, crawfish rice, crabmeat stuffed shrimp, alligator sauce piquante, shrimp remoulade po' boy, and ... cracklins. Yes, cracklins. No rush. There will be more opportunity to have these treats next year (and hopefully beyond).

I would be remiss if I didn't mention all of the visits I paid to the Gospel Tent. Every year I have said that I should spend more time there, and this year I made it a point to stop in for a minute or three almost every time I walked by. It was time well spent. Some of the best singers and musicians in the city are found in this venue. I created a special web page that contains the videos I took of all of the gospel groups I saw, and if you want a treat a bit different from the usual jazz, rock, blues, and funk, I highly recommend it. It's certainly uplifting!  I will definitely be continuing this new tradition at future editions of Jazz Fest.

By the way, all of the pictures in this review section are taken by Jazz Fest's large contingent of photographers, who spread out across the Fair Grounds every day to record the proceedings. You can look at all of their work on Jazz Fest's Facebook photo pages: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7.  

The awesome WWOZ does the same thing in galleries for Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Fashions, Parades, and Food. If that's too much, they whittled it down to their 100 best photos here. Highly subjective, I must say. Now, if you like all this music and culture, and you aren't streaming WWOZ regularly, the question I have is ... Why not?

So, as I always say, that's a wrap, We continue to enjoy this city and its people, and especially its music. And, as D.L. Menard would always say, "If the hog don't eat me up, I'll see you next year!" I can honestly say at this point that's what it would take to keep us away! In 2018, having taken so long to finish this, I can say with certainty that we'll be there. 

And remember, Live Music Is Better ...!


    

© Jeff Mangold 2012