Days 13 and 14 / Monday and Tuesday, May 7 - 8



This year, we got a bonus day in New Orleans. As I mentioned on Day 1, United has apparently figured out that a lot of people want to fly to New Orleans specifically for Jazz Fest, so the airfare was hundreds of dollars more if we would fly today, plus we couldn't use miles. That was way more than an extra night at the hotel and a couple of meals would cost, so it really was a no-brainer. 

It was nice to sleep in with nothing at all scheduled. We grabbed a quick breakfast at the Staybridge buffet, then got caught up on some business at home before finally heading out around 11. Once out, we found a very warm day. The temperature, which was around 79 when we left the hotel, reached 87 this afternoon. The sun was direct, the humidity low, and the breeze virtually nonexistent.

We took a leisurely walk along the river, on through the French Market area. We decided we needed to refuel, so we headed a couple of blocks up to Decatur Street to the original, downriver Envie Cafe for some bagels and iced coffees. We sat there for a long time, soaking up the warm sun and the customers at the cafe. We love the people of New Orleans. So individualistic and friendly.

When we finally got going again, we walked a couple of blocks over to the area where Frenchmen Street and Esplanade Avenue meet. Since we had never explored Esplanade, we walked in the shade of beautiful oak trees up to Rampart Street, checking out all of the homes with beautiful courtyards and gardens and some very funky touches like a mirror ball reflecting the sunlight. 

We even saw Lil' Dizzy's cafe, home of the Trout Baquet that we enjoy at Jazz Fest. Many of the buidlings on Esplanade are historic, the equivalent of those in the Garden District.

Esplanade Avenue stretches roughly 3 miles from the banks of the Mississippi River to the geographic heart of New Orleans at the edge of City Park. Described as a storehouse of 19th-century architectural types and styles, it forms the downriver edge of the French Quarter before passing through some of the city's oldest neighborhoods. Oak-lined, bisected by a grassy neutral ground, and featuring multicolored homes of all shapes and sizes, the avenue has been iconic for centuries.

In the 1830's, Esplanade Avenue was extended in segments from the river's edge through a succession of habitations, or plantations, to Bayou St. John, a small waterway along the eastern edge of City Park. Conceived of as both a transportation corridor and a residential garden suburb for the city's Francophone elite, the Esplanade of yesteryear was a bustling thoroughfare, teeming with mule-drawn omnibuses and pedestrians, peppered with restaurants, parks, and pleasure gardens. A Times-Picayune article from 1852 describes it as "the handsomest street in the city, with a broad space in the centre planted with a double row of forest trees, now forming a long arch of bright, thick verdure to shade the grass below."

Since its early days, Esplanade has been home to a diverse array of New Orleans residents. Ornate mansions are mixed in with modest shotgun houses and Creole cottages all along its length. Cultural landmarks like the Old U.S. Mint, St. Louis Cemetery No. 3, and City Park anchor the avenue at either end. It sits on some of the city's highest ground, so it was not affected by the failure of the Federal levees after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The rest of this story of Esplanade Street's history, which mirrors a lot of New Orleans history itself, can be found here. It's very interesting.

Next up was a first for us, an in-store concert at the Louisiana Music Factory. These have been going on for years before, between, and after the two weekends of Jazz Fest and feature half-hour or so performances by local artists.

Louisiana Music Factory is an independent music store that specializes in New Orleans and Louisiana music, and it is well-known among music aficionados around the world. Its rich inventory includes CD's and vinyl of traditional jazz, blues, R&B, zydeco, and Cajun music, many of which are on local independent labels hard to find outside the Louisiana. You'll also find books, posters, and just about anything else music related there.

The store was opened in February 1992 by founders Jerry Brock and Barry Smith at 225 North Peters Street in the French Quarter (where, believe it or not, the Coyote Ugly bar is now located). Brock was one of the founders of the local community radio station WWOZ and also a producer who first recorded the Dirty Dozen Brass BandSmith worked for Tipitina's former booking agency and earned his Master's degree in business from Loyola University. They met while working at the late Record Ron's shop. 

The store's early stock consisted only of two long CD bins, with the CDs spread out as much as possible to make the bins appear full. As a fledgling enterprise, it faced the challenges of being a small, unproven business. "It was definitely a process of getting people to take you seriously," says Smith. "We were brand new, and for the initial orders, everybody wanted money up front, and all orders were C.O.D. It took a few months for people to even put us on their credit line. And it took several years before we started getting respect from record labels, as far as giving us advertising and promotional materials."

But what the store lacked in established contacts, its owners made up for in knowledge, passion, and determination. In 1996, the store moved to a location at 210 Decatur Street, also in the French Quarter, across from the House of Blues. The Decatur Street store was two-storied, devoting the second floor to vintage vinyl. 

In 2001, Brock left the store to pursue other opportunities, and Smith became the sole owner. Fortunately, the store suffered little damage from the Federal levee faialure after Hurricane Katrina and was one of the first record stores to reopen after the storm. In March 2014, the store moved to its current location at 421 Frenchmen Street in the French Quarter, downriver from the Decatur Street location.

We were at the Louisiana Music Factory today to see Funk Monkey, a sort of all-star band founded by Greg Hicks and Bert Cotton of Bonerama. Hicks' trombone and Cotton's guitar are joined by Jason Mingledorff (formerly of Papa Grows Funk) on sax, Rik Fletcher (from Otra and the Nayo Jones Experience) on keyboards, David Pomerleau (Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes) on bass, and Eddie Christmas (John Cleary's Absolute Monster Gentlemen) on drums. What's remarkable is how quickly these guys have moved from sounding like a super-jam mashup to being a tight-knit unit with a sound all their own. 

Laurie tipped the band by buying a copy of their "Rollin' Live at the Leaf" CD. Here's a few seconds of Funk Monkey that I recorded today, and here are ... 

And by the way, you can search YouTube for "Louisiana Music Factory" and find a treasure trove of the in-store performances they have recorded over the years. There's only a thousand or so. Go ahead, waste hours as I have. Live music is better!

We got a late afternoon snack in the form of smoothies at the Organic Banana, one of the many food stands in the French Market, which we took over to Jackson Square by way of walking up Governor Nicholls Street to Chartres Street. 

Once there, we soaked in the sounds of the brass band that sets up every afternoon. And the sight of all the people, but here they are mostly tourists -- definitely differt from the locals in a place like Envie! Then we walked back to the hotel by way of the river, saying goodbye to it for another year.

A little later we went back to Canal Street to have dinner at the Palace Café. We had lunch there on Day 12 last year, where you can read a bit about the restaurant and its building. 

One of the highlights on the menu is the savory crabmeat cheesecake appetizer. It has a pecan crust and is served with a wild mushroom saute and creole meuniere. It doesn't really have the consistency of a cheesecake. It's much fluffier, more like a quiche or a soufflé. But however you describe the thing, it's really good. 

My entree was grilled cobia, served with carrots and haricots vert in a brown butter vinaigrette. 

Laurie had a strawberry and goat cheese salad with candied pecans and a lemon poppyseed vinaigrette. 

For dessert, we had a rum pineapple doberge cake with rum cherry ice cream, caramelized white chocolate, and more candied pecans. The food at this place is really good, and the service is relaxed and efficient. I'm sure we will be back.

So that was our bonus day, very relaxing with some good music and food. On Tuesday morning we got "take out" breakfast from the Staybridge and spent what time we had packing. Why is it that stuff that fits so nicely when you travel to someplace becomes so difficult to pack when you return? Does dust and sweat really take up that much room?

The Airport Shuttle picked us up around 10, and we were at the Louis Armstrong International Airport and through security in plenty of time for our 12:30 flight. I got a Cuban sandwich from one of the food stands near our gate to eat on the plane, my last bite in New orleans for 2018. There's a slight chance that may also have been the last time we were in the "old" Armstrong Airport, as the "new" Armstrong Airport on the other side of the tarmacs and runways is nearing completion. 

Our flight was as smooth as can be on the small Canadair regional jet, and we were on the ground by 4:15 and home by 6. 

Our kitchen? Mostly done and looking fantastic!

And that's that. What a great trip! Perfect weather throughout, unbelievable music, and a city and people that we absolutely love. What more could you want in a vacation?

So it's customary to provide some final thoughts on the last day's entry of this blog, which once again has taken almost the full year to complete when combined with the accompanying photo and video pages

As I've said, it's just too much fun to relive Jazz Fest all year long, even if it is at the expense of other stuff on the website. Those things will get done ... eventually!

The Jazz Fest people continue to make the festival more enjoyable every year, and that's what proably will keep us coming back for more. Seriously, I cannot think  of a single thing that could have been done to enhance the experience. That said, they will probably find more for the 50th anniversary edition of Jazz Fest next year. 

The enjoyment provided by the WWOZ hospitality tent is another inducement to keep coming back. Then, weather like we had this year certainly goes a long way to reinforce it! The only thing I would change is that at some point I am going to have to sacrifice some of the music to look at crafts, exhibits, cooking demonstrations, and interviews. But the music is just so good!

Here is a quick list of musical highlights. Again, I've said it before, but it's the diversity of these artists that makes Jazz Fest an experience like no other. For the first weekend, Kyle Huval and the Dixie Club Ramblers with Joel Savoy and Chris Stafford got it started right off the bat; Mark Braud's Jazz Giants with Freddie Lonzo, Tim Laughlin, and Herlin Riley; Sidi Touré from Mali; the star-laden Tribute to Fats Domino; Sona Jobarteh from the Gambia; Mardi Gras Indian funk with Cha Wa; the great honky-tonk of Kim Carson and the Real Deal; the Savoy Family Cajun Band; the Tremé Brass Band's second line in Economy Hall; Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and the Golden Eagles; Irma Thomas; and Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers.

Second weekend highlights were Goldman Thibodeaux and the Lawtell Playboys with Louis Michot; Bonsoir, Catin; Plaquemine Bruleé; Zachary Richard; Tatiana Eva Marie and the Avalon Jazz Band; Nathan Williams and the Zydeco Cha Chas; the Lost Bayou Ramblers; Feufollet; the Storyville Stompers Brass Band; Bo Dollis Jr. and the Wild Magnolias; Sierra Green and the Soul Machine; and the War and Treaty.

And that list doesn't include my favorite place at Jazz Fest, the Jazz Tent: Jesse McBride and the Next Generation; Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah; Henry Butler, Steven Bernstein and the Hot 9; Charles Lloyd and the Marvels; Pat Casey and the New Sound; Terrace Martin; Archie Shepp; Wessell 'Warmdaddy' Anderson; the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra with Nayo Jones; Astral Project; Joe Dyson; and Terence Blanchard and the E-Collective.

Wow! Note that those are just the highlights! Believe me, there was a whole lot more, much of which could qualify as a highlight.

We aren't emphasizing the night shows as much as we used to, but we did a couple, and they were really good: John Mooney, Alfred 'Uganda' Roberts, and Marc Stone at the Little Gem; Trumpet Mafia at Lafayette Square; and the ever-awesome Dr. Lonnie Smith with Donald Harrison Jr., Detroit Brooks, and Herlin Riley at Snug Harbor.

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, the Commanders Palace offshoot Café Adelaide (a one-off since it has since closed), Emeril Lagasse's Meril, and Nina Compton's spectacular Compère Lapin. Plus we returned to the Palace Café (see above), which is fast becoming a favorite.

Of course, we were at old standbys Mother'sLucy'sDaisy DukesRoyal House, the New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood Company, and the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen, too. Unfortunately, we keep discovering more places that we would like to go. Added to the list, it's becoming apparent that we will never completely explore all of the food restaurant choices in New Orleans. 

Every year we are more comfortable in New Orleans and with how we do this trip, so we are completely relaxed no matter what we do or where we go! 

Now it's time to mention who we missed seeing. This list doesn't include local New Orleans and Louisiana artists that we have seen before and missed this year. We trust that we will have plenty more opportunities to see them again, both at Jazz Fest and at home. 

On the first weekend, Sturgill Simpson, Spencer Bohren, and Luther Kent on Friday; Nigel Hall, Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, and Sweet Cecilia on Saturday; and Jon Batiste and the Dap Kings, Chocolate Milk, Quiana Lynell, Kenny Neal with Henry Gray and Lazy Lester, the Creole Jazz Seranaders, and Lynn Drury on Sunday.

On the second weekend, Henry Butler's tribute to Jelly Roll Morton, and Toronzo Cannon on Thursday; Aaron Neville, Sheryl Crowe, Brian Seeger's Organic Trio, Lil' Buck Sinegal with Barbara Lynn, the Shake 'Em Up Jazz Band, Topsy Chapman and Solid Harmony, and Hiss Golden Messenger on Friday; Jasen Weaver, Dianne Reeves, Sean Jones, Lurrie Bell, and Curley Taylor on Saturday; and Smokey Robinson and Bill Kirchen on Sunday among many other local artists. 

Foodwise, the list continues to shrink. I still have not tried: a BBQ turkey wing (served with meaty white beans and coleslaw, both of which I have tried and found to be excellent), grilled chicken livers with pepper jelly, crispy wings with collard greens and fried okra, crawfish pie, fried shrimp po' boy, alligator pie, crabmeat stuffed shrimp, and alligator sauce piquante. I'll try at least a couple of these next year I'm sure, unless there's more new stuff to tempt me! 

Once again, 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 community radio station WWOZ does the same thing in galleries for Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Fashions, and Parades/Mardi Gras Indians. If that seems like a lot of pictures, they very subjectively narrowed all of them down to their 171 best photos here

If you like all this music and culture, and you aren't streaming WWOZ regularly ... Why not?

Taken together, all of these photos give you an idea of the incredible range of music, arts, heritage, and fun that can be found at Jazz. They are well worth a look.

So, that's yet another wrap. We love New Orleans, its people, and especially its music more and more every time we vist. And, as the dearly missed D.L. Menard always said, "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! 

Happy 300th Birthday, New Orleans! We wish you many, many more! We'll be dropping in again next year for the 50th Jazz Fest for sure.

And remember, Live Music Is Better ...!

© Jeff Mangold 2012