New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Blog

Friday, May 4

By Alicia

Blues Tent Under Water
» Click HERE to view image interactively - Blues Tent Under Water

No more rain.  No more rain.
Yeah, we could have done the whole Woodstock thing and danced around naked, but being over 40 sort of shamed us into keeping our clothes, if not our wits, about us.  Friday at Jazzfest was not a complete washout, but came close.  It rained a good hour or two pretty relentlessly. Starting about 1pm, all the acts on the outdoors stages were delayed.

At least, I think that’s when it happened, but I’m not sure because I was crammed into a crafts tent across from the Fais Do Do stage with about 200 other refugees.  The tent sides were quickly drawn down and lashed to the supporting poles.  Through the cracks we could see the wind whipping the rain around the fairgrounds.  The grass beneath our feet quickly became a 6-inch deep puddle of oozing muck.  At least we were in a boatbuilder’s exhibit.  There was pirogue nearby should we need it.

Meanwhile, from what I gather (and I have been in mostly a news blackout), the water rose so quickly around the city that the Army Corps of Engineers decided to shut down the pumps near the London Avenue canal.  That may seem counterintuitive, but they were concerned that the water was rising to “unsafe levels” in the canal and that the newly rebuilt levees were threatened.

You can imagine how that makes New Orleanians feel.

Fortunately, I only felt clammy and cold.  Not terrified that my entire life would end up engulfed by a rush out of Lake Ponchartrain or one of the many waterways that slice through town.

The Gospel, Blues, Jazz, and Economy Hall tents continued with their scheduled acts.  We hopscotched to several, becoming more soaked with each foray.  We finally settled in the Blues tent for Sunpie Barnes, who was nattily turned out in a tuxedo while his audience rustled noisily in plastic ponchos.  The center of the tent filled with about 2 to 3 feet of water.  But the show went on.

Your faithful correspondents, however, wimped out and made a beeline for a cold beer and a hot shower.  We left jazzfest!!  I know, it’s sacrilege.  But it did not look hopeful for a return to music on the outdoor stages and it was plain miserable inside most of the tents.

We were later proven wrong – Jazzfest did go on.  But it was fortunate we left when we did -- while we were gone, a big old rental truck sideswiped my bitchin Impala.  The sideview mirror was hanging by a slim black cord, like some partially decapitated character from a Quentin Tarantino flick.  Mirror bits were scattered on the street and Phil’s lawn.

The pain of dealing with the rental agency and filing a police reportill not be inflicted upon you.  But it was impressive and strange to me (having dealt with DC
police) that an NOPD officer showed up within a half hour or so and was as gracious as could be in dealing with us Yankees.

All that pain was forgotten later that night when my pal Betty and I got our groove on with the Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown himself, who was playing at House of Blues.
It was Chuck’s first club appearance here in more than 20 years. New Orleans AND D.C. were in the same house.  It was almost as good as a hometown show.

From there, we dropped some cash at Louisiana Music Factory just before Barry closed up at midnight and then we went to pick up Kay so we could check out the clubs on Frenchmen Street.

Of course, being the first Friday of the second weekend of Jazzfest, the party on Frenchmen St. was non-stop – basically, an open-air frat-party where everything goes.
It’s definitely hipper than Bourbon St., but the level of drunkenness during the Festival is about equal.  The quality of the music in the clubs and what you can hear just passing by on the street is about 1,000 times better, though.  We ran into some other friends and popped in to see the Lost Bayou Ramblers.

They’re kind of punk-Cajuns.  With a pedal steel guitar.
All about 25 years old and from Lafayette.  The crowd at d.b.a. was eating it up, though there were, in the immortal words of Dick Piet, a bunch of jumpers and spillers.

Then it was dodge-the-drunks down the sidewalk to another place…don’t remember its name, but there was no cover charge, which was key.  And the Revealers were playing.
I’d missed them at the Festival, so it was cool to happen upon their funky reggae sound.

The rest of Friday evening’s activities have been redacted from the manuscript.

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