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Eleven days in my life at Jazz Fest
A daily review of the 1993 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival by Steve Apple
My enthusiasm that usually builds up for Jazz Fest was greater than ever. This was the first year I was flying to Jazz Fest from a city besides Miami or Fort Lauderdale. The first year I didn’t organize a group trip to Jazz Fest. And this year I was looking forward to seeing my old friends as much as seeing New Orleans.
I had an airline voucher on American which didn’t have a direct Tampa—New Orleans flight so I landed up flying down to Miami anyway and a bunch of friends got onto my flight.
It’s become sort of a tradition for me that on the first Thursday (4/22/93), my first night in New Orleans, I head over to Coops on Decatur Street for fried chicken and a gig ole portion of Jambalaya.
After dinner, there was a note at my hotel that said “Rebirth”. I know that Rebirth Brass Band has a weekly Thursday night gig at Kemp’s, a great place to see the band, in the worst part of town. So I headed to Kemp’s, heard some great grass. Don’t try to draw lines around these guys, they funk beyond boundries.
Later, after we closed Kemp’s. It was uptown to Jimmy’s for a set of Marcia Ball. After an hour of her leg swinging music, we ended our night down in the Quarter at Café Du Monde.
Friday (4/23) we had to get up early for the first official day at the Fair Grounds Race Track. The weather was a repeat of 1992. Cool and dry, all weekend. I guess all those months of chanting for a cold front paid off. The karma was good.
The big negative thing I immediately noticed was the lack of Kentwood water. Water is essential, and Kentwood did a great job of supplying it free. Evian moved in and started to charge for their hoity toity bottles. Water booths looked empty, and hopefully the Jazz & Heritage Foundation will realize how big a service Kentwood is doing and bring them back next year.
At the Fair Grounds I saw in order of appearance… New Orleans Drumming Association, Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes & The Sunspots, Kirk Ford Experience with RichweIl Ison, Guitar Slim, Jr, Marcia Ball, John Mooney, Donald Harrison Quintet, Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas.
After the Fest, some folks went back to their hotels to shower (I encourage bathing after Fest) and we met up at for dinner at a restaurant called Thirsty’s on Jefferson Highway (in Jefferson Parish). Limited seating. Thirsty’s is a boiled crawfish and beer place. Not very good and doubt we’d go back.
After dinner we went to see the Dirty Dozen Brass Band at Muddy Water’s. The Dozen is a lot different from Rebirth as brass bands go. Dirty Dozen is older, more refined, and also a must see.
Then it was over to Tipitina’s for The Neville Brother. A Neville experience at Tip’s is unlike any other show you’ve seen.
Saturday morning (4/24) waking up for the daytime experiences was better than ever. We stopped by the Mardi Gras Truck Stop (I-10 & Elysian Fields) for some breakfast (Soup at a gas station?) lt was too late for breakfast, but I had the best crawﬁsh Etouffee of the whole trip.
At the Fair Grounds l saw… Big Sun, Health Unit #1, 39 Possee, Natural Flavor, Wild Magnolias. George Porter Jr & Runnin’ Pardners, The Iguanas, Wanda Rouzan & A Taste of New Orleans, The Allman Brothers, Cyril Neville & The Uptown Allstars.
Saturday night’s dinner was probably the best of the trip. A group of seven of us ate at a place called Mandich’s (3200 St. Claude Ave) in the Ninth Ward. They only serve diner on Friday and Saturday nights. Great soft shell crawﬁsh appetizers. Classic New Orleans restaurant with great food and I will be back.
After dinner it was on to the Mid-City Bowling Lanes (music in a bowling alley?) to see Snooks Eaglin and Johnny Adams. Hearing the bowling pins crashing added a texture to the music I’ve never felt before. l like it.
Sunday (4/25) six of us skipped out of town early and headed to Lafayette for the Festival Internationale de Louisanne. On the way we stopped by Donaldsonville, LA for lunch and ate in a place called J’s Diner. I only ordered some eggs but one friend had a poboy that he said was good.
This festival is a lot different from Jazz Fest. First difference, it is free and a street festival. Festival Internationale is a smaller more intimate setting than the mega festival, Jazz Fest.
After the street Fest we went to Crawfish Town for dinner. A big pass on this place. Don’t waste your time. They didn’t purge the crawﬁsh. They were muddy. dirty and the extra happy staff, who cheerfully said they serve the best crawﬁsh, should be working at Bennigans. My clue to walk out should have been when the girl said ‘we serve ‘very’ spicy crawﬁsh here.‘ A tourist trap, to be avoided like the plague.
We Got back to New Orleans around midnight, didn’t go see any live music that night.
Monday (4/26) woke up late, around 11 and went straight to Mother’s (401 Poydras @ Tchoupitoulas) for a debris poboy. The one meal I was craving since the last one I had. Like butter. A great lunch spot in the Central Business District, two lines from either door, merging into one at the cashier, cramped tables, l’m ready to go back right now.
After lunch it was on to Tower Records. This is our yearly pilgrimage to stock up on Compact Discs for the next year. I saw many of my South Florida friends shopping there too. As a bonus, John Mooney played live, while we shopped. One of those incredible things about Jazz Fest—the live music is everywhere. Bands in bowling alleys, record stores and in the streets.
Afterwards I tried to get cash, but the ATM was offline. I skipped the cash machine and got some ices at Angelo Brocato’s (537 St. Ann., Jackson Square), then spent the afternoon in the French Market bothering the vendors and buying things like socks and keychains.
I wandered off and got some iced coffee in this shop which I can never remember the name of, but it’s on Decatar up from Jackson Square.
It was back to Jackson Square, and a hair wrap by a guy named “Mouse”, so I can look oh-so-cool with beads and crystals hanging from my head.
My dinner group was supposed to meet at Casamento’s (4330 Magazine) for dinner but they’re closed on Monday so we found another place uptown along Magazine called Semolina. Great pasta dishes. Pasta Jambalaya, yum. Definitely worth checking out.
The music choice for Monday night was Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes at the Maple Leaf. A fast upcoming Zydeco king who spends his days as a National Park Ranger.
On Tuesday (4/27) we decided to drop off the laundry at a wash & fold place. Not knowing exactly where to find one we wandered around, had lunch at Domilese’s (5240 Annunciation), great shrimp po boys by the way. Then we landed up at a Laundromat on Maple Street in a great little neighborhood. I recommend this Laundromat if you’re uptown and looking to do a wash.
Afterwards we stopped in at P.J.’s Coffee & Tea shop (7624 Maple Street) for coffee and sun. A lot of students scattered around studying for their finals. I was too lound and was told to keep quiet.
We started to bar hop beginning at Fat Harry’s on St. Charles. And rounded up the group for dinner Café Atchafalyia (901 Louisiana). The Café has expanded since last year, and we had our own private room. Hootin and hollarin without annoying the rest of the diners.
Tuesday night’s music started at The HOwlin’ Wolf where The Grapes (from Atlanta) played . A great Jam Band worth checking out.
Afterwards it was on to Tipitina’s for the last set of the Meters. Be careful or the Meters will Funk You to Death! Ended the night with a reasy late night meal at The Hummingbird Grill (804 St Charles).
Wednesday (4/28) we ha to pik up the laundry, but who remembers where we left it. We’ll hunt down the clean clothing after lunch at Bon Ton Café (401 Magazine). Bon Ton Café is mainly a business crowd, and we stood out in our shorts but they tolerated us since it was Jazz Fest. Any other time they probably would have sent us away. Crawfish prepared many traditional ways. Very good food at Bon Ton.
We found the Laundromat! Now l got clean underwear for the rest of the trip.
We went on down to Audubon Zoo and they all axed for you… Wednesday afternoon was zoo-day. Those poor animals locked in small cages. The zoo came highly recommended, but I can’t figure out why. The only outstanding thing I saw were the white alligators. This zoo is not worth a trip, unless you never seen a zoo or are fine walking around seeing animals in small cages. This makes me wonder about the aquarium, which was also highly recommended.
Wednesday night our dinner group went to at La Cuisine (225 W. Harrison, Lakefront). Pretty good food here.
Then the music for the evening took us back to Mid City Lanes for Marva Wright and C.J. Chenier. CJ is a powerhouse of zydeco and unfortunately the venue had a lot of sound problems and they only played one set.
Next it was over to the Blacktop Blues-a-Rama where I caught Robert Ward’s set and Earl King’s set. Blues-a-Rama just isn’t the same as when it was on the Final night of Jazz Fest going til 6 a.m. at Tipitina’s. After Earl King, we closed the music for the night at Tipitina’s with the Meter’s.
Thursday (4/29) Week Two begins! Back to the Fair Grounds for the final four days. I saw Guardians of the Flame, Boozoo Chavis & his Magic Sounds, Snooks Eaglin, Free Spirit Stilt Walkers, Tarika Sammy, Indigo Girls and Def Generation.
Thursday night dinner was at at Feelings Cafe (2600 Chartres) in the Faubourg Marigny. We waited a while for the table in a cramped bar overlooking a nice courtyard. Good food, and a real nice place, perfect for a romantic date, not exactly great for Jazz Fest groups. Service was the slowest of all restaurants.
Music Thursday night was back to Kemp’s for the ReBirth Brass Band gig. I love this place. l love this band.
Friday (4/30) at the Fair Grounds. We set up camp at the Ray Ban Stage, up front, on the rail. The weekend of r@in began around 11:30 A.M., turning the Fair Grounds into a mud pit. The rain didn’t stop until mid-Sunday. I bought a WWOZ umbrella which turned out to be one of the best investments I made for the trip. We saw TC Hawkins Singers, Earl King, Terence Simien & the Mallet Playboys, The Meters, Dr. John.
Friday night dinner was in the French Quarter (of all places) at Mike Anderson’s (215 Bourbon St). This place has lots of fried seafood. Lots and lots of fried seafood. Did I mention the portions? Huge. Everyone in our group was surprised how quickly we were seated, and how great the service was.
This was my Bourbon Street experience for the trip (I guess not including our late night trips to the Cloer Groll (900 Bourbon St).
Saturday (5/1) at Mud Fest I Onward Brass Band, Golden Eagles, Willie Tee, The
Mighty Chariots, Dixie Cups, Willie Lockett, Sa Sa Ya Sa, Rebirth Brass Band.
Saturday night’s dinner was in the Lakefront area of Metarie at Deanie’s (1713 Lake Ave). A restaurant with an hour wait which was not worth five minutes. Food was big on size but small on taste. I wouldn’t go back. I don’t understand what everyone raves about here, must be all about the lard.
Our musical timing was thrown off on Saturday night. Around 11pm we stopped in Café Brasil for Tribe Nunzio—they weren’t hitting the stage until after 1am and the first band was just setting up. We went to Charlie B’s for Dr. John’s midnight show, which wasn’t going to start until ‘well after 1am’ and the 3am show was looking like a 5am show. In and out of clubs, running around town, we finally just blew off music for the night.
Sunday (5/2) back at Cream of Mud Soup Fest, I saw The Melody Clouds, the Ninth Ward Hunters, Kermit Ruffins, Buckwheat Zydeco, _Astrol Project, Irene and the Mikes, Santana, Irma Thomas, Bryan Lee & Jumpstreet Five, and closed the fest with The Neville Brothers.
Then it was an Italian dinner at Venezia’s (134 N. Carrollton) in Mid-City. Okay family style Italian food, heavy on red sauces and cheese—nothing to write home about.
Our 1993 Jazz Fest concluded at Jimmy’s with Def Generation and Cyril Neville & The Uptown All-stars. Def Generation, managed by Cyril, is a sort of Second Line Rap Funk band. Cyril describes his band as Second Line Reggae, much different than when he’s playing with the Neville Brothers.
And then a final late night meal at the Clover Grill.
Between The Hummingbird Grill and the Clover Grill we had some great late snacks, just right to sleep on.
Monday (5/3) was saved for souvenirs shopping at Schwegmann’s. One ﬁnal shrimp poboy at the Mardi Gras Truck Stop and off to the airport.
Another fantastic year of Jazz Fest. I tried more restaurants for dinner than ever before and saw lots of new acts, but sacrificed a few old favorites.
Probably the biggest problem with Jazz Fest is FOMS, fear of missing something. There are so many great choices at any given minute.
Next year I’m going to be upgrading hotels too. Staying in the eastern part of New Orleans on Chef Menteur Highway for $150 a week is great, but coming home every night and having someone try to sell me crack or a stereo gets old after one time.
Happy Jazz Fest! See you next year…
Written by Steve Apple [743 75,1602]