With all the Treme talk around town (and Back of Town), and the informally organized public Treme-watching parties, and the discussion over whether Steve Zahn's character is irritating but harmless, lovable eccentric, or straight-up douchebag, it's surprising to find one prominent New Orleanian who doesn't have an opinion: Mayor-elect Mitch Landrieu.
"I still haven't seen it," Landrieu said this morning in a meeting at his office on St. Charles Avenue. "But my wife [Cheryl Landrieu] saw the first two and said it's fantastic."
And count another important local who hasn't seen Treme, even though he's in it: "Uncle" Lionel Batiste of the Treme Brass Band.
"I don't have HBO," Batiste told Gambit photographer Cheryl Gerber.
Hey, David Simon: can you hook up Uncle Lionel with some HBO?
One of the most iconic aspects of Jazz Fest is the various flags that people bring in to mark their spots in the infield and which serve as landmarks to anyone trying to find their friends in the sea of people in front of the Acura and Gentilly Stages. Every year, I try to take as many pictures of these flags as possible. Though I have to say there weren't as many comical ones as there were last year, there were certainly a great variety. Check out all the pictures after the jump.
I don't know how it usually goes for most people, but it seems like the few hours immediately before and after Jazz Fest days have to be the worst. Before it just a rush to get to the fest, deciding how to go (car, cab, bike?) and making sure you have all you need (yesterday, for example, I almost forgot my ticket). After is just a rush of energy and exhaustion, the spirit's desire for the day to keep on going matched with the body's desire to get some rest. Those few moments are totally forgotten, though, during the Fest.
I like to call it a religious experience. I know I can't be alone.
Probably my favorite part of walking into the Fair Grounds is that the Gospel Tent is one of, if not the, first music you can hear clearly (so long as Gentilly Stage isn't rocking too hard). Where my friends were going for iced coffees at the WWOZ hospitality tent, the only energy I needed came from the choirs belting out gospel hymns to a seemingly always packed house. Jazz Fest doesn't ask you to believe in God, but if you leave it without believing in music, then you have a serious lack of faith that should be addressed.
I look forward to getting this picture every year because it captures everything I love about Jazz Fest. A tuba, the cornerstone instrument to so many jazz ensembles, the reflection of the people second lining and, if you look closely, you can see the Congo Square stage. The fact that you can go from the Acura Stage to the Gentilly Stage and pass three other music stages on the way (if you stay in the infield, that is) AND get to experience a second line makes it the probably the greatest half-mile walk ever.
The Allman Brothers were so good that we left, went to see Hot 8 (which happily had amassed a sizable crowd of their own), freshened up and then were able to make it back to the Acura Stage to catch the end of "Whipping Post" and the Allman's encore. Many times during the day I felt overcome by the power of the music. One of the gospel choirs (and I can't remember which one because I caught glimpses of all but two of them yesterday) was asking people if they needed a miracle by tomorrow. I got my miracle at the Church of Jazz Fest.
Photos by Gary Loverde.
Terence Blanchard headlines the J
Jazz Fest picked up Sunday where it left off Saturday - with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on the Gentilly Stage with Jim James of My Morning Jacket (which had played a gig together at Preservation Hall in between). Preservation Hall was leading this session and played many of the songs on its February release titled Preservation. Some of the guest artists on the disc include Terence Blanchard and James, who joined the band on stage for a rousing version of "St. James Infirmary."
After the disappointing Simon and Garfunkel performance, rumors swirled that the rest of their 12-date tour had been cancelled. Though as of Sunday night, tickets are still available online. Of some of the other acts with aging vocalists, Sunday's roster had a better day. Former Louis Prima sidekick (and wife) Keely Smith could still belt out tunes like "Sunny Side of the Street." She's not as bouncy as when the just out her teens singer headlined with Vegas, but she's still got plenty of spirit, and reportedly was witty enough to make interviewer Nick Spitzer blush.
Levon Helm kept a steady stream of guests on stage - Dr. John, Ivan Neville, Allen Toussaint - but when he sang he showed that he still has it.
And Anita Baker still has a great voice, though not many new songs. She stuck mostly to material off Rapture and Giving You the Best That I Got, but anyone who enjoys singing as much as she does is going to do just fine. One of the more amusing scenes during her Congo Square set was offered by the pair of sign language translators, who both offered not just the sign translations, but all the feeling as well. If Anita could drag out the words "sweet love" they could hold the signs just as slowly, and with a little shoulder sway and nod get all of the emotion as well.
It seems as though every year that Jazz Fest comes, I forget just how much there is to do at the Fairgrounds and a sensory overload always seems imminent. It's important to keep your wits about you, have some sort of plan (not too strict, there's always room for wandering) and generally try not to get (too) lost in it all.
The story of the first few hours was whether or not it was going to rain and watching people comically trying to get through the muddiest stretches of the fairgrounds without losing their shoes. Many people up and gave up on their footwear and went barefoot. Others still left their sandals behind. I wonder how they managed to walk home or to their cars.
First things first, had to get a cochon de lait po boy, the breakfast of champions and appropriate at the crack of noon. We shared a table with a couple building consensus with anyone who'd listen that it wasn't going to rain today. The wind around us intensified briefly and we looked to the sky, gray but not menacing, soon the sun would make stabs of the cloud cover and we began to think that even if it did rain, it wouldn't be too bad. After all, its jazz fest...what could possibly go wrong?
Simon and Garfunkel played to a large crowd Saturday at the Fair Grounds. Photo by Gary Loverde.
After a wet start on Friday, the sun came out and beautiful weather prevailed at the Fair Grounds Saturday. The infield in front of the Acura Stage was packed for the much anticipated Simon & Garfunkel set. For once, the pair seemed to share more personal than musical harmony. Art hit troubled water on "Scarborough Fair," but the set list was all hits, even Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away," and the crowd had no problem singing along. The most amazing harmony at the fest was struck between My Morning Jacket and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, which have been performing together recently. The Pres Hall band joined Jim James et al for a funk romp through "Highly Suspicious." Then they tackled "Mother-In_Law." Then Bonerama's Craig Klein and Mark Mullins came on stage with Al "Carnival Time" Johnson and they all did "Carnival Time." To close the set, Clint Maedgen arrived and the ensemble covered Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up." It was an odd progression but an absolutely inspired set.
There was a second-line parade in memory of Marva Wright, and she has been added to the Fest ancestor memorials.
More photos after the jump.
Jazz Fest began on a day plagued by heavy rains. But crowds stuck it out for headliners including the Black Crowes and Lionel Richie. Photos by Gary Loverde.
Recently The New York Times blog The Opinionator published an essay by Seattle writer Timothy Egan titled "Earthquake Roulette." The gist of it was the dichotomy between being in love with your home and knowing that the natural odds are against it:
The real triumph of hope over experience is not a second marriage, as the saying goes, but the fact that millions of us continue to live atop some of the most fragile ground on the planet, knowing full well it could crack, shatter, splinter and heave at any moment.
I try not to dwell on The Big One, like many denizens of the Ring of Fire, that 25,000-mile-long horseshoe of insecurity from South America to Japan, where Pacific plates collide with coastal crust. It is native ground for about 90 percent of the worlds earthquakes.
It was a nice essay, concluding with a story about the Italian city of L'Aquila, which has been destroyed by quakes six times since the 1300s. Egan draws a parallel with Seattle -- one of America's cities that geologists agree is overdue for a large earthquake -- and concludes:
My city is barely 150 years old, a mere child to L'Aquilas advanced age. At some point, people there learned to make peace with ground that can kill you. Such is the contract for living in a lovely place, still taking shape, still forming.
None of the commenters seemed to think this strange, but I couldn't help wondering what the reaction would've been had a New Orleanian wrote a similar paragraph:
At some point, people here learned to make peace with weather that can kill you. Such is the contract for living in a lovely place, still taking shape, still forming.
Actually, I do know what the reaction would be -- because I've heard it. We all have. You're idiots for living below sea level. (Never mind that we don't, mostly.) Culture is all well and good, but grow up and accept that you'll have to move somewhere else. (And what of the port?) Fine, but don't expect MY tax dollars to bail out your ass when it happens. (Do we not pay taxes?) And, the worst: What kind of morons don't know to get out of the way of a freakin' hurricane?
The same kind of morons who live on a fault line, I guess.
For the record: I don't think Egan is an idiot, or that Seattleites are morons for living in their own beautiful city. I just wonder why we're considered that way when we do the same things, for the same reasons.
And I wonder what the reaction would've been in The New York Times had a New Orleanian wrote a similar essay called "Hurricane Roulette."
Or maybe I don't.
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