Wednesday, May 02, 2007


One great thing about living in Tupelo is that we're only a 5-hour drive from one of our favorite cities in the world - New Orleans!

Despite the horrific destruction of vast stretches of residential neighborhoods resulting from Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, the parts of New Orleans that you'd generally want to check out are in good shape, with hundreds of restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels and B&Bs ready to accomodate visitors looking for a good time.

The historic French Quarter is full of beautiful architecture like this. Fortunately, this area was not flooded at all during the Katrina catastrophe.

One of the best things about New Orleans is that every year, for 2 weeks at the end of April and beginning of May, more than a thousand performers and tens of thousands of music fans converge for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival - JAZZFEST!!

Not just jazz

The main event takes place at the fairgrounds during the day, where 11 stages feature all kinds of music, from rock, pop, jamband, bluegrass, alt-country, hip-hop, and blues, to all kinds of traditional New Orleans music, including funk, zydeco, brass-band and gospel.

Bonerama, a New Orleans ensemble of 4 trombonists, guitar, bass & drums, plays a variety of fun covers, including a slammin' version of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs".

Amazones, an all-female ensemble of percussionist/singers from Guinea (Africa), perform on the Congo Square stage. The stage is named after Congo Square, a famous historic park where a lot of the famous New Orleans music was born during the days of slavery. During this time, Louisiana was a French colony, and slaves were allowed off from work on Sundays, when they would set up a market at Congo Square and play music and dance. Amazones were a fitting tribute, and they had the crowd movin' and shakin' with their sly syncopations and exuberant dance moves. (Remember to click on any of the photos for a much better look)

Chief Walter Cook and the Creole Wild West Mardi Gras Indians perform on one of the smaller stages. There is a long tradition in New Orleans of "tribes" of Mardi Gras "Indians" - African-Americans dressed up as Native Americans parading through the streets playing music, dancing and generally creating quite a spectacle.

James Carter's Organ Trio performs in the Jazz Tent. James Carter is a remarkable contemporary saxophonist, and even people not really into jazz can't help but be impressed by his extraordinary chops.

In addition to the bands pictured, we caught enjoyable sets from plenty of others, including alt-country great Lucinda Williams and southwest-indy-rockers Calexico, as well as local acts such as New Orleans Klezmer Allstars, Newbirth Brass Band and Astral Project. We passed up on most of the more mainstream acts such as Rod Stewart and Van Morrison.

And it's not just about music!

There are all kinds of arts and crafts booths, as well as what seems like about a hundred different food booths, serving up all kinds of New Orleans cuisine - gumbo, jambalaya, po'boys (New Orleans sandwiches full of things like oyster, shrimp, soft-shell crab, etc), and just about anything crawfish, including probably even crawfish pie. Rob's favorite treat was the crawfish beignet - deep-fried crawfish-stuffed dough-balls topped with a yummy dressing. Carley's favorite was the soft-shell-crab po'boy - a whole deep-fried soft-shelled crab inside a french-style baguette, dressed with a spicy tartar sauce.

Another one of our favorites was the giant dark-chocolate-covered strawberries.

Good Times

One of the nicest things about Jazzfest was getting to see so many friends from all over that we hadn't seen in several years. We met up with Denise Pilar (Chicago/Nashville) and Allan Morris (San Francisco) for lots of Fest activities.

Breakin' bread is one of the main events of any visit to New Orleans. We met up with Allan, Denise, and Jubilee and Eric Daniels for dinner at the legendary Tujague's, the 2nd oldest restaurant in town, serving excellent creole food since 1865.

The Nightlife

Although the "real" Jazzfest happens during the day at the Fairgrounds, the nightlife action during Jazzfest is quite legendary in its own right. Dozens of clubs all over town host music all night long; since New Orleans bars can serve 24 hours a day, some shows don't end until the sun comes up!

New Mastersounds, a young and talented British group, get the House of Blues Parish absolutely jumpin' with their infectious grooves. They've mastered the funky soul-jazz sound made famous in the 60's and 70's by cats like Grant Green and Jimmy Smith, and they have a generally young and festive following here in the U.S.

One of our absolute favorite bands in the world is the New Orleans-based Galactic. Their powerful, booty-moving, mind-bending fusion of New Orleans funk and jam rock has been rocking our worlds for years. Though we didn't meet each other until 2003, we both saw our first Galactic shows in 1998 - nine years ago! Galactic's late-night throwdown at the legendary uptown Tipitina's club was sure to be epic, no matter what happened. In the photo above, New Orleans native Sister Teedy joins the band for a few songs.

In one of the highlights of the whole weekend for any Galactic fan, original Galactic lead singer Theryl "The Houseman" deClouet joined the band for their final encore. (about 6:15 in the morning!!) Houseman was with the band for about the first 10 years of their existence, but had to leave the band a few years ago due to health reasons. To see him again with the band in their hometown was truly a special moment!!

Allan and Denise riding the rail for the Houseman.

Rob sometimes looks even better than this at 6:20 in the morning! (OK, just kidding)

At 6:30AM the Galactic show is over and a new day is beginning. (Or ending) New friends and memories for a lifetime are made over morning bloody maries. The more hardcore Jazzfest revelers flag down cabs to find some food or other spots to continue partying, while a few of the more industrious locals head out to another day at work.

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