If you’re not a music fiend you probably don’t spend the day putting yourself through ridiculous mental contortions trying to remember THE SONG that is right at the edge of your conscious, but can’t quite grasp. That was my day yesterday trying to remember Rhye’s “Open”.
Not sure why it popped into my head half way through the morning, but it did and there was nothing to do but submit to the inevitable as the images and words ran on an endless loop but no name would shake out. Remembered I’d first seen it in an article on Elephant Journal, resulting in a significant amount of billable time spent riffling through old articles. Nada. Had a vague recollection that the song had been featured on Grey’s Anatomy, had to hide my screen so no-one could see that I was spending the afternoon listening to multiple seasons of the soundtrack – all music cred instantly out the window.
If you love the super chill sound of Rhye, here’s a bit more about the Canadian – Danish male duo from NPR Music. (that’s right, they are guys). I’ll be listening to this today instead of Grey’s Anatomy.
What other singers grabbed my attention this year? Top of the list has to be Jason Isbell, the current king of Americana and Drive-By Truckers alumnus. This is a 2-for-1 deal for me, love DBT and Jason solo as well is a bonus. Astonishing songwriting and that Alabama twang – bring it on.
And here’s a treat – Ryan Adams and Jason live together from the Herbst in San Francisco. They do need to do a record together – the song writing would be out of this world.
With all due deference to Mr. Hemingway, although it’s not Paris, I’ve been lucky enough to unexpectedly have this summer in Vancouver when I thought I would be long gone to Virginia. And wherever I go after this it will stay with me, for (it’s) been a moveable feast. Maybe it’s the poignancy of knowing I may leave this autumn, or maybe it’s just a karmic gift after last summer, but for whatever reason it has been superlative. I’ve spent some time away, work and vacation has taken me regularly to the US South, but it’s the times at home that stand out.
I have, in many ways, already taken leave of my past life here; said goodbyes and given up regular activities, so I’ve had to, of necessity, redefine my lifestyle this summer. And, much to my surprise, I’ve found that home still has a lot to offer. I’ve ended up asking myself whether the lifestyle I want is right here in my own city? Granted Vancouver has put on a show and given us a truly spectacular summer (would I be writing this when the rains of November seem to never end!) but it seems that through the lens of immanent departure I have fallen in love with the West Coast all over again. And I haven’t really even been that far from the city; no island paradise kayak or camping trips (yet!) but I’ve just been getting out and playing tourist in my own town, appreciating everything the city has to offer.
One of the things I love doing on Saturday morning is spending time browsing at one of the many local farmer’s market. On a recent Saturday I went with a friend to explore Trout Lake Market, one of the original and oldest farmer’s markets. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day and we got to walk all around Trout Lake on our way to the market (well actually we were yakking, missed a turn and got on the wrong pathway . . . .a fortuitous wrong turn!)
And it truly was a moveable feast at the market. As well as bushels of fresh, heirloom, organic vegetables, we bought delicious goats milk cheeses, creamy blues and delicate fetas, a duck breast sausage marinated in King Heffy beer, (so delicious!!), wild mushrooms and warm breads. A glorious profusion of humble beets and carrots.
After all that walking and gathering, it seemed time for a repast and what better idea than brunch at Timbre on Commercial Drive. We did eat as well, but debated if it was necessary after these Bloodys. Truly awesome.
Many a good idea (and quite a few bad ones . . .oh wait, in my life there are no bad ideas!) have been hatched over a drink, today was no exception. Casually mentioned that Trombone Shorty was playing in Whistler that night at some slightly strange event/festival/yoga/hippy/love in called Wanderlust. For the life of me I still can’t figure out how a rockin’ trombone player from New Orleans ended up playing at a yoga festival in Whistler, BC, for FREE, but he was and he did. Driving to Whistler to see the show, then driving back that night seemed like the Best Idea Ever. And since we had a bounty of deliciousness, a picnic at Lost Lake was the ideal start to our Whistler adventure. A couple of hours later we were headed up the Sea to Sky highway, picnic basket in hand. A feast was had, but in the unpredictable way of mountain weather, it sure was moveable, Here’s the spread we had set up by Lost Lake.
Minutes later a thunder and lightning storm rolled over the lake and onto our picnic.
We took temporary refuge under the trees, but to no avail. Our picnic was getting wet and, even worse crime, the wine was being diluted! We could see that the storm was localized to the lake – blue skies and sunshine shone down less than a mile away – so we hastily threw everything back in the basket and headed down the road to Alta Lake where it was sunny, Yeah, picnic was back on!! Got everything set up a second time when . . .drop, drop, drop . . .the thunderstorm had rolled on over our way. Moveable feast indeed. This shower was short-lived so we toughed it out till it passed and enjoyed every morsel.
With all the too-ing and fro-ing we were seriously behind schedule getting to the free concert venue in Olympic Plaza.
But instead of being at the back of a huge crowd, much to our surprise the plaza was basically empty. Wet, but empty. Those yogis are lightweights! We were able to wander right up to the front of the barrier, centre stage and enjoy a stunning sunset as the skies cleared, the plaza dried and we waited for Shorty,
The show was everything I had hoped for, my companion hadn’t seen Shorty before, but I was pretty sure I knew exactly what sort of kick ass night we were in for, Anywhere in the US Shorty draws large crowds of devoted fans; when he took the stage in Whistler there were maybe 20 people milling around and I was the only one showing of my “Who Dat” shirt. Some musicians might have decided it was a waste of time and put on a lackluster, bare minimum and I’m outta here set. Not Shorty, He decided to win over some fans and put on a show to remember, Two hours later the plaza was overflowing with hand clapping, foot stomping, dancing and singing new-born Trombone Shorty fans, The man is amazing (ok, so the picnic wasn’t the only deliciousness around!!)
The entire day was truly a Moveable Feast for all the senses. Great food, great wine, gorgeous scenery, incredible music and great company, Thanks for a spectacular day, Here’s Shorty, getting funky y’all and killing American Woman at the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival. If you get a chance to see him live, do it!
I’m heading out tonight to see one of my favourite bands of all time, Blue Rodeo, the Canadian alt-country/alt-blues/alt-rock band that have been playing the sound track of my life for, well, most of my life. From university days at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, through the saloons of Alberta, rowdy parties at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver and those wonderful, intimate shows at tiny venues in California, I’ve loved every single show. I’m working on another longer post that is challenging me a lot, so I thought I’d entertain myself (and hopefully some of you) with a round-up of my Top 10 Blue Rodeo songs. What an awesome way to spend a rainy Saturday morning, going through their songbook and picking my favourites. Loved it! And I’m really excited to hear them in the amazing Orpheum Theatre – row 6 for me! Last time I was at the Orpheum was in June for the Avett Brothers, now THAT was a show!!
So here, in no particular order, are my Top 10 Blue Rodeo songs!
1. Bad Timing (5 Days In July). Ok, this is my all time favourite, and it better be, I had some of the notes incorporated into my ink work I still remember Jim Cuddy walking out with his mandolin to the front of the stage at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and singing this like his heart was broken. He stole mine that night! And one of the coolest things about the video is that the beautiful woman is Jim’s wife, Rena. They are still married and he says often and proudly that she is the love of his life and he couldn’t have done it without her. It’s no wonder we adore him.
2. After the Rain (Casino) Ok, this one might be tied for all time favourite and it has a history. Way back when, before Jim played piano in concert,he played this one on guitar. Then one show he had a piano on stage, sat down and played this and brought the house down. He’s played at least a couple of songs on piano every show since. It also has a sad story that he still tells; he was singing this at Malkin Bowl one night, went for the falsetto and . . nothing. It took two years and surgery to fix his vocal chords, but I’m so thrilled that he once again belts out those high notes with such confidence. And it has one of my very favourite lyrics “Tonight as I’m losing control, I will drink to the queen of my soul”. Don’t we all wish we were the queen of someone’s soul?
3. Trust Yourself (Casino) Oh my, they are sooo young in this video! And so rock star (well at least as much as BR ever gets). When they play this one live the guitar work is always a long blistering jam where they get to show their mad skills. Talented musicians doing their thing – really, really well.
3. Hasn’t Hit Me Yet (Five Days in July) Here is a big piece of the Blue Rodeo magic, what’s made it work for so many years – the collaboration between Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor. They have known each other and have been playing in bands together since high school. Good years, really bad years, addictions, artistic differences, the whole gamut. It must be like another marriage. Their enduring partnership and mutual respect is so unusual in the industry, it’s a testament to the type of people they are.
4. Sad Nights (The Days in Between). Jim wrote this song about their time in New York and his wife-to-be leaving after the summer. He didn’t perform it live for a very long time then back in about 2009 they were playing an acoustic concert on the tiny backstage at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica and I got to hear it again. It was magic. In fact that whole tour was magic, they were trying out a new keyboard player and played their entire songbook at a whole bunch of tiny, iconic venues up and down the West Coast – The Mint in LA, the Independent in SFO, McCabe’s in Santa Monica. It was so much fun travelling up the coast seeing them every night. And if you’ve ever said goodbye to someone you care a lot about, knowing it’s going to be months till you see them again . . .well you will get this one.
5. Til I Gain Control Again (5 Days In July) Although this is not an original BR song (it was written by Rodney Crowell) I still love their version and the lyrics are amazing.
You know I love to spend my mornings
Like sunlight dancing on your skin (ok if anyone ever sings that for me, I’m done for!!)
I’ve never gone so wrong
As for telling lies to you
What you see is what I am
There is nothing I could hide from you
You see me better than I can
6. Head Over Heels ( 5 Days in July ) Makes me want to put on my dancing shoes, jump up and dance around the living room – always! “It’s the little things that get you through, like the same sun rising on me as over you” . What a great song about life on the road, waiting to go home to your lover. I think (?) Jim wrote this one when they were in Australia representing for Canada at the Olympics. And yes, there are way better videos but we were at this show at the Mint in LA, that over enthusiastic “woo hoo” at the beginning is yours truly (but only that one, not the subsequent!!) and the head bobbing in and out of frame is my partner in crime for the road trip. There was a fair bit of tequila involved that night, just saying 🙂 It was waaaay too much fun.
7. House of Dreams (Diamond Mine) Wow, going way back into the distant past!! A great song, is a great song, is a great song. They just don’t get old. And there is that gorgeous, haunting guitar from Greg.
8. Walk Like You Don’t Mind (Palace of Gold ) Palace of Gold came out after a 3 year hiatus – we were starting to wonder if BR would ever tour again. Thankfully they resolved their differences, put out a new record and went back on the road – with a horn section. If they play this tonight, everyone will be out of their seats (or at least I will be – yup, I’m always that girl at these shows!!)
9. One More Night (The Things We Left Behind). From their most recent album, recorded at their own studio in Toronto, The Woodshed. It’s a great story.
10. Lost Together (Lost Together). The only song to close the post with, because Greg’s been closing shows with this song forever. It’s the BR lovefest. And I found this video with Steve Earle sitting in!
And the other reason I love these guys, not only are they talented musicians but they are also great supporters of the entire music community in Canada. Sarah McLachlan got her start as their back up singer, Kathleen Edwards has opened for them many times over the years and the incredible Anne Lindsay (another friend from high school) comes out often to work her particular brand of fiddle magic with them. And they have nurtured so many great (and some not so great!) young bands, taking them on the road to open for them.
Hope you enjoyed my trip through the BR archives as much as I did – I can’t wait for the show tonight.
The first half of my solo sojourn in New Orleans is almost over, it’s been an amazing 10 days. When I first got here I was having some trouble explaining exactly what a Canadian girl was doing living alone in the French Quarter for 3 weeks over Christmas and New Year, it’s not a story you hear all the time. Then someone said to me “oh, you ran away from home” and the penny dropped. Yup, that’s exactly what I did, I ran away from home. After a tumultuous year I was desperately in need of some down time and some mental space to reflect on what had happened and, hopefully, gain some perspective. And I needed somewhere that I would feel comfortable on my own and would be interesting enough to keep me entertained. I guess I could have headed for a beach somewhere, but I’ve fallen completely under the spell of this magical city so New Orleans seemed like the ideal choice. It was surprisingly easy to rent an apartment in the Quarter from Historic Rentals and it has, so far, been an amazing adventure. Here is my morning spot for reading, writing and enjoying coffee. I have to open the 10 foot wooden shutters every morning and close them at night. I love it.
And here is my historic apartment.
When was the last time any of us made the time and space in our life to spend 3 entire weeks alone, fending for yourself, entertaining yourself and cutting the ties to all those everyday responsibilities that just keep piling up, day after day, week after week, year after year. I guess they are just the necessities that come with living a responsible life, but I gotta say, letting them all go for a while is an incredibly liberating experience. In my 20’s I was very much a vagabond gypsy, traveling overseas for long periods of time on my own and living for more than a few years the peripatetic lifestyle of a ski bum, bouncing back and forth between winters in Canada and the Southern Hemisphere. But life has a way of incrementally creeping up on you until it sometimes feels like it’s all just about getting up at 5am, walking the dog, going to work, maintaining that house you wanted such and all the other everyday ephemera. Not that those things are bad, just sometimes . . .well I don’t know about y’all but I need a break. Hello NOLA.
So what have I been doing to keep busy? Walking, lots of walking. Unlike when I was here in May when it felt like being hit in the face with a wet towel every time I stepped out of the air-conditioned hotel, it’s a balmy 70 degrees (oops, been here too long, that’s about 18C) most days. Perfect exploring weather. There is, of course, the French Quarter itself, which is surprisingly big. And every single street is packed with historic sites and buildings, incredible record stores, antiquarian bookstores, vintage clothing stores, voodoo spiritualist centres and purveyors of all things witchcraft. Spending time poking around there is pretty much my idea of heaven. The Voodoo Centre is only 3 doors down from The Clothes Spin, my wash and fold service It was formerly the site of J & M Recording Studio from 1947 – 1956, where pioneers of rock and roll like Fats Domino, Little Richard and Professor Longhair recorded. It’s pretty interesting to contemplate while I’m watching the spin cycle, and only in NOLA.
And of course should you require some refreshment during these sojourns, well there is friendly bar or cafe on almost every corner. From fancy white linen to dive, it’s all there in the Quarter. One of the tasks I’ve set myself is an exhaustive review of all the dive bars (trust me I need 3 weeks for that) so I’ve used this list of the 15 Most Iconic Dive Bars in NOLA as a starting point My favourite to date, The Chart Room. $3 beers and a jukebox with, finally, a great music selection heavily weighted to Marvin Gaye and George Benson. Je adore.
And what about those damn jukeboxes? They are the curse of many a decent drinking establishment here. In a city that is famous for it’s absolutely incredible live music scene, how can so many bars have jukeboxes filled with such really, really bad music? It’s one of the great mysteries of the universe. And a secondary quest that has a surprising amount of crossover with the Dive Bar review is hunting down the bar with the best beer selection. So far the hands down winner is The Avenue Pub, a completely nondescript, 24 hour locals spot with an incredible craft and Belgium beer selection. At 7:00am you might meet the med students getting of shift from the local hospitals and for happy hour oyster fisherman and construction guys who came to rebuild after Katrina and never left. I spent one afternoon helping the gal tending bar that day write-up a chalkboard sign explaining CLEARLY that they don’t have table service, you have to come to the bar. Someone complained on Yelp . . .had those cretins never been in a bar before? Some of the samplings from a few days ago.
Then there are the surrounding areas: the Warehouse District, Magazine Street, the Garden District, St Charles Ave, the Fauberg Marigny and Bywater, all to be subjects of some further posts.
And other than that, I’ve been listening to music, music and more music. From the ever-present street musicians on Royal, through all the clubs on Frenchman’s Street in the Marigny to House of Blues and, of course Preservation Hall. So much music, if I went out every single night I would still not catch it all. I made a really good start on visiting every single bar on Frenchman’s Street my first weekend, it was so much fun. When I landed on that Friday night I dropped my bags at the apartment and headed straight to one of my favourite dive bars, Coop’s, for a couple of Abita’s and some fried chicken and jambalaya. Pretty much my favourite meal in NOLA. When the guy sitting next to me offered to buy me another Abita, I had no way of knowing it would lead to one of the more hilarious weekends of my life. E, R and J were a threesome (well not actually, more like a couple + one) from Atlanta who adopted me for the weekend. They had also arrived in town that afternoon and J had already fallen victim to the Purple Voodoo juice at Lafite’s Blacksmith Shop – she was going down for the count by the time I happened on the scene. So I offered to be a musical tour guide over to Frenchman’s street for the lone man left standing. If there was a bar we didn’t get to that night, we covered it off on Saturday because we didn’t get in before 4am either of those mornings. So awesome. Went to the outdoor market about 1am and I was torn between buying feather earrings and a leather bustier – who wouldn’t be. Loved the female fire-eater show too. Ended up spending a ridiculously long time in the Apple Barrel, a tiny place well off the tourist parade which won the “award” of having the worst bathroom in NOLA, but also great music. It’s important to have strict criteria by which to judge your dive bars. It’s not often you meet a complete stranger and then end up spending an entire weekend having more fun than you ever imagined. It was, I think, a gift and a truly great way to kick off my time here. Thank you so much.
I’ve also managed to catch Kermit Ruffin’s annual birthday bash, sing Christmas carols by candlelight in Jackson Square with 8,000 people, see the oldest Jazz singer in New Orleans (Lionel’s 102) sing “Saints” and “Keep on Smiling” in the Cathedral and then last night I saw Trombone Short at HOB. I’ve seen Shorty before, he never fails to simply blow me away. Shorty is from the Treme and it was, as he put it “tremazing”! I jusst love that feeling of slipping out of you ordinary life and into the magic of a truly great performance. Shorty nailed it, again.
An important musical geek question that would probably never come up anywhere else but in NOLA, but was the subject of considerable discussion all weekend,was the difference between a Tuba and a Souzaphone. I thought I had that nailed, but I shouldn’t argue music with a pro! Nonetheless, to solve the vexing questions once and for all, this short video is most illuminating. And if any of you are thinking of coming to NOLA – you can dazzle people with this piece of local musical trivia.
And if you are wondering about how the city is doing, here is a link to If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise , Spike Lee’s follow-up documentary on post-Katrina New Orleans. It’s an expression that seems to perfectly capture so much of the spirit of this town. That and Laissez Le Bon Temps Roullez, which I have most certainly been doing.
So I guess the only music to close out with has to be Shorty taking it old school with Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On”. Not the best quality because it’s live, but I’m a sucker for live performances.
My lovely daughter and I have been catching up on some movie watching. She had her wisdom teeth out a week ago so we have had a lot of bonding time. That’s a polite way of saying she’s been lying on the couch while I cater to her every whim and invent new and exciting ways to blend food into something edible by a person who most closely resembles Fat Bastard.
As I scanned through the online movie listings for the fifth day in a row, I realized why the movie business is in trouble – most of the movies out there truly suck. And I don’t mean that they are just not to my somewhat eclectic taste, I mean they are really and truly bad. They can introduce VIP movie theatres and fancier seating all they want, it won’t get me past paying $12 bucks for crap. The only thing that might help is the recently approved sale of drinkies at movie theatres (a new and wondrous concept in Canada) – a few bevvies might make some of it bearable. But then again . . .drinking bad beer and worse wine while watching the latest schlocktacular – nah, I’m just going to vote with my dollars and skip the whole process.
But if you are prepared to put in some time looking there are some real gems that are intelligent, quirky and interesting. There are no car chases, no-one gets blown to bits and if you can catch them at a theatre it definitely won’t have stadium seating an massive screens. But the reward will be a story that stays with you for a long time.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World: Steve Carell and Kiera Knightley. An asteroid named “Matilda” is going to destroy the Earth in three weeks. What would you do? Take a road trip with a perfect stranger? Or a stranger who is perfect? As people stop going to their jobs and indulge in “take no prisoners” lifestyle choices, law and the social order breaks down in predictable, violent and often pathetic ways. The smallness of people’s imagination when faced with their last days never ceases to surprise me. Out of that comes the friendship between two strangers who go on a roadtrip to find his long lost high school sweetheart. Great music, to be expected from director Lorene Scafaria who wrote the screen adaptation for Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, adds to the treat. With the looming end of the world (according to the Mayan calender) in December, I am most heartily glad I will be putting my time to excellent use in New Orleans! I can’t think of a better place to be for the (putative) end of the world.
Safety Not Guaranteed: Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass. The world is not coming to an end in this inspired original set in Oregon, but time travel just might be involved. A jaded magazine writer takes two interns along with him when he is assigned to investigate a classified ad placed by someone looking for a companion to join him in a time travel experiment. Various skills are required, but “safety is not guaranteed”. Sci-fi, comedy, romance all rolled up together into a funny, touching and beautifully nuanced movie. Multiple threads push the story forward while the characters develop into people you can completely identify with. And you can never quite figure out if the time travel storyline is sci-fi or just plain gonzo-ness. Another delicious piece of quirky entertainment from the producers of Little Miss Sunshine.
Hysteria: Maggie Gyllenhall and Hugh Dancy. I’m outing my predilection for English movies, they have a sense of humour that most American movies just can’t touch. Have you ever wondered how the vibrator was invented? Yes, that vibrator! In Victorian England, the male medical establishment believed that women (at least those of proper birth) could not “experience pleasure”. Not surprisingly, they also suffered from a proliferation of nervous complaints grouped under the misnomer “hysteria”, which was believed to be caused by “a wandering uterus”. Dr. Dalrymple the owner of the best women’s clinic in London, develops a manual “pelvic massage” treatment complete with stirrups, red velvet draping and scented oils that relieves their symptoms. When he takes on the young and handsome Dr. Granville as his partner, there is soon a line up out the door for “treatment”. The unfortunate Dr. Granville develops carpel tunnel syndrome from the “treatments”. Faced with patient complaints about his waning abilities, with the help of a friend he converts an electronic feather duster in the first vibrator. A hilariously funny and relevant movie about women taking control of their own bodies and pleasure. Premiered at TIFF 2012.
Silver Lining Playbook: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Set in Baltimore and Philadelphia, the film opens with Pat Solitano’s release from a mental institution where he has been sentenced for an act of violence and treated for bipolar disorder. Pat’s release might have been a bit premature, especially as he has to live with his parents and his father, played faultlessly by Robert De Niro, suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It’s not a smooth homecoming. Pat is trying to reconcile with his wife, but it’s tricky given the restraining order. He meets Tiffany, the troubled daughter of neighbourhood friends and she offers to help him but only on the condition that he helps her with her dream. A brilliant story that includes the family obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles and gambling, a hilarious tail gate party and a “silver lining” ending. I loved this complicated, warm, uplifting story from beginning to end. And another fantastic soundtrack featuring the Alabama Shakes and a gem from Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. Gala presentation at TIFF 2012.
Girl from the North Country – Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. I included the lyric because I loved it so much.
Well, if you’re travelin’ in the north country fair,
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline,
Remember me to one who lives there.
She once was a true love of mine.
Well, if you go when the snowflakes storm,
When the rivers freeze and summer ends,
Please see if she’s wearing a coat so warm,
To keep her from the howlin’ winds.
Please see for me if her hair hangs long,
If it rolls and flows all down her breast.
Please see for me if her hair hangs long,
That’s the way I remember her best.
I’m a-wonderin’ if she remembers me at all.
Many times I’ve often prayed
In the darkness of my night,
In the brightness of my day.
So if you’re travelin’ in the north country fair,
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline,
Remember me to one who lives there.
She once was a true love of mine.
It’s rainy and it’s not just a regular Monday, it’s a holiday Monday. Remembrance Day is one of those strange, “sort of” statutory holidays in Canada. In British Columbia some people get a day off, but not everyone. It’s confusing, but I’m just happy that I’m one of the lucky ones. It meant not only did I get away for a couple of days to Seattle for some early Christmas shopping, but I had time for a night out with friends and a catch up day at home.
The shopping trip to Seattle was a huge success – well if you can call buying five (!!) new pairs of boots successful. Spent a couple of hours at Designer Shoe Warehouse and for about a quarter of what I would pay in Canada I’m all set for the winter, well maybe a couple of winters! These little beauties are my new favourites, I figure I am going to wear them every day in New Orleans.
Met up with a friend for dinner, drinks and eventually some music last night. One of my new favourite places is a tiny tapas bar in Gastown, The Sardine Can. Including the bar, maybe 25 seats. Really excellent wine selection and fantastic tapas. A bottle of Tempranillo chased away the cold, along with my favourite, Sardines on Toast. Made with fresh, house smoked sardines it bears no resemblance to those nasty, oily things you get in cans. But the very best, not to be missed, is the Chocolate Terrine with olive oil, sea salt and fresh ground chili. With an Amontillado sherry – well in some cases chocolate just might be better than sex!
Feeling much revived we headed off to Pourhouse for some live jazz, New Orleans style. I’ve wanted to try Pourhouse for some time, isn’t it fantastic when somewhere is better than you expect! A chocolate Porter seemed like just the thing as we lounged in the luxe art deco chairs and enjoyed the intimate, cozy atmosphere and great music. And a rarity these days – not a TV in site. Not a bad Sunday night at all!
So today I’m doing all those things you do when you are really just wasting time, but want to pretend you are being productive. Waste time on Facebook – done. Clean up my emails – done. Write my blog – done, but definitely not a waste of time, this writing is hard work. Making my final bookings for New Orleans for Christmas and New Years – time-consuming but not a waste of time at all! Historic apartment in the French Quarter for two weeks, Old Town Inn in Marigny for the last week, flights booked on points (that one took about an hour all by itself) but heck when it’s free, I can invest some time. Done and done! I’m out of here mid-December, not coming back till it’s 2013.
I’ve got a great project ongoing that is maybe the best “doing nothing but being productive” project ever. Bought myself a photo scanner and I’m scanning in, one by one, ALL of my old family photos. I have taken a lot of pictures over the years and although a few made it into actual albums (remember those?) most are stuffed in boxes in a closet upstairs that no-one ever looks in. So digitize, save in a couple of different places and out go the shoe boxes. Here is today’s favourite scan, because, you know, everyone should take a look back at their weddings pictures from time to time. Check me out as a blushing bride! Truly priceless.
And my very favourite time waster – checking out new and somewhat obscure music. NPR’s All Songs Considered is a great place to spend time hanging out listening to the newest stuff out there, and I love the Tiny Desk concerts. Today’s treasure is a new song from Wanda Jackson singing with Justin Townes Earle. It’s called “Am I Even a Memory” and it’s the sort of twangy, honky-tonk revival, Patsy Cline tear jerker made for rainy days in front of the fire.
Ms. Jackson is a 75-year-old rockabilly pioneer who toured with Elvis in the ’50’s and is still going strong. Last year Jack White produced her record, “The Party Ain’t Over”. Here she is covering Shakin All Over on Letterman with Jack sitting in on guitar. Damn girl, when I’m 75 I want to be you!!
Whoever invented 6:30am flights, especially those coming out of PartyTowns, has obviously never had to actually make one of those flights – or they don’t party – or both. It was a Tuesday, we were heading home after 7 days in New Orleans, and we had to get up at a time we had been going to bed for the last week. It wasn’t pretty, but we had earned it in fun ten times over!! A trip to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is an incredible experience, but it’s not for the faint of heart or weak of liver. When we arrived in NOLA one week earlier, we could not have imagined what the next 7 days had in store for us: heat and sweat, music, heat and sweat, alcohol, music, more heat, more sweat, more music, more alcohol . .you get the picture. Oh, did I forget to mention that N’Awlins is one of the most gorgeous, fascinating, enchanting, romantic cities I have ever visited? There is nothing like it anywhere. Go there. Do it. You won’t regret it.
Highlights of our week . . .well there were no lowlights, but if I had to pick they would be: the free concert in Lafayette Park, fried chicken at Coop’s, street drinking on Frenchman’s on a Sunday night, Royal Street, Grace Potter at the House of Blues, the Gospel tent, Rock n’ Bowl, Hurricanes at Pat O’s, Trombone Shorty and the Foo Fighters – and that’s just hitting the top 10.
NOLA is a city devoted to really, really good music and really, really good times. I realized somewhere around day 5 that I hadn’t heard a single piece of Top 40, autotuned rubbish since we arrived. Instead it had been a non-stop feast of fabulous and innovative music. Our first full day in town we spent wandering the Quarter where we came across buskers playing banjo, washboard and saw (yup, the one you get from the hardware store) with a fiddle. It was mesmerizing. We should have been our first clue about what our week had in store for us.
It was a fantastic revelation when we pieced together that Jazzfest runs from 11am to 7pm, that NOLA is a city with endless live music venues and no sense of time . . .and there are extra shows to see all night, any night. So you don’t have to try to see everyone at Jazzfest, you can see them later that night! And there is no way to see everyone you want to see at the festival. There are 12 stages and tents, all with music playing constantly, the racetrack is really big and it’s hot. Did I say it’s hot . . .it’s really hot. And sweaty. All the time. Note to self – don’t go without a hat!!
Mi amore asked for a set list of everyone we saw at JF – memories dim fast he said – so here is my best shot:
Wednesday: Our bartender at Pat O’s on Tuesday night, he of the killer Hurricanes and Pousse Cafes . . . .
Nothin’ but trouble
told us we had to go see the free concert in Lafayette Square on Wednesday – it’s a regular locals event and gets even more fun during JF. It was a great tip. We saw the Pinettes, an amazing all-girl brass band and local jazz vocalist Marcia Ball, who brought out Maria Muldaur to sing back up, all for free in a beautiful outdoor park with lots of Abita’s , the local beer. Purple Haze – how could I not drink a bucket full of those! And we met some great folks including Boudreau, a true to life Cajun who hailed from 30 miles south of NOLA. I had to check, I didn’t know there was anything south of there, but there is, but it’s the bayou.
Thursday: Seva Venet and the Storyville String Band with etouffee for breakfast, Glen Hansard (of Swell Season, a true Irish balladeer), Little Freddie King Blues Band, Rosie Ledet and the Zydeco Cowboys, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk and to round out the evening, Florence and the Machine. And this is locals day, it’s a fantastic day to meet locals, including bus loads of school kids and enjoy the fest without the weekend crowds – loved it!.
We left a bit early because we had tickets to see the amazing Grace Potter and the Nocturnals at House of Blues that night . . .it’s all about decisions, ya’ll. HOB was packed, but we were second row for my first Gracie show. It was a magical night.
Friday: Crescent City Jazz Band playing ” Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans” . I knew right there I would never forget it. Fried green tomatoes and crab stuffed shrimp for breakfast with a Parasol Parade? More NOLA magic. Big Al Carson and the Blues Masters – wow, Big Al is BIG!! We had already seen Marcia Ball and were in agreement that one of the best things about festivals is seeing the acts you don’t know (not the big names you do) so we skipped Bruce Hornsby and had the total pleasure of seeing the legendary Wanda Rouzan, the Sweetheart of New Orleans. Best part – this 70 ish lady called out publicly some of the headliners for leaving the stage early – little known names like Cee Lo Green and Bruce Springsteen. Apparently it was too hot for them, but not a lady in her 70’s. What a pistol. There’s a bit of a gap in the afternoon schedule (and my memory) – we had a Smaltimore moment at the Heritage Stage and there were more than a few frozen daiquiri’s involved. Festival shenanigans!
Got it together enough to wander on over to the Gentilly Stage to see the incredible Rodrigo y Gabriela, stunning guitarists from Mexico, who provided more magic as the sun was going down. At some point during the day the ticket maestro in our duo managed the feat of scoring tickets, by smartphone, to see one of the hottest acts in NOLA – Trombone Shorty. Home, cold shower, dinner (oh wait, we forgot that part . . .thank god for Lucky Dogs!!!) quick stop at Pat O’s for a Hurricane (yup, that was really necessary) and we were at the Mahalia Jackson Centre for the Performing Arts. Wow, wow, wow. Trombone Shorty quite literally, rocked it. If you get a chance to see him, DO IT.
Saturday: REST DAY!!!! I got tired all over again just writing this. After Bloody Mary’s at Cafe Beignet, it was back to the pool for a well-earned day of rest. Fantastic. We needed it.
Saturday night was a show-stopper, beginning with oysters at Oceana, meeting Robert, our taxi driver cum actor from Treme on our way to Rock n’Bowl, through to closing Tipitinas. Imagine a bowling alley with a live music venue, twinkly lights and people of all ages dancing and enjoying the southern way of life. The magic of Rock n’ Bowl. On the musical bill – the Iguanas, Kermit Ruffins and hmmm, there was another zydeco band, but it got a wee bit fuzzy. Must have been that time in the Ping Pong room – that’s right, it had a Ping Pong room as well, a great place to take some quality time away from the crowds!!
Oh my, goosebumps all over. I really love the south.
Our final stop of the night was Tipitina’s uptown. It’s something of a badge of honour (or maybe shame?) to make the 2am Galactic show there during JF. Well we did it. We had one fallen soldier, but 3 of us managed to close Tipitina’s down sometime around 4am and had another Lucky Dog stop on the way home. Some people go to NOLA for the food, we went for the music and occasionally remembered to eat! This is a great Galactic video from Jazzfest because you get Trombone Shorty and the Indian costumes at the same time.
Sunday: I’m not even going to try to pretend that Sunday morning was anything but nasty, but we manned up and were back at the track for our last day of JF just after noon. Well done us. Pails of frozen strawberry lemonade and a local Mac n’ Cheese with crawfish concoction called Crawfish Monica got us back on our feet. We only saw one show that day, but it was a 2 hour marathon of Foo Fighter awesomeness.
I was totally blown away, it was one of the best shows I have ever seen, anywhere. Many years from now I will remember that show and the magic of that afternoon. I get goosebumps every time I listen to this.
Nothing further was really needed, but in a surfeit of incredible memories, listening to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band closing out the festival as we made our way off the grounds was, simply, perfect. Starving and exhausted, we did the only sensible thing and headed for Coop’s, our favourite dive bar on Frenchman’s Street for fried chicken and Chicken Tchoupitoulas (that’s gravy NOT sauce!). You know it’s a real dive bar when you offer to pay the bartender $5 to throw out those annoying frat boys and he says “no thanks, I’d love to do it for free”. Well played! After dinner we headed to d.b.a for some sippin’ beers, the really good ones that you savour and of course more amazing music. The Tin Men: guitar, Washboard Chaz and a souzaphone playing Englebert Humperdinck. Only in NOLA.
We met up with friends and rounded out the night doing some street drinking outside the Spotted Cat and Blue Nile. By anyone’s reckoning it was a full day. An amazing day, a day of lifelong memories. Colour me happy.
Our last day we spent taking in some tourist highlights. Chicory coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde to start the day; Preservation Hall and a historical tour of the 1st St Louis Cemetery where Marie Laveau the Voodoo Queen is buried – phenomenal.
Rode the St Charles Ave streetcar (I looked for a name, but didn’t see Desire anywhere!) to the Garden District to find Anne Rice’s house, the Lafayette #1 Cemetery and the stunning antebellum mansions nestled in among the magnolias. Stopped at Igor’s dive bar for a Bloody and then ran into friends enjoying happy hour at the Avenue Pub, with the best beer selection in NOLA.
It seemed fitting to bookend our week with Peanut Butter Burgers at Yo Mama’s – we had burgers there about 1am on our first night in town – and with that we closed the circle on one of the best weeks of my life. Thanksbabe, you brought the magic.