Thursday 16 October 2014 New Orleans Louisiana.
It’s been over three years between my fifth and sixth visits to New Orleans. My five nights here would be devoted to the Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival and doing as many new things as I could fit in.
One of my favourite on-line sources of live shows is at www.pollstar.com. A check this morning revealed that Americana bands Hurray For The Riff Raff and The Deslondes were playing at The Joy Theatre, which is very close to my hotel and just after the close of the first day of The Crescent City Blues & BBQ. So I organised my ticket first thing in the morning.
A good breakfast spot was found on Canal St, The Ruby Slipper, a short walk from my hotel. The breakfast sandwich was pretty good – the sweet bacon a bit of a surprise though.
Mr friends Sandra and Trish had recommended a coffee place in the Marigny District, just east and south of the French Quarter. The Orange Couch at 2339 Royal St has indeed excellent coffee.I wanted to visit Euclid Records which was in Chartres St, further south in the Bywater District. The weather was warm and my walk was turning into a semi-marathon as it turned out, but I arrived around noon at the record store. There were plenty of New Orleans’ releases and a wider selection on vinyl. Sturgill Simpsons’ Meta Modern Sounds in Country Music continues to elude me, as Euclid only had the vinyl in stock.
Deciding it was too problematic to ship it back home at this late stage of the trip, I passed on the opportunity. I did, however, pick up the new release from Luke Winslow-King – Everlasting Arms, as I was impressed with his debut album.
Straight across from Euclid, there was a large arched walkway across the train track which I followed. On the other side was Crescent Park, easing along the Mississippi River, which I never knew existed. It looked pretty newly constructed and a great area for exercising, with an amazing view of the city and of course the Old Man River. Barges were steadily powering toward the Gulf Of Mexico, some with tug boats and some without. It was easy to stay here a while – there was, however, no shelter and locked gates as I headed (I thought) closer to whence I came.
After retracing my steps, over the bridge and north on Chartres, via an ordinary chicken salad, I arrived back on Frenchmen St, hot and tired. Time for a refreshment and a lengthy stop watching the world go by on this vibrant and, still unspoilt by the influx of visitors, scene. Walking past clubs such as dba, the Blue Nile and Three Muses, I noted who was playing tonight and the next three nights. A look through the Louisiana Music Factory record store followed, my first time since its relocation – it seems a lot bigger and, well, different.
After retracing my steps, I ambled back to the the French Quarter. I was surprised by the level of construction and renovation going on – even many of the quieter streets in the Quarter were not exactly tranquil today.
I had plans to go see Jon Cleary at dba tonight which would mean another sizable trek. I decided on a later afternoon snack (a rich crab and spinach casserole topped with cheese) in case I ran out of time to eat before the show.
Back at the hotel, Royal St Charles for a rest up. A change of clothes and I manged to walk (just, by this stage) to dba’s. Jon Cleary was playing. It was crowded around the bar and no seats. My friend Brian wasn’t there, so I went back on the street and looked at an interesting craft market on the other side. While there, I remembered that Luke Winslow-King was playing the next block up in about ten minutes, so I ventured up there and was given a good spot standing at the bar (tables were only for dinner groups of two or more) while the band set up.
Luke had a band with him tonight – backing vocals and washboard (and wife – Esther Rose), bass (Tennessee Tyler?), and trumpet/piano (Ben Polcer), with Luke on guitar. The band was playing in the front corner of this small restaurant (The Three Muses), with the Polcer sitting in front of one of the double front doors at the entrance. It was cosy. The first few tracks were traditional New Orleans fare, before moving into LWK’s more delta-folk and country blues tunes. Luke is an accomplished slide guitarist and he retains an originality in a world of covers and copiers. A good voice and a winning smile. “Mississippi River Blues”, Everlasting Arms” – the new album’s title track, the delightful slow blues of “Let ’em Talk”, the country-tinged blues of “Some of These Days”, “Cadillac Slim” and “Satisfied Blues” were memorable. Very impressive performance. I look forward to seeing him again at the Crescent City festival this weekend.
I stayed for two of the three sets (sustained by a seat for the second set and delicious fish tacos) and decided (for some reason only known to myself!) to walk home right through the length of Bourbon Street – I hadn’t done that for quite a while. It was busy, noisy, off-putting, exciting, hectic, colourful.