Sunday, April 22, 2007

New Orleans is the place where the music never stops

French Quarter Fest happened last weekend, April 13-15. It is sort of a warmup for the Jazz Fest in two weeks, featuring 150 performances on 15 stages. The advertisements said 250 hours of free music.

Saturday was cool, so many of us stayed home, doing chores, knowing Sunday would be much nicer. Indeed, the weather was perfect and the French Quarter was teeming with music lovers, listening and eating and loving it all.

Sizing up the crowds, I wondered how this picture would mesh with the images of violence the media continues to send out to the country. Attendance was very diverse and everyone was having fun.

I didn't arrive until mid-afternoon when I headed for Royal Street where I listened to Doreen's Jazz New Orleans band, playing for tips.
I got a cell phone call from a friend over on Bourbon summoning me to hear Philip Melancon play his own satirical post-Katrina songs. Phil sat at a piano, banging out melodies and belting out lyrics that the local audience could personally understand. Melancon is a retired school teacher who owns the Neutral Ground Coffee House. We ambled over to Jackson Square to sample crab cakes with Remoulade sauce - oh cher!

After my friends left, I continued on to the Old Mint to hear the Zydeco Twisters and Fredy Omar con su Banda where everyone was salsa dancing. On the way back to my car, I checked out Glasgow, performing on the Woldenberg Riverfront Park stage. Though rock is not my favorite, the big sound with the wind whipping across the the levee was thrilling.

Chicago has great Lakefront festivals, but I've rarely been able to get this close to the performers or move around with such ease. I'm getting excited about Jazz Fest and am regretting not buying the WWOZ Brass Pass to go every day.

WWOZ 90.7 FM is New Orleans' Jazz and Heritage radio station, which anybody anywhere can listen to online. It will be broadcasting live from the Jazz Festival April 27-29 and May 4-7.

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