Tuesday, November 8, 2011

LadyFest showcases women's talents

Sunday night, I experienced one of those magical musical moments that makes living in New Orleans worth...anything.

After spending most of the weekend sorting through my closet, moving sun dresses to the storage locker and digging out warmer clothes for the next couple of months, I decided I had to catch up with what had been going on. I completely missed Cajun-Zydeco music at Swamp Fest, which is always great, but there were still a few hours to experience LadyFest.

I noted most of this year's events took place at Cafe Istanbul, but hadn't realized the venue is actually inside the new Healing Center in the Bywater. That stretch of St. Claude is rapidly gentrifying, reminding us that the neighborhood was once a thriving commercial district. Looking at the architecture, I'd venture it was the 1930s.

LadyFest had been going on all weekend, including a half-day of poetry, films, dance and a YeMaYa Ladies Parade from Buffa's to La Maison - not far, btw.

I discovered a fabulous new stage inside the Healing Center, creating an intimate space for solo and duo performances. When I walked in at 8, Michaela Harrison was singing the blues. Wow! Wearing an African dress and dangling earrings, she was completely at ease crooning a wide range of blues, R&B and pop, accompanied by the fabulous Dorise Blackmon on guitar.

Halfway through the set, Tanya Huang rollerbladed into the room, carrying a take-out container and an electric violin. Between bites, she joined the musical ensemble. The three had clearly played together in the past. Tanya and Dorise can be seen on the sidewalks of Royal Street, gathering crowds around them. There's a violinist character in "Treme" episodes - perhaps Tanya was the inspiration for her, dunno.

At 9, Kelly Love Jones came on, accompanying herself on guitar. She is tall and willowy, so was able to carry off wearing a midriff-baring halter top and still strum. While she was performing, a young boy crept up onstage and wandered around among the sound equipment. I thought to grab him, but realized he'd been there before. Ultimately, he crawled up onto her lap, as she was singing and playing! (I'd noticed her muscular arms and now I understood why as he hung, falling asleep, from her strumming forearm.) Unperturbed, she kept playing, explaining between songs how she'd performed pregnant and later with the baby in a bassinet in the wings. He had already been on tour many times.

I made it through half of Gina Forsyth's set, but had heard her before and could again at the Fair Grinds Coffee House (near the Fair Grounds) where she regularly performs her own songs.

I couldn't last 'till midnight for the Honeypots, but considered it a well-spent evening. Next year, I'll start with the second-line parade.

No comments:

Post a Comment