I flew out of Baltimore on Southwest for $147 one way and arrived the Wednesday before the first weekend. Friends greeted me at the airport – a first time for me in NOLA and such a warm welcome. I would be staying the week at their home Uptown. Their generosity was a crucial component in pursuing a Jazz Fest experience. Last year was my first time flying solo in the Big Easy, and it allowed me to meet many wonderful people. One group that I met last year that I am particularly fond of is a group of men who have been meeting at Jazz Fest for years. They are a joy to be around, so this year I hoped to share some dances and laughs and catch up on their lives outside of the Fest.
Besides the unparalleled access to incredible bands, Jazz Fest draws a wonderful fan base and the positive vibes fill your soul with joy. It is an annual injection of wonderful energy. This year I was fortunate to catch Wilco, Honey Island Swamp Band, Tedeschi Trucks Band, The Who, Shovels and Rope, Dumpstaphunk, the Mardi Gras Indians, and many more. The Who killed it and my friend got us up front, Shovels and Rope put on such a fun show, and Susan Tedeschi's voice is just incredible! Well, and then there is the food.... crawfish monica, crawfish ettouffe, crawfish bread, shrimp po boys, pralines, crawfish just off the steamer.... you could eat the day away!
The first weekend the festival grounds were saturated after a week of rain, but that couldn't keep us from dancing. Our crew even rode bikes in the rain Saturday, but we were driven into a local watering hole halfway there by torrential downpours. I have been attempting to limit wardrobe additions, but my rain boots were a worthy investment! Sunday I took a break from the fest and spent some time exploring the French Quarter. That night we ended up doing a double header at Blue Nile for Worship My Organ featuring Marco Benevento, Robert Walter, Skerik, Adam Deitch, DJ Logic & DJ Kevvy Kev, and then Eric Krasno, Stanton Moore & Wil Blades late night. If you stay inside, the second show is free!
During the week I was able to spend time on work, but there were also plenty of fun distractions – many free of charge. To avoid cab fares, I had bought a bike upon arrival, so getting around was pretty easy - even in the rain. Monday there was a benefit called Instruments a Coming at Tipitina's, where I saw Rory Danger and the Danger Dangers for the first time – a super fun group with their 2 minute countdown and great sense of humor. Tuesday there was a crawfish boil house party, followed by an oyster date and more time at Blue Nile with the 'Fantastic Four' (Eric Krasno, Oteil Burbridge, Robert Walter, Cochemea Gastelum, Adam Deitch & John Staten) + Polyrhythmics. Wednesday was the 2nd year of the Oak Street Block Party - a free local fest with music on 3 stages. It was a nice bike ride from the house, and we even rode past the giraffe cages at the zoo and the Tree of Life. Oak Street featured Leftover Salmon, The Nth Power, Kung Fu, The Heard, Eddie Roberts West Coast Sounds, Sonic Bloom and Hard Proof. Great vibes and a very relaxed afternoon of music. That night it was time for more crawfish and music at a brewery with some special folks before heading Uptown to pack my bags for the next morning's flight.
New Orleans is a difficult place to leave, especially just before the 2nd weekend where Widespread Panic, Alison Kraus, Galactic, the Meters, Kermit Ruffins and Dr John would be there, but the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) Summit in DC and a wedding in Richmond were calling! A $95 flight on that Thursday was also difficult to pass up! It took a long time to walk down that jetway and was a verrry long day on the road when my plane was grounded in Atlanta for seemingly no reason. I made it to a friend's place in Alexandria in time for a few hours sleep, and Friday morning it was time to replace the top hat with my business pants!
This trip made me even more grateful for the many loving friends and family members who have opened their doors and become my pillars as I move about the world and try to get my business running. Without them, the constant motion of my life would be an even greater challenge. Meeting new people on the road can be fun and satisfying, but being able to spend time with great people year after year in a place like New Orleans is worth working for. Being able to dance with friends to your favorite musicians, and then have four more of them walk in the door? Marching down Frenchman Street to an impromptu brass band performance? I'm not sure when life on the road will turn into life with a lease and a house plant, but moments like these make life worthwhile, and help keep me moving! See you soon New Orleans! :)