It’s at first hard to understand why my old pal Mark Lindley and I remained ensconced at the bar while most everybody else in the place was converging around Stevie Wonder’s table, a few yards away.
How’s that for a lead? It’s true, even.
Friday in New Orleans — Jazzfest was quite a bit more fun than I’d imagined it would be. Let me explain a minute — not always super-fond of gigantic crowds, drinking heavily and potentially being rained on, just to see — from a distance — some music dude or another.
I gotta give Jazzfest the props, though. Mostly, I think that would be due to a dizzying array of stages and an equally dizzying array of food. This is no cotton candy and hot dogs affair. I had jambalaya, gumbo, crawfish bread — hell, I had something called alligator pie. In fact, in the last two days, I’ve eaten a few critters not normally on the dinner table, if I include the jambalaya from thursday night with rabbit.
Back to jazzfest, though — beautiful mild day, rolling clouds, not too much sun. I love cloudy weather. It rained some. And while I’m not unaware of the irony of this kind of statement, I would say that this was the kindest rain I’ve ever seen. Almost as if the NOLA skies were gently saying “Okay, now, we’re gonna rain for a minute; just a little drizzle, but we’re gonna pour some, too, so why don’t you shuffle on over and get under that tent? Okay? All right then… Like a kindly old uncle. “ This kind of rain was a delight not a bother. Some sprinkles, while jumping up and down up front with several thousand others to the sights and sounds of Trombone Shorty. Got offered (and accepted) a slug of Bulleit from a fellow reveler who cheered me as a “jazzfest virgin.” Thanks, doll!
Much wandering with and without Johnny, Susan, and Markie — later, we waded in and out of the the epic sea that was about to become Stevie Wonder’s first Jazzfest appearance since the early 70s. It was too much, considering the many other stages, and the mounting trails of proto-mud that were forming. The crowd was vast and friendly. Jazzfest is full of a bunch of friendly faces.
Later, I decide to brave Stevie’s latter set with a classic concert move: the out-flank. Johnny and Susan and I parted ways at the Jazz tent, and I wound around behind the stage and then filed in from the side, behind a string of troopers, and we wove and marched into at least 10,000 people, with many of them nicely to our rear. I wound up about 50 yards from the stage, center. Not bad, not bad.
Stevie Wonder, living legend. After directing an audience singalong of “Ribbon in the Sky,” he lit the place up, under occasional showers, with “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” (a personal favorite, yay) and then burned it down with “Sir Duke,” among others. Great joy, indeed. There’s something wonderful, and I suppose there’s always been something wonderful, since Woodstock and much further back — about being square in the middle of 10,000 revelers. It’s not the thing that I often aspire to, but united under the banner of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” by this giant of feel-good music… well, it was hard not to, you know?
Later, back at the hotel, I discovered our decent internet signal and decided to try to scare up some “classic cocktail” New Orleans, a la my cocktail nerd blogging haunts. You know — a place where we could get a drink in a glass, instead of a plastic cup. Let’s remember: The Museum of the American Cocktail is in New Orleans, right? Boy did we succed in spades. And eventually, this led to our sitting feet away from Stevie Wonder.
More on that next time.