We’re back from Louisiana, tired and in one piece. It was a remarkable experience on many levels. As I remarked before, our work schedule didn’t allow us to see much of the damage to the city but you don’t always have to see it to feel it.

We went to the fairgrounds around 5:45 am to get the stuff set up for a morning soundcheck. It was raining when we left and we were all wondering what we would find when we arrived. the gate we were supposed to use was closed and we circled the grounds until we found an opening. The guard didn’t really want to leave her shack to open the gate but one of our guys danced between the raindrops long enough to get it open.

When we got to the stage we found one of the tents by the dressing rooms had blown over and that the festivals onstage monitorboards had been uncovered by a combination of wind and poor tape application. Our stuff was fine and we hustled to get it up and running for the morning soundcheck. The rain became quite heavy and presented a challenge to those with things on the edge of the stage.

The caravan arrived and as they did, the rain stopped. The festival staff got a short 4 or 5 song set and we got out of the way for the first act. I did some maintainence in the backround for a while and waited for John Mooney and Sonny Landreth to play.

The sun came out and the fans RAN to get into the fresh mud up
front… they had better tarps than we do. Good thing, it was a mess out
there but dryed out with every song.

As I have a family connection with the people who produce the festival, I had a chance to visit with my Aunt Darline, Bob and show Jianna all the nutty stringed things we have on the tour. I feel honored and blessed when friends and family make the time to visit me. When I’m working they know it’s not really quality time as I’m pretty preoccupied and a lackluster host. Seeing the ones you love though reminds you of what is important and that what you’re doing is a job, not your life.

I went over to say hi to John Mooney and then sat back to watch the set. He seemed together and was playing and singing well. His drummer had some problems though and it distracted a bit from the set, but my chances to see John play are so few, I just soaked it up.

As John sang “Sacred Ground”, it became clear that the sacrament
of music will begin the healing of this battered place. There is a long
way to go but is was one of those days that makes you believe.

Sonny Landreth is the other side of the Louisania slide coin. Where Mooney is loose and raw, Sonny is laser guided and precise. I did a tour with his band was in the support slot and I never missed a set. It still is amazing to watch what he can do with his hands; when I hold a guitar it looks like I’m holding a trash bag crammed full of wet paper.

I chatted with David Ranson (Sonny’s bass player) and then spotted someone else I know; Chris Sevrin plass the bass with Allan Toussaint . We toured a thousand years ago with the singer Dianne Reeves. As a New Orleans resident, I had a lot of questions for him about his family and friends. Luckily most of the news has good for his people. His daughter was there at the show who I remember as a baby and I was introduced to a lovely grown up young woman with an iguana around her neck!

The Costello /Toussaint set was great and then it was out turn to fill the stage with humanity. It was quite interesting to see the band play an unknown set to a huge audience which needed to be won over. Often when you have your own fans, you can grab an acoustic guitar and a phone book and still get an ovation when you finish. Let’s just say that he loves this kind of challenge. I felt by the end of the night he may has won over some folks who never thought they would dig a show by him.

Some people agreed.

LA Times

the AP

NY Times

Rolling Stone

and finally the Times-Picayune.

In the USA Today, festival producer Quint Davis was quoted saying the following:

“People still think we’re under water, that
we’ve grown horns and glow in the dark. We’ve got our Dresden and
Nagasaki parts, but people will work themselves to death to rebuild New
Orleans, and you can’t underestimate that focus.

“As much as the festival is an act of
celebration, it’s an act of defiance. We’re saying that we matter. …
We’re the culture capital of America, but in America, culture doesn’t
have much capital. In the government’s way of thinking, we’re that poor
little dark town in the swamp. The festival says there’s something
invaluable and irreplaceable here. New Orleans gave America a soul.
Let’s give culture a seat at the table.”

It was the beginning of a tour for us and perhaps the beginning of a new life for New Orleans. The people I know from there are strong and have given so much to us. If the government doesn’t want to help the people down there, they will put it back together with what they find. This is the most defiant I’ve seen Americans in a long time. If you have been there you know it’s not pristine or perfect; but there is no where like it on Earth. I’m not much for the drunken collision of Bourbon Street; my drink ’till you drop days are long gone.

But I love the music of the region, the filter it has put on every genre ends up making it all it’s own. The food is to die for; too much of it will kill you! The mix of culture creates an art that is at times primitive, complex and magical. I’m not a heat person but I love the warm hand of humidity that presses against your neck and reaches for your wallet, a playful troublemaker asking you to stay up late and wander around.

I love the people, seemingly foreign and impossible at first who then become so much of what America can be; warm, creative, stubbornly unique and sharing. Though the water didn’t wash away all the bad things about New Orleans, it certainly didn’t wash away all the good ones. Thank you, New Orleans, I’ll be back.