New Year, New Life, New Orleans-(Thoughts on Galactic and more)
As I sauntered down Treme, reminiscing on the last time I had been to this city. While at the same time, dreaming of the past. Envisoning New Orleans in the 1800s. This city can feel like a ghost of your own past, a ghoul of memories, a haunt of time. Zombies or regular people, I can’t tell which, go about their daily tasks. Tourists careen the streets with their gawking expressions. Am I one of those? I don’t feel like a stranger here. I feel at home, an old home. I’ve been here before, in another life, in other lives. I returned to New Orleans only two months after my first visit (in this life.) Having heard Galactic had acquired Tipitina’s, I thought it only suiting to return to see them once again at the world famous venue. My thoughts have been consumed with New Orleans; I dream of it; fleur-de-lis as my eyeballs, penetrating my mind. I would see this symbol, adopted by the entire city, everywhere. Just seeing the fleur-de-lis will instantly remind you of New Orleans the birth place of Jazz but wait, just Jazz? No, I think not. All American music can trace its roots to New Orleans or at the very least, the southern area surrounding it. (Bluegrass may be the only exclusion but their instruments are obviously inspired by African culture ie. the banjo much like New Orleans music.) There is no other city in the entire world I would rather spend my New Years than The Big Easy, NOLA, The Crescent City. Shirts with “Fuck You, You Fucking Fuck”, plaster the shops off the streets with tourist traps tempting you with cheap objects. Everyone has a game in New Orleans. Are you willing to play? It’s always better to just have your own game. Cafe Du Monde can still be found coursing through my veins like some leftover virus that beckons for more.
Heading down Tchoupitoulas towards Tipitinas, I found an awesome parking spot right in front of a church with a neon glowing sign; a neon church of Jesus. I came to see Kermit Ruffins, expecting to hear some classic New Orleans songs done in a slurred authentic fashion. The house was packed, sweaty and humid for January. Kermit was obviously having himself a great time, drinking a few and letting other players take the lead. Many of the songs on the set list can be heard on the HBO series Treme like “My Ohh Poo Pah Doo”or “Iko Iko.” Getting to hear Professor Longhairs infamous song, “Tipitina” at Tipitina’s was truly something wondrous as I delve further into New Orleans history and Soul of American music. It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing!
I would sample many of the taste of New Orleans throughout my visit: Crawfish everything, etouffee, gumbo and, of course, Po boys. If you can fry it, you can get it in NOLA. I chugged my Cafe Du Monde while casting my gaze upon the foggy Mississippi River, imagining the history it must have seen; the people, the lives, the times. The Mississippi is the background music to the city itself, the mouth of America open for all to hear.
Returning to Tipitina’s for Galactic on New Years Eve, I already felt at home and comfortable with my surroundings. I parked beside the neon Jesus church and talked wildly singing, “Tipitina tra la la” at the top of my lungs until I reached the entrance. Everyone was dressed in their best clothes, looking colorful and eclectic in the New Orleans style. The opening act, Mr. Washington was true blues, polished and refined. His red jacket shone like Dorothy’s slippers as she clicked them together. Mr. Washington would round through numerous blues infused songs and bring out a few unknown guests.
Galactic would come on like a jet plane. My position in the crowd happened to be right in front of the PA speakers; my ears were foolishly unprotected and by the end of the night, my head felt like a bowl of jelly, but in the best way possible. I think I can still here the hum of the PA in my head now, as clear as those horns blaring from the boats on the Missippipi. Galactic was dressed to the nines in black and gold suits. Erica Falls beautiful dress was the disco ball of the evening and her voice shown even brighter than her outfit. Bringing out numerous guests, the original lineup was present and the slew of VIP on the side stage made me wonder who was who? Having just bought Tipitina’s, I felt as though this was a truly special show for Galactic and New Orleans as Tipitina’s gets another shot at redemption. We careened out into the streets after the show was finished; smoke em’ if you got em’, drink when you can. I found my way back to the electric Jesus and back down Tchop, swaddled with thoughts of musical bliss.
I wasn’t done with New Orleans yet and Frenchman street was filled with music that would pour out into the streets like a flood of sound. I could spend the rest of my days on Frenchman and feel satisfied musically and that’s saying a lot. The raw energy, the explosiveness of the music and the wildness of the city, all converge on Frenchman. Juxtaposing Frenchman with Bourbon is like comparing Time Square to The Village. Why even bother with the crowds and the fools? Just head down Frenchman and find yourself in numerous venues with great local talent. In just one night, I saw I 6 bands for free, some not my style but all talented. Frenchman is where names are made and dues are paid. Many of the bands would run out into the streets with their horns bringing in new patrons and always carrying their tip bucket. It’s the way of life in New Orleans, the art of the hustle.
New Orleans feels like home to me. As I write this in Virginia, I am still engulfed with visions and sounds of the city. I will be returning for Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest and perhaps, I may never return and why should I? In my upcoming Jam Cruise review, I will discuss talking with a few members of Galactic about moving here and maybe one day, I will make it happen! Here is to a New Years in New Orleans; A new me, a new dawn, a new horizon, a new dream, a new opportunity, a new life, a new life in an old city.
New Orleans Purist
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.