Tuesday, April 17, 2012

All the City's a Stage

It was the final day of the French Quarter Festival, the fourth day of beautiful weather, and our third different venue.

Continuing our strategy of finding a shady spot and listening to the performers on one stage, we found this space in Woldenberg Park, which covered an area along the Mississippi River between Canal and Toulouse Streets and featured four stages.

A short exploratory walk around the stage showed the members of Casa Samba Extravaganza going through sound checks and a quick rehearsal of a few segments of their show.

It was about half an hour before the performance was to begin, but already the majority of the lawn had been "reserved" by either chairs or blankets. Our seats were out of sight of the stage, but the sound system put us right in the center of the crowd.

Toward the end of Casa Samba's performance, Kate took a walk around the stage area. When she returned, she recommended that I take some photos of the uniforms, especially the head dresses, of the drummers.

Good advice. When I got close enough to the stage, I could confirm her assessment of the drummers' uniforms.

But then I noticed the dancers.

This was an amazingly energetic group. I later read that "In Brazil, music is just as much a part of daily life and ritual.

"For the past 20 years, Casa Samba has provided a home for Brazilian music and culture in New Orleans. Casa Samba combines traditional music, vocals, theater, drumming, and dance to capture the spirit of Carnival in Brazil in both classes and perfor-mances. Brazilian Carnival and New Orleans' Mardi Gras share many similari-ties--most importantly, a deep connection to their African musical and cultural roots."

A trip for food was indeed a trip, finding a path through the crowded lawn was accom-panied with several
"Excuse me's" and "I'm sorry's" as I made my way to the sidewalk. But even after reaching the sidewalk, the route was neither direct nor bump-free, but everyone moved along with smiles and greetings.

On the way for food, I passed one of the other stages. Performing here was Leroy Jones' Original Hurricane Brass Band. "Initially founded in 1974,...the band was re-formed in 2005 after trumpet-legend Leroy Jones returned from Dallas. He was called upon to do one of the first post-Katrina Second Lines. The band that played the event was then appropriately named the Hurricane Brass Band."

Returning to our shade oasis, I could hear "the New Orleans-based Bucktown All-Stars--1960s classic R&B and soul, ’70s funk and New Orleans music. Multi-year winner of Gambit Reader’s Poll, ”Best Band That Doesn’t Fit Any Of These Categories” and six-time winner of the prestigious Offbeat Magazine Awards, the horn-powered All-Stars’ Rock ‘N’ Bowl shows are legendary in the Crescent City.

Rounding out our stay at the final Festival Day was "Swedish-born singer/song-writer, Theresa Andersson. She has performed and recorded with The Neville Brothers, among other well-known New Orleans' musicians and has performed on Late Night With Conan O'Brien and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

We didn't do much people watching during the day's performances. Instead, we spent a good amount of time talking with Charlie and Joy (not pictured here), transplant residents of New Orleans.

Like many conversations with people we've met in Louisiana, this began with RVing--an interest shared by all four of us. Charlie (originally from Mississippi) and Joy (from Atlantic City) shared their RV experiences with us and passed along some restaurant recommendations.

It was a very enjoyable conversation, and we left feeling as though we had known our newest friends for much longer than one afternoon.

On this day, Woldenberg Park captured the music and food of New Orleans, and the life on the Mississippi added to the experience.

A cargo ship and the ferry to Algiers shared the river with the paddlewheel Natchez (below).

Even though we saw only ten percent of the performers, we enjoyed the sample of the music of the Crescent City.

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