We arrived bright and early for another exciting day at Jazzfest. The weather was delightfully overcast (a good thing), and droves of people had emerged from their Bourbon Street hotel rooms to wander onto the fair grounds. Hell, Neil Young was even slated to play (among others). We had even had the foresight to bring along convenient folding chairs to sit in - seasoned Jazzfest vets bring along folding chairs that could be used to colonize deep space, complete with cupholders, snack containers, shade tents and possibly water spritzers. I have never seen so many hats with beer holders on them in my short lifetime.
We were very happy to get back into the food game.
I don't know a whole lot about African food, but I adored this jama-jama, a spicy, slow-cooked and addictive spinach dish from New Orlean's own Bennachin restaurant. Spiked with hot sauce, this was very much up my alley. (I love my greens, if you hadn't guessed from reading this blog).
This was Jamaican chicken with veggies - pretty good and slow cooked in a spicy sauce, although I sure wish it had been jerk chicken. (It's hard to beat jerk chicken).
I also tried out a pink lemonade sno-ball. A sno-ball is as a sno-ball does: they're about the same as the much-beloved Hawaiian shave ice, a sno-cone with an extra fine texture. In New Orleans, sno-balls are often made with condensed milk or other distinctive (and often house-made) syrups and flavorings. Just the thing on a hot day...if you're too much of a wuss to drink daiquiris from 10:00 AM onward. Since the weather's heated up, I've been seeing folks riding their horses on the neutral ground (where the streetcars run) while sipping big-ass travel size daiquiris. Love ya, NOLA, don't ever change.
As eager pork consumers, we were pleased to see these pork cracklings - produced old-school style and fresh, with the skin and a little bit of the fat still on. They were hot and warm, if a little crunchy: some hot sauce and some extra salt helped soften them up. Yum.
This BBQ turkey wing made me very happy: cooked til' falling apart in barbeque sauce and served with porky white beans and cole slaw, this was a delectable exercise in soul food.
This peanut guy was rather magnificently self assured.
We also saw this excellent blues musician, Chris Thomas King, in the Blues tent. A rap/blues pioneer, he's been featured in quite a few films, among them O Brother Where Art Thou, the Soul of a Man, and Ray. Check him out.
These Crocodile Gumboot Dancers from South Africa were compelling. Their routine really made me consider the origins of hip-hop music - all this awesome stompy stuff to the beat of guitar and drum.
What about Neil Young? I'm a big Neil Young fan and have been since a very young age, and I was pretty happy to get a chance to see him. Unfortunately, about five bazillion of my very closest friends had the same idea. Surprisingly for someone who really enjoys crowded Asian countries, I don't like giant crowds at concerts at all - but I was willing to elbow my way through the crowd for a little bit of Neil Young. The man himself duly came on stage and began to rock, with an impressive amount of fervor for a gentleman in his mid sixties who has not, let us say, taken the conservative approach with illicit substances.
I stuck it out for four songs, but gathering storm clouds and the constant nasty glares of the grossly obese people with umbrella hats sitting next to me prompted me to move on. I had to use all my third-world honed Pushing Through Crowds skills to escape the scrum, but they served me well: I managed to make it out of the crush in good time, earning me yet more disapproving stares from the folks I shoved my way by. Hey, they don't apologize for that shit in Beijing and Old Delhi! Get over it!
My instincts were right on: the skies opened up and it began pouring, just as my mom and I began making our way to the taxi stand. Out came the dorky ponchos and the umbrellas, but those are little protection against the monsoon-like power of New Orleans spring downpours: we was soaked. The taxi man harrumphed a bit at us for soaking his seats, but we got to talking and he ended up being very friendly, as most New Orleanians are in most situations, except for when they are mugging you.
Jazzfest was a lot of fun and I see why it is so endlessly famous, although I am going to have to get over my aversion to masses of large sweaty people who like to stand in front of me before I may truly enjoy it. The food, certainly, is delicious and tremendously fun to work through - I know I will return to try everything I didn't get a chance to sample this go-round.