With shows on the big stages at Jazzfest and Memphis in May, it seems like a great time to check in on the band. So it makes sense to fly into Memphis and drive to New Orleans, catch those shows and drive back for the Memphis show. But is IS a 6 hour drive. And the shows are back to back. If I fly early on Thursday, I have all day to get to NOLA but it will be a super long day. Airfare is getting ridiculous, but cars about $25 day. I book the flight for Wednesday, that will give me a chance to start south by car that evening and finish up the drive on Thursday.
So the day before my flight I go to book a car and now they are up to $75 a day. What? I called and got a "supply and demand" BS answer as to why they are priced that way. Reluctantly I proceed back online to book, this unexpectedly has added $200 to the trip.
But, TEDHEAD TRAVEL TIP #7: I monkeyed around with the timing, and discovered if I claimed a rental of 4 days and 1/2 hour or more, it went to a weekly rental calculation which would save me about $100. So what if I returned 1/2 day earlier than I rented it for....
The trip is on a small jet. I am jammed into a seat and the guy next to me is my size and spends the whole trip leaning forward with his head in his hands, clearly enduring the torture. As we land, I note that the distance between the front of my seat and the seat back ahead is EXACTLY two iPhone lengths. Picture that...
I get to Enterprise with my prepaid compact car rental and the agent asks what kind of car, offering me any on the lot. So much for "supply and demand". I ask if they have one with a sunroof and he goes out and comes back with a Malibu. SCORE!
I head South with the goal of reaching Jackson, MS, which is halfway to NOLA. I settle in behind a rabbit doing 75 MPH and cruise into the darkness in very light traffic.
This is when I nearly kill myself.... As I pull my phone out, I realize I shouldn't. Oprah says No Cellphones. And she is right. I know it's dangerous, but there is no traffic. And talking on a phone is one thing. But I was scrolling my emails, and looked up, startled to see a stream crossing, the road is kinda pinched in for the bridge, but there are two orange/white traffic barrels guarding the end of it for some reason. I swerve left and hear a thunk on the back right corner. I hit one of the barrels at 75 MPH. Had I actually hit the end of the bridge it would have spun me around and into a rollover. I could have ended up dead in the median strip IN MISSISSIPPI FOR CHRISAKES!!! I do NOT want to go out like Jayne Mansfield, in a car crash on my way to New Orleans. Right? So think twice before you reach for that smartphone....
And while I want to stop and see the damage, it's dark, and I'll lose the pacesetter ahead of me, so I press on. Worried. I had an accident years ago with a rental and it's a pain in the ass. They screw you. After three hours, I pull into the motel and get out to look. I'm pleasantly surprised to see that there are no dents, but a long streak along the rocker panel under the doors.
This leads to a a fitless sleep. No way i can just get to a body shop and get them to buff it out. Somewhere in my sleep I come up with a plan to slip the rental guy $100 bucks if he says anything at check in...
And as I leave, I check it out in broad daylight. I reach down and use my thumbnail and it scrapes easily. I grab my water and a napkin, and damn if it doesn't just wash right off...no dents, no marks, no nothing. SCORE! I am relieved.
I hit the road and decide on Plan B. I came before to see GPN at HOB. It was March 2006, 6 months after Katrina. They had a song called "Gumbo Moon" and this was their first time at HOB and I just felt it would be appropriate if ol' Tedheadone was in the audience the first time she sang Gumbo Moon in Lousiana. And there were about 20 people in The Parish on Mar 30th, 2006. The next day, I drove about 75 miles NE to Waveland and Bay St Louis MS. Waveland had been a live remote on the Today Show on Mar 29th and it was devasted. I wanted to see for myself, and it sure was.
Plan B is to see how they have recovered.
Many houses right on the beach have been rebuilt, on stilts. Most bigger and more expensive than what had been before. Maybe 20% of Ground Zero has been rebuilt. It is a slow, long, slog.
This is the vault, all that's left of a bank that was waterfront:
The waterfront areaa downtown has a new seawall and I have lunch at a sweet little spot. The shade of the front porch is surprisingly comfortable, but as soon as you get in the Sun it is sweat city. The hostess is about my vintage and comes out to talk with me while I have a salad.
She said "We got by with the help of God. And the American People". She is clearly moved as she recalls "Cars from all over the country would just pull up at the distribution center, unload boxes of food and supplies, and drive off" She talked of the delight she had coming across a box of small resealable packages of Mrs. Fields cookies. "Someone, somewhere, knew we needed a little treat. Everyone got three cookies"
She told me that the water temperature is already into the 80's and everybody is worried about how hot the water will be in the summer. The hot water will just draw storms right up The Gulf. And this was an artist town and they really can't afford to rebuild. This was a sobering end to a delightful lunch overlooking Christian Pass...
The route to NO is all 2 lane and comes in to NO thru an industrial area and there are still the remains of a couple of mansard style apartment complexes. Abandoned, overgrown, in ruins. I make my way to a sweet old little house in the French Quarter that is a friends fathers second home. He surprised me with the offer to use it (and a parking permit). I choose the small guesthouse out back on the other side of their courtyard, (easier to cool) and shower up before heading to HOB, a fifteen block walk.
Arriving there, I join Tipi and John for dinner inside. Another great salad and we go in. I grab the rail, and am surprised to see them head upstairs. On the rail I am approached by Tom who had met me at the Life is Good Festival in 2010. And then I notice Lisa and Bart fro Colorado and we catch up before the openers, The Stooges take the stage. They are a local group, sax, trombone, trumpet, tuba, bass drum and snare drum. First song is so long I am tempted to offer up an over/under of 4 songs to the guy next to me. There are no more breaks after that, so I will tell you the whole opening set was two songs. I note Joshua watching them towards the end with a look to me like I felt..they were running long.
The Nocs took the stage on schedule, wearing boas and eye masks, and slip right into 5th gear with "Sweet Hands".
I have tried to avoid listening to, or watching any of the new songs. Ideally, I would get them in context, in the tracking order from the album for my first listen. Failing that, second choice is to hear them live. And this first night at HOB, is old school, with only one new song in the set.
Sweet Hands: grabs 'em by the throat
Oasis: Nice duel
Joey: At the B-3, Grace leans out, like she is looking around the mic stand, opens her eyes wide, and shoots me a big smile. It matches mine.
Loneliest Soul: Michael comes stage left to play the small keyboard. Scott goes back to Michaels riser and takes the bass from him, flips it around to play it right handed. Michael must string it right handed but play with a total different fingering left handed.
Big White Gate: Grace is now playing this on the piano, not the B-3. Mid song she weaves in a Levon tribute, the Na NA NA NA chorus for "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"
Medicine: Crowd loves the drums, coming back to guitar Benny tosses me his drumstick. I drop it in front of the rail.
Careless Whisper: Karl Denson on sax and in wig joins them for this encore.
Finishing the night, the band is leaving the stage and Matt tosses me a drumstick. I drop it in front of the rail. HEY!, it's been a while!
Lingering in the back before exiting, I hear a "Hey Van!" and turn to find John and Julia from The Chicken Box on Nantucket. John comes almost every year to Jazzfest and had to make it this yer to see the Nocs. We have a nice chat there and out on the sidewalk before saying "see you at Jazzfest and back here tomorrow night...."
Scene in the crowd. Tipi, John, Bart and Lisa, Tom, and John and Julia from The Chicken Box.
Sorry about the live shots. Could only use iPhone.....
Stop The Bus
Big White Gate
Careless Whisper w/ Karl Denson
Wild Thing w/ Karl Denson