Festival New Orleans

I meant to remind you guys about this, and forgot, but since there’s still a day to go, I’m doing it now.

Festival New Orleans appears to be a bid by the city – and the entire state of Louisiana – to bump up its tourism by letting us know what a cool place it is, as if we needed to be reminded, bless. I’m guessing they organised it before the credit crunch and that it’s hurting a bit now, but that’s no reason not to go along and enjoy it. In fact it’s all the more reason – to let them know we love ‘em.

I went along this evening. I’m not promising anything sparkling in the way of reviews here – aw, c’mon – it’s Friday night and I’ve just got back from a festival for heaven’s sake.

It’s basically a bunch of really rather excellent bands in various locations that aren’t the main arena, Indigo 2 or the very yuckky Bodyworlds. There are apparently cookery demonstrations but I’ve not seen any.

Not to be missed is the fabulous Cajun fiddle player Michael Doucet, who I’ve loved for some time despite (well, actually because of) the fact that he has no voice whatsoever and gives the impression of being out-of-his-head. He still sounds great. Bonjour, Bonne Annee is a classic in the Phantom household around Christmas time. Curiously he didn’t sing it tonight. Can’t think why.

He’s in the very ugly new Matter nightclub – decor courtesy of NCP. I daresay they call it ‘neo-brutalist’ or ‘post industrial’ or something equally up itself (read ‘cheap’) and I guess at least it doesn’t show if beer gets spilled all over it. A quick sloosh down with an industrial car wash and you’re laughing. There’s an enormous plastic lean-to in the middle for the sound man, and the one thing I’ll give it is good acoustics, which is more than I can say for the main ‘Louisiana’ stage.

I’m sure it’s Health & Safety that means that the glaring industrial arc-lamps are left on throughout the performance of even the headliners, but that, combined with the appalling, booming sound, made the ever-fantastic Allen Toussaint sound like he was playing – well – in a great big soulless tent, funnily enough. There were a lot of people there, and he was playing like a demon, but the atmosphere was flat as shortnin’ bread.
The effervescent marching band, and the very strange characters dressed in feathers had the same problem – the atmosphere, and especially the godawful overhead halogen lights that light “Entertainment Avenue” did their best to kill them stone dead. Luckily, the place was heaving – and not just with tinies who had gone to see Finding Nemo on Ice. It’s the people who are playing and the people who visit it that make this festival. The venue itself is a dead fish for this kind of thing.

Go and see it though. The acts are great (Dr John’s on tomorrow) and if you can get into the spirit despite the best efforts of the O2, you’ll have a ball. Get your timings here.

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