Sunday, April 30, 2006

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Best of Show... Day Two

A very... very... very windy day at the fairgrounds, kind of rough to get in the groove, but one set in the Jazz Tent made it all worth the trouble.

Simply put... Herbie Hancock is god! He is closely followed by Terence Blanchard who both played with him (on an incredible version of Miles' "Tutu."

By the way... the first Blues Routes show from Jazz Fest is up and available here or on iTunes.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Best of Show... Day One

It was a real day to remember, this first day of JazzFest 2006.

The weather was gorgeous; just enough high clouds to keep things cool for most of the day while it warmed up in the afternoon so it was cheerful and playful and crazy like JazzFest oughta be.

this is an audio post - click to play

The music, all day, was amazing, and to the good will of all, the crowds were pretty darn heavy (though I haven't heard any official reports).

I caught the Coolbone Brass Band (a particularly New Orleans phenomenon, a brass band rap group) and the Loyola Jazz Ensemble to start the morning and htat was followed by sets from guitarist Anders Osborne on the big stage and the incredible young pianist Jonathan Batiste in the Jazz Tent.

I took a break in the cool of the racetrack paddock stage where a friend of mine, Chuck Siler, was interviewing Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes and then I went and caught the last song of a Keb Mo set at the insanely crowded large stage. Keb's closing tune, "She Just Wants To Dance" is one of my favorites (and not JUST because it reminds me of my daughter) and it made me sad to have missed his set (though not sad enough to have missed Chuck and Sunpie to catch it)... and THAT is one of the central elements of JazzFest; it is enlightening to see (and hear) what you miss as much as what you see.

The key to JazzFest, as opposed to every other concert or festival I have ever been at, is the incredible diversity and abundance, a true feast of riches that you can't possibly fully consume. The surprise of JazzFest (which a lot of people who just hang out at the big stage and look for the big acts miss) is finding something you didn't know about (or didn't know enough about) as well as discovering what great thing you missed while you were experiencing the great thing you saw.

I missed, for example... Keb Mo, Cowboy Mouth (whom I absolutely love), James Rivers, Charmaine Neville, Topsey Chapman, and Dr. John (with guitarist John Fohl), and that whole time I was busy with more than I could hardly stand with everything I've mentioned, plus an incredible set by Bob Dylan and, as the audio post demonstrates... the best of the day (for me at least) the powerful, eclectic, brilliant and incredibly poetic Ani DiFranco (and her accompanists on vibes and double bass). I've always been a big fan of Ani, both for her music and for the courage and creativity she showed starting and succeeding with her own record company (something I am still trying to do), but to see her play with the kind of joyous creative power that she revealed in front of this crowd on this day... it was very moving.

Top all that off with about three pounds of crawfish at a party I got dragged to aafterwards... It was a glorious day!

And so... it starts all over again this morning.

Crank Up The Band...

Here we go... another year and another fest. Last year at this time, I was desperately trying to pull together the resources to make it to Jazz Fest in time to shoot new material for Big Chief. My lack of success in that effort left me forlornly sitting in front of my computer inn Petaluma listening to every single minute of WWOZ's coverage of Jazz Fest (something that I would highly recommend) and vowing never to be in that situation again.

There are few things in the world that arouse that kind of passion in my heart... Some who know me might say that isn't true, but they are speaking of my penchant to get "worked up" about things. My sense of it, is that I get worked up in that way in an attempt to MAKE ordinary things feel like they matter that much. I know it's strange to say about what is basically a concert on steroids, but the thing is, Jazz Fest really is so much more than that.

Over the next ten days, I am going to post as much and as often as possible, letting you in on everything I can to communicate the reality of this event. I will also be filing major stories for Blues Routes and FoodFetish podcasts, so go to the sites or check them out on iTunes for regular updates.

ALSO... for the first time ever (and boy did I wish they had this a year ago!) they will be running a live video feed on both Sundays. You can find that at
and while I hate to promote anything for MSN... THIS is worth it.

It's Jazz Fest Time y'all!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

And So It Begins...

Tonight I had my first night off in about a month. The last time I had any real time off at all, I went to a ball game on a Saturday afternoon in San Francisco, but after the game I went back to the office and spent the night working... that's not complaining... just putting things in context. This afternoon, I finished a big audio program I've been working on for weeks and delivered it to my clients, the Hotel Monteleone. If you ever stay there you'll have to ask to take the audio tour. It's great.. and it was fun to do, in that way that media production that consumes your attention for 48 hours straight is fun to do only to really sick people who like that kind of experience.

Next up is a whole series of projects that require the tying up of loose ends... yeah, Bruce I'm talking about you (and a couple of others as well), but for a mental break I went out on a limb tonight and mainlined some amazing music.

First off was the free concert in Lafayette Square downtown... tonight was Beausoleil, a Louisiana band of great renown and wonderful spirit... real cajun music that can do nothing but make you smile.

That was followed by four hours of music at the House of Blues courtesy of my kind and generous friend, Mary, who invited me to tag along on her guitar god night at HOB with Eric Johnson and Joe Satriani. I'm not typically your head banging guitar god kinda guy, but the last time I saw Joe we were both walking down a hallway at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley and it struck me (especially since my friend was offering me a free ticket) that it would be interesting to see what he's up to these days.

Just one word... sufficient for both guitarists... AMAZING. This was a wonderful show of high energy, crank it up rock and roll, but with an industrial sort of beauty, especially on certain songs by each artist, that reminded me of the way I react when I see an incredibly beautiful building. All that steel and wood and electricity transformed into poetry and heart.

It's the kind of thing that happens in New Orleans (not that I'm saying it doesn't happen anywhere else mind you), especially around Jazz Fest time... and the magic is on the way.

I have to admit, I keep looking over my shoulder for when the other shoe's gonna fall (or the other storm's gonna roll on in), but for now it's time to put some things together and the magic that occurs in The Crescent City at this time of year is unparalleled.

Here's hoping we can make the magic last.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Uncle Thom Wants You!

Yeah, I know... it's been a week without bloogging [that WAS a typo, b ut I decided to leave it]. Believe me, I've been feeling it myself.

Two weeks ago... well, actually it was two and half weeks ago, I was in San Francisco at a baseball game. The most strange and bizarre thing about that was the fact that, as the sign says here... there was no taking the beer from the bar to the ball field. to most people that wouldn't even cross their minds as something strange, but once you've lived in New Orleans and you've gotten used to the idea that such things are not the big deal they are everywhere else, it's hard to put your brain back in the rule bound strait jacket. It's not that it's such a big issue... but then that's the point... It's not such a big issue. Now I'm back in New Orleans where the beer going to the ball field (or anywhere else for that matter) is really not a major deal. On the other hand... getting the trash picked up... or people killing each other to the tune of seven just last night... well, that's kind of a big deal.

What else IS a major deal? Well... we're having this little mayoral election and I am very pleased this week because the guy who I really want to win, Mitch Landrieu did pretty darn well in his race against Ray Nagin (who frankly is not THAT bad a choice, either... at least he wasn't before he started losing his mind after Katrina), but under the circumstances, I think probably just about anybody might have a hard time holding on to his marbles.

In any case... Mitch is seriously in the running for the runoff which happens in three weeks and I keep trying to figure out ways to help get him elected.

We had French Quarter Fest last week and we have two weeks of Jazz Fest coming up hard on it's heels. Bruce Springsteen is playing on the big stage on Sunday and he's done an incredible job of coming out with an album that makes sense for Jazz Fest. his Seeger sessions album, which was just released today, is an amazing piece of work. Almost entirely made up of traditional folk songs, like Mary Don't Ya Weep. Where so many big artists just come to Jazz Fest and do their thing... The Boss is bringing a band of guitarists, fiddle players, and a brass band to play historical folk and protest music... music right for the times and right for the venue. To me, that puts him way up there in the "he seems to get it" category.

What's most frustrating - on a personal level - about the coming week and a half is that I live here now, so Jazz Fest isn't really feeling like the vacation it always used to be. In fact, it's feeling like a huge struggle to accomodate all the things I need to do to make it work... and to raise the money needed for the very projects that brought me here in the first place.

And new projects as well... Projects like "Wade In The Water," my musicians Katrina stories project, which I have been trying to put together since I sat in the North Carolina woods, getting chiggers and wishing I could go home, and which seems to finally, after almost nine months, be developing some legs. In addition the Mardi Gras Indian project, Big Chief is developing new life again... but finding the funds, especially now, is a tough sell and a tough market.

So here's my big appeal... I've really been diligent about keeping this part of my life out of this other part of my life, and I promise I'll return you to your regularly scheduled blogging shortly, BUT... If you've ever thought of contributing to these projects, if you've contributed before... or if you're just curious to see what their about, go to Mercury Public Media and join, or rejoin... or contribute just a little bit more... or tell all your friends to do so. Right now... this spring it really is a sort of make or break time on these projects and frankly, making feels a whole lot better right now than breaking.

So... NOW... would be the time to make a move... and I'll make it worth your while. Everyone who contributes $35 or more during this next two weeks of JazzFest season will receive your choice of a Mercury Public Media, or Blues Routes Logo T-shirt, which I will be sending out come the first of June (so make sure you give me your email address so I can find out your size). Hell... I'll even throw in some CDs of the special JazzFest edition Blues Routes shows we're working on as well.

JOIN UP NOW... and then go tell your friends to join too.

As the song says... "It's Jazz Fest time in New Orleans... come on everybody let me hear ya SCREAM!"

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Back in the Land of Broken Dreams

Two weeks in San Francisco on a weird trip where I never really got in the groove.

I did get a new cellphone and after 6 months operating my computer from the external hard drive and always having to plug in, I actually got a new internal drive, making the thing a true portable again. Unfortunately, ten minutes before I left for NOLA, the old external drive power cord broke and now I have to go fishing around to find a way to fix that under the less than efficient conditions back home... but that's another story.

Mostly... I spent my time in San Francisco working on stuff for my clients in NOLA which meant that much of my time in SF was really quite poorly spent. At the same time, out of 14 days on the west coast, I actually ran into two days (well, actually two and a half) days of sunshine. One was the first Saturday I was in town when I got to go see the Giants beat the pants off the Braves at Willie Mays Field (I refuse to call it "Telecom Company Du Jour Park") with my friend Mike. The other was the day before I left when I really needed the sunshine in order to easily move around the city and get last minute things done. That day I got to sit outside at the Yank Sing restaurant and have Dim Sum with my kid (my 24 year old kid!).

I got to bend a few elbows and drink too much at Dempsey's with friends in Petaluma. I walked the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral several times, wept during the Palm Sunday service and had a blast of emotion, resurrection and recharge during the Easter Sunday celebration, despite the fact that I was feeling a bit under the weather. Before the Easter service, I walked the Labyrinth outside the cathedral in the rain... when I reached the center and turned to head back out, the raining stopped and it never rained again before I left. I choose to accept that as a sign... a sign of what I don't know... perhaps one that says, "This End Up."

I even picked up a good gig doing some webwork on the site for Bruce Gordon Cycles... work that I've been wanting to do on his website for at least a couple of years. The irony of that is that I am now going to be working on work for San Francisco clients while in New Orleans.

It was a good, if odd, trip, but I'm glad to be back in the Crescent City with music tonight in the park with friends and three weeks of festivals just rolling over the horizon. Just flying in last night, I could already feel the magic. New Orleans really is the Land of Dreams... still... even if some of them are a bit smudged, and some of them are broken.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

When she sang Jump...

I asked how high.

"Baby" June Pointer died on Tuesday and for reasons that are completely different from the reasons I miss William Coffin, I am missing June a lot.

Despite what should have been "my better angels" I loved The Pointer Sisters and especially June. In the late 80s they were absolutely the quintessential example of my MTV guilty pleasure. Their song Jump (and the accompanying video with June sashaying into the camera lens) sent me into complete apoplexy, a semi-conscious seizure of embarassing ecstacy and giddiness. Even now, almost 20 years later, when I REALLY should know better, I can't listen to this song without bouncing my feet, nodding my head, and... and... and.. when that chorus comes... JUMP into a dance around the room (even if those guys down on the street can see).

Their version of Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town was the central highlight of the first "Very Special Christmas" album and was a feature of the first project I worked on with Marsha, a Christmas pantomime of kids from her 4-6 grade Sonoma school kids.

The Pointers were also, strangely, a minor feature of the early infatuations that Marsha and I experienced with one another. Knowing my strange enjoyment of the girls, Marsha gave me the birthday present of a trip to Lake Tahoe to see them in concert at Harvey's Casino. It was a good time had by all and one of those weird snapshots that comes to define a relationship. So much so, that one of my first reactions to news of June's death from cancer on Tuesday, was, "well... yeah... that figures."

June and her sisters, true to their roots in Gospel music, always brought me a sense of joy and hope and in a year that has been devoid of much of either it leaves me with a strange feeling to be losing June now too. New Orleans music maestro Alan Toussaint penned one of my favorite Pointer songs (a fact that I was not aware of until about a year ago) and it's been a song that has brought me strength and courage during much of this past year's despair. It's a song of triumph, and purpose, and clarity and desire. It's an anthem to overcoming and going on; a perfect song of Easter expectation in the middle of this dark progress through to Good Friday.

I think it makes a fitting tribute to June.

I know we can make it... I know darn well!

A Good Man Who Was Not So Hard To Find

William Sloane Coffin died today. He was one of my heros... so I decided to write about it on Washington's Cousin. It's not much of a memorial... but in time's like these, as Arthur Miller said, "Attention must be paid."

The NY Times has a good piece on him as well.

This one from The Witherspoon Society is a nice rememberance as well.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bitch... Bitch... Bitch

It's been pouring down rain all day and all night for the last three days (and there's no real end in sight) on top of that I just spent the last 24 hours working on, fretting about, prayer for, screaming at, pounding on, and taking deeeeeeep cleansinnnnnnnnggggg breeeeeeaaaaatttthhhhhhs over my dead computer that simply decided to up and stop exactly 24 hours ago.

The good news in that story is two-fold;

1) I am three blocks from the Apple Store and in a town with several independent Apple repair people so I can get a solid amount of assistance in the trouble shooting area.

2) About 30 minutes ago, the machine just, all of its own accord, decided to up and start working again.

The thing is... now I still don't have a good idea as to why it did what it did or what I really ought to do about it given the fact that I head back to The Crescent City in less than a week.

It's been an interesting day.

---Hey! It just stopped raining!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

In... Communicado

Hallelujah! I've got a cell phone again. After nearly two months of living without the immediate kneejerk connectivity that is both the blessing and the bane of modern civilization, I'm back in with the in crowd sporting the cool new cell phone I bought on CraigsList on the second day that I got back to San Francisco, thus continuing the reality of my life sine Katrina in which I must return to California in order to actually get the things I need to make my life in New Orleans function.

Now... the only problem is that all of my old numbers are buried in my dead phone, so I need everyone to join in with Blondie... and CALL ME! That way I can get everyone's number back in my phone. The number's 707-235-5434 in case you forgot. Do it now... I mean what else can you be doing... you're sitting there reading my blog for goodness sake... CALL ME... please.

At least for the time being, I'm no longer incommunicado. Not to worry though... I'll be back soon enough.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Take Me Out To The Ballgame...

I'm not really a "baseball fan" but I've been known to enjoy a game or two, and this afternoon I'm feeling that old Centerfield jones as if I were a little kid.

I'm sitting back in my office in San Francisco where the cold, damp clouds that started the day have burned off to beautiful spring sunshine... as Fogerty sings... "the sun came out today!" Only about five blocks away from me, just over the tops of the buildings I am facing, the Giants just finished their opening day game by absolutely kicking Atlanta's collective butts.

Now passing along the street in front of me, on their way to cars and busses, are young couples and old lovers holding hands as they walk down the street... little kids tagging along together in a long line... and single guys with black and orange caps turned around backwards on their heads.

I think I'm gonna have to find a way to catch some games this summer... being this close to the ball park is gonna drive me crazy!

Monday, April 03, 2006


This weekend was the Tennessee Willilams Literary Festival, which for me meant the opportunity to humiliate myself in public in front of dozens of people in Jackson Square with the hope of winning some lovely prizes (but mostly just to humiliate myself).

Well... I didn't win (more on that later) but I did a pretty fair job even if I do say so myself.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

April Fool!

I think that one of the reasons I like Mardi Gras is that it turns April Fools Day into a month long celebration. I've always loved this day for the complete and total purposeless absurdity of it.

Like the big green button here... a link to a daily changing website that I just discovered a couple of days ago... April Fools Day is a glitch in the daily process of mundanity... a U-turn on the straight and narrow path. It's origin, like most things of this sort, lies in the foolish peasant celebrations of the ancient springtime when the people at the bottom got to, even if for a brief moment, pretend to be on top.

This year, perhaps more than most (though I'm not really sure about that), I think it's a day to remember that NOTHING is under control.

So get out and do something foolish... or stupid... or NUTS!

Look on the BRIGHT SIDE of life... if only for a day.

Who knows, maybe it'll be catching.