8/27/09: Nuthin But Fire Records, Snowballs and Preservation Hall

Bands, entertainment, events, music, Music Conferences, Restaurants


Restaurants in the Quarter are expensive, so I drove out to a place called the River Cafe in Harahan that had received good reviews on one of my iPhone apps, but when I turned down the street into an industrial park I thought I might have gotten lost. However, the restaurant was indeed in an industrial park, and the breakfast was good. Riding the River Road back into New Orleans, I came to a flea market that I stopped to browse through, and then came into the Uptown area, which seemed to have some intriguing clubs, restaurants and shops. Oak Street was closed for some sort of reconstruction, and St. Charles was also torn up from Carrollton Avenue back toward the Quarter, so past Tulane I turned northward toward Claiborne Avenue, partially to escape the construction, and partially to locate the Ted’s Frostop and Bud’s Broiler where I hoped to eat at some point during my trip to New Orleans. I found them on the corner of Calhoun and Claiborne, and then began heading back downtown on Claiborne, passing through beautiful neighborhoods and devastated areas back and forth. Down one street, I noticed a large wall mural of a man in fatigues withe legend “SLACK” painted above it, and I wondered if it was a picture of the Slack I had once known who was the CEO of one of the old New Orleans record labels.
I had called Miss Tee, and she had agreed to meet me at Nuthin But Fire Records on North Claiborne beyond the quarter, so I continued through Treme, an area that had been devastated long before Katrina by the high-rise lanes of Interstate 10, although there were still neighborhood landmarks like the late Ernie K-Do’s Mother-In-Law Lounge, which someone seemed to be maintaining. At the record store, I met the owner Sess, who I had talked with on the phone but never met, and an employee who turned out to be Miss Tee’s brother. She soon arrived as well, and then the rapper Kilo came through as he was promoting his artist Euricka. The heat was unbearable, and Miss Tee offered to walk me down the street for a snowball, but on the way we were joined by a junkie named Melvin who kept hitting us up for money. After he walked away, Miss Tee explained that Melvin was addicted to heroin, and that Governor Jindal had cut funding to the clinics and drug treatment programs. When we got to Elysian Fields, we learned that the snowball stand, which was mobile, had not appeared, although it was one of the hottest days of the year, so we walked back to the studio, and she decided to drive me in her car over to one of the best snowball stands in the city near A. P. Tureaud Avenue. It was indeed one of the best snowball stands in the city, and I soon learned that a snowball in New Orleans is not a snowcone. There’s something different about the way the ice is shaved, so that it soaks up the syrup, and I was still enjoying mine 15 minutes later when Miss Tee had driven me over to UTP Studios, where she hoped we would meet Partners-N-Crime. They had gone on a food run, but they soon came back, and I did get a chance to meet them and remind them about the Cutting Edge conference. After that, we rode back to my car, which I had left in front of the record store, and then I drove back into the Quarter and parked near the Faubourg Marigny, because I wanted to see where the evening showcases would be held.
Frenchmen Street had the gingerbread architecture and brilliant colors of a Caribbean street, and was primarily clubs and/or restaurants, with an occasional bookstore or residential building. Beyond Snug Harbor, my favorite jazz club in the city where I used to go to see Lumark Gulley play, there was a coffee bar called the Rose Nicaud Cafe, and I ducked in there to get a cappuccino, and then I drove back to the other side of the Quarter near my hotel. While browsing in the upstairs of Louisiana Music Factory on Decatur Street, I was startled by Memphis musician Scott Bomar, who came up behind me while I was browsing. He had been on the conference with Jody Stephens, the former drummer of Big Star, who was also involved with Cutting Edge, but sadly, their conference responsibilities were over, and they were driving back to Memphis the next morning. Walking further down into the Jackson Square area, I had hoped to come upon a brass band or some street musicians, but I didn’t. I did hear the boom of bass drums coming from somewhere behind the Cabildo, however, so I attempted to follow the sound, but was soon disappointed, as it was coming from some rehearsal from inside the Cabildo itself, but I noted the location of Preservation Hall, where the New Birth Brass Band would be playing later, and then walked back to the hotel. The American Federation of Musicians was sponsoring a reception for us on the third floor of the hotel, and I ate so much roast beef that I didn’t need to go out to dinner. Instead, I walked down to Peaches Records and Tapes, and had intended to go to the Cafe du Monde, but I was out of time, so I made my way to Preservation Hall, and got inside, but all the seats had been taken. The New Birth Brass Band was a curious mix of old-timers and youngsters, with a good steady beat and a great repertoire, mostly of standard New Orleans material. On one song, the singer from the better-known Treme Brass Band joined them. The hall looked as if it hadn’t changed in 30 years, which it probably hadn’t. When not playing, the musicians hung out in a beautiful courtyard, from which occasionally emerged a curious cat, who would nuzzle our feet before growing bored and reentering the courtyard. Afterwards, I did walk over to the Cafe du Monde, and enjoyed the usual coffee and beignets before walking back to the hotel.

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