Voodoo Experience Day 2

A visit to a city for a music festival is incomplete for me without a lot of walking and sightseeing. And getting lost. And seeing things at late night hours that probably most people don’t.

The day started off normal enough, with me taking the street car into downtown New Orleans to Canal Street, the obvious beginning of the tourist district. I had finally looked at a map and found where Bourbon Street was, and decided to walk down it. Not my idea of fun. Already at 2 pm, there were hordes of people stumbling about, being gawking tourists. Many were drunk. I prefer Royal Street, the next block over, filled with art galleries and antique stores and interesting window displays. Bourbon Street is filled with bars, what did I expect?

I continued walking down Royal straight through the French Quarter until I was in the Marigny, to check out a cafe called The Orange Couch I had seen open late on Thursday night. It looked out of place, the interior that I glimpsed post modern sleek in an area of old tightly clustered shotgun houses. I was not disappointed. The barista was from Zimbabwe, patrons sitting outside had British accents and seemed to be talking movie business, while inside was art on the walls and others studying and surfing the net. I had an espresso shake with Tin Roof ice cream. Yum.

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The Orange Couch Cafe

I asked the barista for directions on how to get from there to City Park, where Voodoo Experience takes place. “It’s a bit of a walk,” she noted. “Any further than walking all the way back to Canal and taking the street car from there?”I asked.  “Not really,” was the response. “Besides, if you take Esplanade, it’s shady!” So that’s what I did. A new street to explore!

Truth be told, the first walk was 2.3 miles, and the next walk was 3.5 miles, so it was further. I know that in Los Angeles I have to be careful when talking about walking distances with others, since hardly anyone walks, the perspective is skewed that all walking distances are too far, but I was surprised that New Orleans suffers from it too. It’s such a walk friendly place, and the very distinctive neighborhoods are close together, so it’s quickly varied.

I made it to City Park, and finally found a paper schedule, much more helpful than Friday when I had no idea who was playing when once I got there. There is definitely more art this year at the festival than last year, fun, interactive art. Like this one:

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I could hear Gogol Bordello playing when I walked in, but I realized that I had left my numerous pairs of earplugs back at the hotel and needed to take care of that first before going anywhere near a stage, particularly for a band that likes to play it loud. The good people at Toyota, besides giving me a free screenprinted festival poster, bandana and flashing LED dog tag for greater night time visibility, also gave me a pair of free earplugs. Thanks to the First Aid tent for telling me where to get this important schwag! I also had just missed Rotary Downs, a band I had hoped to hear live. Oh well, I had fun on my walk though, seeing a new neighborhood. I even saw a church for sale, with its adjoining rectory, and will give them a call to find out for how much. I mean, who hasn’t wanted to own their own church? I know I always have….

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Church for Sale: My Next Home?

I went and sat on the track in front of the stage where Jane’s Addiction was setting up to play, while listening to Wolfmother on the adjoining stage. Already I was getting cold, could feel a draft that would not go away creeping up my lower back. All layers on, I was still cold, even with a lack of rain this time. Then again, I wasn’t dancing like I had been the previous night. It all got better when the crowd came over to watch Jane, and I started warming up then. Russell and Mitchell introduced themselves to me, Russell a winner of free tickets from a local radio station, and happy to be there. He said he sat down near me because I had an air of calm about me, and he was coming down and needed that safety. There was a distinct physical empty area around me, for some unknown reason, as the crowds wanted to get closer to the stage in front of me, and I was at the edge of the paved track so it was probably squishy behind me. He was surprised I had come to the festival by myself, and all the way from LA.

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Jane's Addiction

Perry made comments about raising a toast to death, in honor of it being Halloween, and compared New Orleans to Jesus, since it refuses to die and rises from the dead. He was dressed as a superhero, and seemed to enjoy flouncing about the stage with a cape. They played songs I knew and didn’t know, as Russell was equally ignorant but enjoying himself, and finally I left, to go see Jello Biafra and George Clinton. (Two separate stages, not together!) I always forget I just don’t like Perry’s singing voice. I can only take a few songs. He seemed to be having fun though. Especially with the scantily clad females on stage (Man! They must have been freezing, as the wind blew their skirts up repeatedly.)

It also gave me an opportunity to see more of the art, especially the pieces designed for night viewing.

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I was inside the Preservation Hall Tent eating some Paneer Saag when a rendition of Michael Jackson’s Thriller was re-enacted with zombie dancers. I was worried about how I would know when KISS took the stage, when I heard fireworks go off. They must be on stage then!

As for KISS Nation, since this wasn’t a KISS only show, I guess that explained the lack of solidarity I was expecting. Also, I wasn’t very close to the front of the stage, where I expect that ilk was. However, I did get a great show from a youngster, dressed as Gene Simmons, who was there with his not as impressively detailed costumed parents. And if I had any doubts about whether the costume was his idea or not, I watched him strum his guitar in unison with a solo, perfectly timed. Long live KISS, already full of fans in the current generation!

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Adoring Fan

At 10, I left, not for lack of interest in KISS, but I had other plans for the evening. It was time to head to St. Bernard Parish, to the Hi-Ho Lounge for Debauche, Happy Talk and Zydepunks. I missed Debauche, who apparently took the stage when I was leaving Voodoo. Debauche was who I wanted to see for their tag line under a flyer picture of heavily winter dressed Tsarist Russians complete with rifles was “Russian Mafia Band.” It made me intrigued.

I of course got lost on the way. There was a narrow body of water that I couldn’t cross, and then I started thinking about the fact I didn’t remember crossing any body of water to get to the Saturn Bar, just down the street from this bar, so perhaps I was too far over already. I was finding a familar street name every fifth street or so, which meant the diagonal I was used to down in Marigny had some additional filler streets in the area I was. Which direction did I need to go? What diagonal was I on? I found myself under a freeway, and saw a Lowe’s home supply store, so I knew I was near some major area. And I could see that McDonald’s I was pretty sure I had passed to the Saturn Bar Thursday night, but I just couldn’t get to it how I was going. As the area grew increasingly structurely barren, with an occasional house guarded by dogs, I finally got on a street that I knew ran parallel to one that intersected the street I wanted. When I finally popped out onto St. Claude, I was a mere two blocks from the address I was looking for!

When I got to the door, I asked who was up, and apologized for being late, and they were shocked I had walked all the way from City Park. Despite the detour and being turned around, I don’t think I still would have made even the last song of Debauche, if I had turned down the street I now see on a map would have gotten me there sooner. Sure, it was at least 4 miles of walking. Okay, so maybe a cab would have been better. But I got to see more of the city, the pretty and derelict neighborhoods in addition to the underutilized area under the freeway by that Lowe’s. Saw a house for sale for 50k, or best offer, for sale by owner. Since it is still posted, I’m guessing it could be had for less than 50k. And facing a small canal, so no neighbors across the street, just the kind of area I love. I was there on a street called Florida when I heard and turned around to see multiple fireworks go off. KISS must have finished their show, I figured.

The bands at the Hi-Ho were great, but I chose to get stuck near the bathrooms, what with that being the only easily protected place to stash my backpack with its poster sticking out. I changed my clothes in the readily available men’s room, took off my glasses and put on my mask, which elicited numerous conversations. I kept forgetting my proboscis was so long, and would frequently hit people with it. Fortunately, since it was latex, no harm to anyone was done. I did have to take it off to engage in conversations. That was an interesting evening, and resultant drunken conversations with very drunk men. One accused me of purposely standing there by the men’s room to solicit attention. No, just the beer kegs were a nice dry surface to put my bag on. Oh, the bands were lively and infectious and encouraged drinking. I could hear them just fine, even if I couldn’t see the whole stage.

And off to walk home, through the madness and mayhem of the Marigny and French Quarters, where the crowds just took over the streets, sometimes with the help of the police, but often not. I hadn’t drunk a drop, but felt drunk just trying to navigate the crowds and their unpredictable movements. I doubt a ballerina pirouetting through the crowd would have done much better. When I got to the area of Bourbon Street where the police had cars with bright lights flashing, I grew dizzy from the constant light/dark contrast! How do amazingly drunk people handle it? Even the police mounted horses I saw were nervous, twitching and flicking in distress.

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Bourbon Street for Halloween 2009

I loved the cars parked on the sidewalks, forcing the pedestrians onto the street, because there are clear signs in the French Quarter stating not to do that. But I guess Halloween is an exception, as I expect Mardi Gras and New Year’s are too.

I was right about how fun it would be to be in New Orleans for Halloween. The energy of everyone was enlivening, and made me forget my tired feet. I had a smile on my face on the walk home.

I took a slight detour on the way home, but at least I knew where I was, just running parallel on Magazine Street to St. Charles where my hotel is to see where the trendy shopping area started. Very close to where I am staying, apparently. I found an excellent looking burrito place, and will probably visit for lunch on Monday, my last day here. I am already scheduled for a bus tour of the city, deciding to be the traditional tourist on my last day, so I can see what I have left to explore on my next visit!

Time now to go attend the last day of Voodoo. The Pogues, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Meat Puppets and Flaming Lips are on my to-do today. No walking, only public transit this time to rest my poor feet (yes, even I can overdo walking, as it turns out yesterday was at least 13.7 miles of walking according to google maps). Perhaps I will see Brett from the Bronx again at the Flaming Lips, the band he mentioned he was here to see, the gentleman I met last night who gave me a hickey on my cheek while waiting for the restroom. Is he a gentleman if he bit my cheek? As he said, anything is possible in New Orleans.

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