Friday, October 08, 2010

Gretna Heritage Festival 2010

The Gretna Heritage Festival last weekend was a great success, and it seems that we at least matched the 120,000 people who attended last year, according to local media coverage.

The proximity of the Festival from the Hollywood Rectory makes attendance very easy.  We can come and go, as the 4th and Newton entrance is literally a half block from the front porch.

Here are my pictures.

For us, Friday was all about the carnival rides.  Leo and I wore armbands to admit us to all of the rides.  Only one of us became dizzy and disoriented - I'll let you guess which one of us.  Let's just say that this did not happen to me before I became, as the French say, "d'un certain âge." Youth is wasted on the young.  After the rides closed down at 10:00, we did wander over for a small snippet of REO Speedwagon.  The crowd was vast, and numbered in the thousands.  The band played on the main stage on the levee, and the weather was absolutely perfect.  I'm not really a fan, but these guys are pros.  They know how to put on a show.  We went home and enjoyed the end of the set that came in through our open kitchen window.

Saturday's festivities for us were more about the food and the music.  No rides on Saturday.  So, while my inner ear was spared the spinning, my eardrum was given a good workout!

The Festival is largely a musical smörgåsbord.  The band that I really wanted to see played on Saturday: Bonerama. I have blogged about these remarkable musicians before.  They are a quintessentially New Orleanian gumbo-bowl featuring trombones, drums, bass, guitar, and voices.  They play blues, jazz, funk, R and B, classic rock, gospel, and heavy metal.  They are as polished as their gleaming brass instruments reflecting the colored lights, and yet are as spontaneous as the slides on their trombones that glide and bend notes one into another without regimented precision.  They blend the tight sound of well-rehearsed professionalism and perfect musical timing with the raucous spontaneity of a live outdoor show.  They closed out their set with Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" - and they hit it out of the park.  I have posted video of some of their performances ("You Got a Friend in Me" and "Down By the Riverside" and "The Ocean" and "War Pigs").

The Doobie Brothers played on the main stage, and we could hear them from the levee.  Once again, we were able to "listen to the music" from our kitchen table.

Sunday we mostly wandered around, noshing on goodies and taking in the sights (such as little parades and processions of Indians).  After a shrimp boil and Saints party with the next-door neighbors, we ambled into the festival in time to watch a good bit of Amanda Shaw and the Cute Guys.  Amanda Shaw is a local phenom, a former child-prodigy violinist who at the age of  20 is a seasoned veteran of the stage.  She is a firebrand singer, fiddler, song-writer and performer.  She just gets better and more polished each year.  Her band (comprised of herself and a small cadre of middle-aged men) performs an eclectic mix of covers and original tunes: country, cajun, pop, classic rock, alternative, blues, and just about anything else you can imagine.  The show was held at the main stage on the river as cargo ships coasted by, literally only feet away.

Here is some video that I shot.

She and her family (and music) were featured in the IMAX film Hurricane on the Bayou when Amanda was only 14 years old.  Her new album includes a sassy cover of Lynyrd Skynrd's "Mississippi Kid" (listen to the sample from here) which she and the Guys performed with vigor.  Amanda Shaw never disappoints, and she didn't start last week!  And she'll be back at the levee Friday, November 12, for the Gretna Riverfront Concert Series.

Once again, we were able to listen to the Charlie Daniels Band from our kitchen.  And as heretical as this thought might be, I think Amanda Shaw might be a better fiddler than Charlie Daniels.  Sorry.

I went back Sunday night for one more show: Frankie Ford.

Frankie is a 1950s rock and roll pioneer and native of Gretna.  More than 40 years ago, I played his 45 rpm record "Sea Cruise" on my little record player.  It was from my dad's collection of late '50s singles (some of which he used to play on his custom-mounted record player on the hump of his '57 Chevy).  "Sea Cruise" stood out like a sore thumb to a five-year old.  It had a white label with an ace of spades on it.  It opened up with a bell, a saxophone riff, and a crazy singer with a yodelly voice.  "Hoo-wee, baby!"  I think that record was in a close competition with Chuck Berry's "Maybelline" for my favorite of the bunch.

Little did I know that 40 years later I would live in Gretna and would walk from my house to the Mississippi River to see Frankie Ford perform "Sea Cruise" live.

He missed last year's Heritage Festival as he was in the hospital.  Frankie Ford is only 70 years old, but his health seems to be very frail at this time.  He was escorted to and from the stage by two men who helped him walk.  But his big voice is still there, as well as his quick sense of humor and masterful showmanship.  Seated at an electronic keyboard with his trademark long keyboard-styled scarf, his bony gold-ringed fingers can still make the ivories rise and fall with precision.  He hits the notes with verve and joy while gleefully sipping on a beer in between numbers.  And the crowd loved it!  I got to shake his hand after the show, as local Gretna folks conversed with him about where they grew up, dropping names of common friends.

Here is some video that I shot, including "Sea Cruise" and "You Talk Too Much."

I still have no idea what this line from "Sea Cruise" means:

I gotta keep a-rockin', get my hat off the rack
I gotta boogie-woogie like a knife's in my back

Maybe I'll get a chance to ask Frankie Ford at next year's Gretna Heritage Festival.  I'm already looking forward to it, hoo-wee, baby!

1 comment:

Mike Green said...

If Amanda Shaw's fiddling prowess outshines Charlie Daniels', wouldn't the devil have challenged her to a showdown by now?

If you want to know what it means to boogie-woogie like there's a knife in your back, just watch the disco scene in AIRPLANE:

(at about 2:10)