So, it's the second weekend of the Fest, and you were gonna see the Stones. Too bad, so sad. You settled for Fleetwood Mac-guess again. Now they say it's gonna be Widespread Panic. You know what I say? Who the !@#$%^&* knows? Another ancient throwback, mystical million-dollar regression music experience? Another "legendary" white group? Euterpe only knows. I'm having a hard time coming up with anyone still alive from those lifetimes ago-music mania monster band days that would fit the bill. Of course, only me, your mama, and possibly your granma remember that far back-when dinosaurs and rockers walked amongst us, singing, dancing, making love, and wreaking havoc with the established establishment.
Suffice it to say that during those years, minimum wage was pitiful, but everything was cheaper, and there really wasn't anything to spend money on anyway. That's why it was called the generation of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, because besides rent, transportation, and food, there was nothing else to spend money on. Besides, we hitchhiked everywhere, skated on rents, and ate what grew by the side of the road-sometimes dirt. Oh, there was fashion, of course, but who knew what that was?
In New Orleans in those days, my rent was $60.00; the bus was a dime; phone calls (phone booths?), a nickel; and a plate of red and white beans and rice at Buster Holmes' in the French Quarter, a whopping 37 cents! Bands played for free in the public parks. We had coffee houses with folk singers instead of Wi-Fi and free clinics. New Orleans was a candy store, and the kids were in charge. What did we know? We knew nothing.
We knew that there was racism, sexism, crooked politicians, inequality, and armed conflicts started by men who would never see the battlefield. But as old folks are apt to say, "Business as usual." We thought that we could change the world through our music and loving vibrations; what happened was that most of us turned into our parents.
Now we have the Fest: eight days of peace, love, music, and mud (sound familiar?). Will we have another group that will blow the roof off the stage, whose combined ages are also about three centuries, and who have collectively been playing rock-and-roll music for 200 of those years? Not likely. For sure, the food booths won't stop serving at 4:00 p.m., and other performers will be performing.
Fortunately, the Rolling Mac aren't the only ones who could bring back memories or keep our hands clapping and our booties shaking: Tom Jones, Rita Coolidge, Mavis Staples, Los Lobos, Diana Ross, John Prine, Aaron Neville, Ziggy Marley, Gladys Knight, Cowboy Mouth, and other geezers will also perform this weekend. This will be the weekend of the performers who not only know HOW to play; they will be the guys who know WHY to play and WHY we love this music and who can tell you where it came from. Forget it-you probably wouldn't believe them.
On the local front, the Dixie Cups, Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, Frogman Henry, Big Sam, Irma Thomas, John Boutte, and Walter "Wolfman" are here, there, and everywhere. Indians comin'! Betta git out the way! Oom Ma Lay Cootie Fiyo and a Hey Pocky Way!
What? Oh, you only came for Mick and the group? You weren't here last week? You didn't have the quail, pheasant, and andouille gumbo? No praline-stuffed beignets? You sacrificed for the Stones? I'm sorry. However, as the immortal Roger Miller once sang, "You can't roller skate in a buffalo herd. But you can be happy if you've a mind to."
Here's a question for the folks who will miss seeing the Rolling Stones. Will you really miss them? My answer is yes and no, but I've already seen 'em. So, next question: What's your hurry? Slow down; you move too fast. The Fest has never been a hit-and-run kind of thing. Circle back around, breathe deep, have a seat, take a load off, take another day off. This will be the safest place, other than a bunker, that you'll ever be, especially surrounded by this many people. After realizing that you might quite possibly be the last generation to walk this planet, don't you think that you should pause to listen to the music, savor the moment, smell the horse manure, stand in line patiently?
True story: There was a lad of 19 sitting on a couch, with his grandparents on either side of him, watching television in their trailer, when a boulder dropped from the hillside behind them, crashing through the roof and killing him instantly. The grandpa got a broken arm; granny got nary a scratch. The kid is history. Guess who doesn't live here anymore? See how it goes?
I have four forms of employment-four jobs. Each of my employers knows that during Jazz Fest, I am in absentia, not available, lost to communication, no call, no show. If you want me, I'll be at the Fest. Come find me and bring me something cold to drink. Say nothing. I got nothing to say, nothing to show, nowhere else that I want to be, and nothing else I want to do. Needless to say, I'm not gonna be sitting on a couch watching TV, and there's no hillside behind me from which a boulder can drop. If the gods want me, I'll be at Angelo Brocato's stand, getting spumoni. I'll take my chances.
Listen, sure, it's bucks, and the whole weather, crowd, toilet confusion thing might be daunting. Is it worth having days in your life whose memories will last and last? I believe it is. So, call in and take days off and get down with the rest of us for the Fest of us. Live life like the best of us.