Jazz Fest Continued: The Best Little “Restival” in New Orleans
Barry Smith is fairly calm for a man nailing down the last-minute details for a special DVD-release event with the members of the HBO hit series "Treme," organizing a still-shifting line-up of presentations and appearances, handing out music advice, and dealing with the fact that the Rebirth Brass Band has just called in to report that a car accident will prevent them from performing a set that was scheduled to start five minutes ago.
Oh, did I mention that Smith's record store, the Louisiana Music Factory, where all this taking place, has been overrun by a hundred or two customers? Some are grasping to-go cups of draft beer from a bar down the street, others clutching an armful of hard-to-find albums grabbed from the store's formidable selection, still others just leaning on a rack in one of the couple rows that run the length of the slender store.
The attention of the invaders -- a generally friendly, attentive, fun-loving lot -- is fixed on a small stage, parallel to a couple rows of CDs that run the length of the slender store.
"This is a music festival right here, isn't it?" says Grammy-winning, 21st-century bluesman Chris Thomas King, whose Louisiana Music Factory date is his only New Orleans appearance during this year's Jazz Fest. King's in-store show -- featuring the dream-inspired "Sketches of Treme" and other material from his grand sounding gem of a new album, "Antebellum Postcard," his first in five years -- is one of about three dozen 45-minute sets at filling five days that flank and fill-in between the two Fest weekends.
A favorite "Restival," one of the events that occurs outside of the New Orleans Jazz Fest, this is the 21st year that the Louisiana Music Factory has offered the in-store appearances that are an annual must for music freaks. It's like having extended, live "CD listening booths," a chance to really find out what top-flight artists are all about as they play just a few feet from our eyes and ears. And they're free, to boot.
Both big-name bands and up-and-coming artists are willing to cram onto the small riser that is set up with a backline of amplifiers and an upright piano to one side that marks the depth of the stage. Even though many of them will have brighter spotlights before tens of thousands at their official Jazz Fest slots, they are still happy to add these intimate sets at their favorite record store. This year the list of artists doing double duty includes Soul Rebels, Chris Thomas King, Little Freddie King, Trombone Shorty, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Galactic, Theresa Andersson, Rebirth Brass Band, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Anders Osborne, Jon Cleary, and Papa Grows Funk, to name a few.