At Jazzfest with A New Orleans Legend
inUncategorizedon April 29, 2014
I was honored to accompany Ironing Board Sam as his road manager for the 45th annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival this past weekend. Tim and I had been working so hard “beading up” Sam, decorating his portable keyboard, and I couldn’t wait to see the crowd’s reaction.
Upon our arrival we basked in the muggy salt air while waiting for our shuttle to our Canal Street Hotel. Sam was excited to be back even though he seems to have mixed emotions about the city he lived in for almost 20 years. I am not one to pry but I can only imagine some of the highs and lows Sam experienced as a musician on Bourbon Street. Later that day we headed to the Bywater to for a photoshoot with photographer Michael Weintrob for his InstrumentHead series.
The next day we headed to the festival. On the ride there Sam questioned the driver, a life long New Orleanian, about the status of certain neighborhoods and bars, and heard that most were still struggling due to Katrina.
At the festival we waited in Sam’s dressing room for his time to go on stage, and during our wait all the other legendary New Orleans bluesmen popped in to give their respects to Sam. Most of them hadn’t seen him in nearly 25 years but all had played or partied together at some point. The camaraderie shared by these musicians is as unique as New Orleans itself. Most of their conversations pertained to the whereabouts of other New Orleans musicians, many of whom had since passed away.
Before we knew it, it was showtime and Sam headed out to take the stage. As he walked up the stairs Quint Davis, the producer and founding member of Jazzfest, greeted Sam. Sam had mentioned several times on the way to New Orleans that he would really like to see Quint and chat, and was so excited when Quint did in fact come and visit with him. Sam talked about their brief meeting the whole way home.
Sam took the stage and the show was on FIRE. Literally, during his set drummer Kerry Brown ignited his drumsticks and closed the set out while Sam walked from the stage into the crowd with his fully portable, glitter covered, mardi gras beaded keyboard. Seeing the faces of the audience when Sam pulled his keyboard from the stand and dropped it down, so they could truly behold how beaded up it was, thrilled me. They were in awe.
The show was incredible and the crowd went insane as Sam walked through the crowd with his new keyboard, playing as he shook hands with audience members.
On the way home we were both still riding the wave of excitement from the show. Sam turned to me and said, “I may be 76, but after a show like that I feel like I’m 35.”