While on vacation in New Orleans I hit it off with a retired couple from Toronto that I had met at a Drive-By Truckers show at Tipitina’s. They were singing the praises of a local band that I had never heard of called the Honey Island Swamp Band and further mentioned that the band had a free show coming up. Well, it turns out the show in question was actually an afterparty slated to follow an upcoming Bob Weir concert at the Saenger Theatre – a show I had tickets to but my Toronto friends didn’t – and we made arrangements to meet up for it.
It also turns out that the Honey Island Swamp Band show was one of those ‘ticketed’ free shows, and whattya know, as I was waiting to get in to the Bobby show at the Saenger Theatre on April 18th, 2017 I saw a guy walking through the crowd doling out the free tickets to all interested parties. I stepped up and grabbed four tickets and proceeded to utterly enjoy a fantastic Bob Weir concert comfortable in knowing that I had myself, m’lady and our two new friends covered for the late night segment of the evening.
Excited and giddy from the shockingly great show we had just seen, m’lady and I popped across the street and met Gord and Debbie on the sidewalk outside of the Joy Theatre. Bubbling about the Bob Weir show, I happily dispensed tickets and the four of us went in to what was once the oldest movie house in New Orleans. Of course the seats had been removed long ago, leaving a wide expanse of raked floor facing an old, worn stage. There was a balcony sitting empty overhead and maybe a hundred people scattered around the room when the show started, proving the ticketed element of the event was a bit optimistic and wholly unnecessary.
As soon as the band started it was clear that we were in the right place. Touches of the Allman Brothers blended with a distinct ’70’s Stones vibe and filled the room with booming, straight-ahead rock and roll. I turned to Debbie and Gord and gave them a big thumbs-up. They returned the favour with two big smiles and we all grooved away for the next couple of hours.
With the crowd made up entirely of Dead fans coming over from across the street, of course there were a few freaky people in the audience. One long, tall, long-haired brah spent the show juggling three balls, a skill he was obviously just beginning to acquire. As a guy who knows how to juggle, I can tell you that learning how to do it is anything but relaxing. Toss, toss, drop and chase balls. Toss, toss, toss, drop and chase balls. Toss, drop and chase balls. Toss, toss, drop and chase balls. And each time you drop the balls you get a little more frantic, or at least I always did.
So here was this guy chasing balls all over the large, dark, slanted floor of the Joy Theatre throughout pretty much the whole show. It’s not like it bugged me or anything, as sparse as the crowd was, but I sure found it curious. I actually picked up the balls one of the many times they dropped in my direction and gave them a quick juggle and I found out in a hurry that juggling in a dark room with big, flashing lights is a lot harder than doing it in your backyard on a sunny day. Dude certainly had his work cut out for him.
When the show was over I was so impressed with these NOLA Swampers that I lined up and bought a copy of their album, a record that still gets a fair amount of spins on the home turntable. Good group, this Honey Island Swamp Band, you should check them out.