April 30th, 2014 was very close to the start of the first of what has become my annual pilgrimage to the womb of music: New Orleans*. I was there for a friend’s 40th birthday party along with a myriad of other friends from all over North America and together we formed an impressively raging crew of happy hardcore live music fanatics that tended to travel en masse from one show to another buying rounds of craft beers and high-fiving each other a lot after key solos and/or tequila shots.
Which is how I ended up patronizing The Howlin’ Wolf for the first time. The small, classic bar was hosting quite a lineup of nearly-well-known musicians in their cozy, nondescript square live music space in the back of the venue, a lineup that included Fishbone’s Norwood Fisher, Ween’s Dave Dreiwitz, Marco Benevento, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and tons more (as can be seen on the bar’s handbill that stands in for an online ticket stub-that-wasn’t in my ticket album), but the only really distinct image that I can conjure up from this show is that of Stanton Moore leading his band from behind his drum kit. I don’t know if I had ever seen Moore play before – it’s very possible that I’ve seen him backing up someone along the way – but I sure saw him this time.
His comfort and command behind the kit was obvious from the first note, but what really stands out in my memory is Stanton’s confidence conducting a thrown-together ensemble of highly talented musicians through a slimly-rehearsed (if at all) long, long set of music. He was the obvious standout in a stacked roster of talent and I walked away from the show with a staggering amount of respect for him as a drummer, as a bandleader, and as an all-around musician.
I suppose there’s a chance that by the time the epic lineups were all through for the night my respect wasn’t the only thing that was staggering. Fortunately I was staying at the Hilton just a block or two away so travelling wouldn’t have been too arduous regardless of the method or condition of said travel.
Anyway, it was a great night out hearing great music with great people all around me, and it ushered in a fantastical Groundhog Day-like week of doing basically the same thing every night with basically the same people, with just enough variance (musical and otherwise) to keep it endlessly entertaining.
*I had visited the Big Easy once before this – for a couple of days way back in the early ’90’s sometime – but that was during the madness that is Mardi Gras and I was a poor student travelling with literally no money, so aside from having one of the greatest times of my young life on the journey I didn’t get to really appreciate the city hardly at all.