050214 Drive-By Truckers, New Orleans, LA

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The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is a marathon; as soon as the festival grounds close down for the day a staggering lineup of after-shows are on offer throughout the city with concerts starting at 9pm, midnight, 2am…some places have shows that start as late as four or five in the morning.   

May 2, 2014; this show started early.  I remember that I was in the balcony, after that things get vague.  There was a conveniently situated bar up there; the staff was working fast and pouring the drinks ridiculously strong.  I ordered my first Jack and Coke and was shocked at what the bartender handed me.  I sipped off as much as I could and handed the cup back to her.  

“Just to be clear, I hope you pour my drinks this strong all night,” I implored her, “But would you mind topping this up with a little more Coke?”

The Drive-By Truckers are a hard-hitting whiskey drinking band to start with, and supplementing that with a steady parade of overpoured bourbons only made things better.  And fuzzier.  After the show I staggered out of there raging for more.  Grabbed a couple of carry-out Hand Grenades along Bourbon Street and made my way to Frenchmen Street to find more live music.

(Interesting fact: the Hand Grenade is the most aptly-named drink on planet Earth.  The devastating cocktail was originally called a Head Exploder but the name was deemed too obvious and was changed at the last minute.)

I found myself in a craft-beer place with a small stage and a band rocking away, and there on the dance floor was the new bass player for the Drive-By Truckers.  He was alone so I went over and introduced myself.  I bought him a beer and made the mistake of passing it to him over the head of a short man standing between us.  Drunk as I was, of course I spilled some beer on the tiny stranger’s head.

In retrospect I don’t think sloppily wiping the beer off the guy’s head helped matters much.

Anyway, dude wanted to fight, I bought him a beer, and we all went back to our own narratives.  The bass player came with me to another bar, probably two or three more bars actually, and just before sunrise he followed me back to my hotel where we joined a dozen of my friends chilling in their suite.

The weird thing was, well, the bass player himself.  All he said all night was, “I play the bass.  It’s what I do.  I travel around and I play the bass.”  Like, you would try to start a conversation: So, do you have any brothers or sisters? and the response would invariably be, “I play the bass.  It’s what I do…”

Eventually I got him to follow me downstairs and I gave a cabbie $20 to take him away on what was shaping up to be a gloriously sunny New Orleans morning.

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