050314 Bruce Springsteen, New Orleans, LA

Posted by

I woke up on May 3rd, 2014 feeling very, very rough.  The night before was a collection of fuzzy French Quarter memories that spanned countless bars and hotel rooms and included several main characters that were previously unknown to me.  Shading my bleary eyes from the oh-so-cruel sunbeams streaming into the hotel room, my tired mind tried to make sense of the clock, which inexplicable read 4:00.

Fortunately m’lady was there to explain it to me.  “We’ve been asleep for six hours.  If we don’t get up right now we’re going to miss jazzfest.”

There was a long, thoughtful pause that would have put me mercifully back to sleep save for a question that started nagging my brain.

“Today’s not…” I started, low and quiet like a mongoose stuck in a leg trap.  “…It’s not Springsteen today is it?”

“Yes, it’s Springsteen today and he starts in an hour,” she said.  “Are you coming or not?”

Clearly this was an emergency, and just like a fireman sleeping off a four-alarm fire I had no choice but to answer my call to duty.  With much moaning and complaining I bravely cast aside the healing comfort of the Hilton king-sized bed and launched myself metaphorically down the fireman’s pole, landing in my shorts and heading out the door in search of a taxi, a clean t-shirt and baseball cap standing in for the much-needed shower I had no time for.

This was my first visit to the legendary New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.  I was surprised that the massive grounds of the festival seemed to be in the middle of a residential neighbourhood.  The taxi could only get us so close and we had to walk the last several blocks, weaving along small streets lined with classic NOLA shotgun houses.

At the festival gates we got in easy-peasy and headed straight to Springsteen, bee-lining past booth after booth of fascinating southern delicacies, several stages littered with music and dancing and a thousand short, short beer lines that would have easily garnered my attention on any other day.  We found a few of our friends along the way and together we staked out a spot at the back and exchanged random memories from the night before while we waited for Bruuuuuuce to hit the stage.

The place was packed; everyone was saying that this was biggest crowd they had ever seen at the festival.  Our little corner of Earth was probably two hundred feet from the stage and even that far back we hardly had an inch to move.  The sun was screaming down and I was weary.  I edged through the crowd and found a lonely, almost secret coffee stand and gave it my business.  

Man, that coffee was so good it tasted like an ice-cold beer on a sunny afternoon, and it probably saved me.

In truth Mr. Bruce Springsteen also deserves some credit for getting my blood flowing.  I squeezed back to my posse just in time for the set to start and tired/exhausted/worn/troubled or not, a guy like me just can’t not be invigorated by the power of The E Street Band.  They sound like six-stringed thunder, five powerful guitarists line the front of the stage and create a wall of sound that is formidable.  The drums are the mortar, the horns are barbed wire and the bass is base.  There’s just no escaping this kind of sonic power and they had this tired soul (coffee in hand) locked in.

Rickie Lee Jones sat in for a couple of songs, I remember that, and John Fogerty too.  He did a couple of CCR tunes with Bruce: Green River and Proud Mary, both obvious NOLA choices.

And though the sit-ins were great – especially Fogerty – Springsteen doesn’t actual require any help.  When you can string together an encore with songs like Born To Run, Dancing In The Dark and Thunder Road and deliver with them Bruce force (yeah, I just came up with the term “Bruce force”), well, that’s all you need.  

In a final nod to the amazing locale Bruce included a rousing When The Saints Go Marching In singalong in his encore, sending us all marching out of the festival under the waning sun with a song in our hearts and a bounce in our step (not really, but at least I was still functionally bipedal).  

It was only 7:00pm, and while the festival grounds were now closed for the night there was still plenty of music to hear; this was New Orleans after all.  Personally, I had just enough time for that shower I had been lacking and a quick bite to eat before heading straight to the beautiful Saenger Theatre for the first aftershow of the evening.

But of course that’s another story.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s