Tag Archives: Kermit Ruffins

New Orleans Festivals

Hop Across the River for More Culture and Entertainment at Gretna Fest

gretna fest


 Encompassing 25 blocks of Gretna on the river, Gretna Hertitage Fest celebrates 19 years of food, music and culture this year on Friday, Oct. 4th (3 p.m. to 11 p.m.), Saturday Oct. 5th (12 p.m. to 11 p.m.) and Sunday, Oct 6th (12 p.m. to 9 p.m.).

This festival packs every city block with food and arts and crafts vendors plus seven stages delivering great live music from start to finish. The event is perfect for the whole family with amusement park rides and special entertainment for the kids. And, being right on the Mississippi River, attendees can enjoy the cool breeze on a hopefully warm, but not hot, October weekend.

Certain designated areas specifically celebrate a particular culture. For example, the German Beer Garden offers authentic German food and beer, including bratwurst, sauerkraut, hot pretzels, German apple cake and German beer, wines and Schnapps. There will even be a ceremonial keg provided by local brewer Heiner Brau that will be tapped at 5 p.m. in honor of the official opening of the Oktoberfest season.

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New Orleans Music

A Tribute to “Uncle Lionel Batiste”

Uncle Lionel playing the drum

Treme Brass Band

As everybody in New Orleans knows by now, “Uncle” Lionel Batiste, bass drummer for Treme’ Brass Band in New Orleans, 81, died on Sunday, July 8 after a brief bout with prostate cancer.  “Uncle” Lionel had become a poster boy for the resurgent New Orleans music scene in the last few years since Hurricane Katrina.  Long, lean, dapper, perpetually snappily dressed with a trademark gold cross and wristwatch worn over his knuckles, “Uncle” Lionel sauntered around the French Quarter and Frenchmen Street.  He was the face on the New York City Times Square banner for Spike Lee’s Hurricane Katrina documentary, “If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise.”  His image graced the 2010 Congo Square poster for New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell, and of course, for the historic Treme’ neighborhood bicentennial poster. It’s 200 years in 2012 since the country’s oldest historic African-American neighborhood was founded.

But more than becoming a visual icon of New Orleans, “Uncle” Lionel was a consummate musician and mentor to many younger musicians.  The Treme’ Brass Band’s weekly gig on Wednesdays at the Candlelight Lounge in Treme’ became a hipster and tourist destination after HBO’s “Treme’” TV show began running in 2009,  but there was nothing touristy about the music, or the joy that the music brought.  “Uncle” Lionel was a direct link to an earlier time in New Orleans, when traditional brass band music wasn’t even especially well-known outside of New Orleans.  It grew out of the neighborhoods, and it was handed down in the old-school way, by the “older” guys teaching the younger ones.  If you want to hear “Uncle” Lionel playing and singing, Treme’ Brass Band records are available at Louisiana Music Factory, 210 Decatur St. in New Orleans, and for download at www.locobop.com.   Sound of New Orleans, www.soundofneworleans.com,  recently re-released its 1980s recording of Treme’ Brass Band, “I Got a Big Fat Woman,” and it’s about as authentic as you can get.

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New Orleans Music

“Joy” on Canal Street

Renewal of Downtown Theater Industry brings “Joy” to Canal Street.  As 2011 came to a close, the New Orleans’ entertainment circuit gained an exciting addition with the reopening of the Joy Theater, located at 1200 Canal Street. Its history as a popular movie theater, opening in 1947 with the screening of “Lover Come Back” starring Lucille Ball, ended in 2003, facing competition from multiplex cinemas and suffering damaging flooding during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The $5 million renovations to the theater have kept close to the original exterior plans and include state of the art sound and light systems, as well as wider seats and elevators. The new Joy is a multi-purpose venue available for concerts, theatre arts, private events, and move screenings, and kicked off with an electrifying performance from the “Soul Queen of New Orleans” herself, Irma Thomas, on December 29. The New Year’s Eve celebration featured local favorite Kermit Ruffins and the Barbeque Swingers.

In related news, plans for the reconstruction of the Saenger Theatre on Canal Street have been announced following financial approval. Construction will begin in the New Year, with plans to reopen in 2013 as a venue for touring Broadway productions, dance, and music. All of this good news points to a coming revitalization of the former downtown theater district where aesthetics and décor pay homage to the heyday of these historic buildings and the picture show culture of the past!

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New Orleans Music

Let the Good Times Bowl

While millions of tourists flock to New Orleans each year for the fun, food, and music, only the locals know that Mid-City staple Rock ‘N’ Bowl has it all — including an authentic New Orleans experience you just can’t find on Bourbon Street.

Still sporting many of the decorations and memorabilia from 1958, when neighboring Pelican Stadium accounted for most of the business, this late-night hot spot has a vib all its own. Rock ‘N’ Bowl’s 18 bowling lanes are complimented by a stage and dance floor, a menu of bar-style treats with a Cajun twist, and a fully stocked bar.

Like New Orleans itself, Rock ‘N’ Bowl is a unique mixture of old and young, generational residents and new transplants, serious bowlers and…the rest of us. I personally find it hard to care about the five pins still standing when Kermit Ruffins or the Iguanas or the Bucktown Allstars take the stage. It’s not unusual for a favorite band or song to send perfectly dressed jitterbuggers spilling off the dance floor and into the pits or even to catch a couple of regulars waltzing on the bar.

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