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Enjoy the Stairs, My Friend

Hello, friends! Rob here.

I did something out of character this Jazz Fest: I skipped town. A close friend of mine recently relocated to Louisville, and although the Kentucky Derby always overlaps with the second weekend of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, I actually didn't have any official business second weekend of Jazzfest (this awesome thing happened on very short notice and I regret missing it), so I figured the hell with it. The guys on the trip all purchased loudly-patterned novelty suits (I'm trying to avoid dropping brand names because this isn't sponcon- although if Blue Apron or whatever wants to offer me money to fabricate a story about how meal kit delivery saved my marriage, I'm all ears) and we all had a great time being wet morons at the Derby, which turned out to be a sublime mix of classy and trashy.

When the trip was still in the planning phase, my wife's co-workers had warned her against buying tickets for the infield (the field inside the track, which is the only sub-$400 option) because it was "just a bunch of people getting drunk and partying all day and you can only kind of see the races." Upon hearing that advice, we immediately and enthusiastically purchased infield tickets. It was pretty much a music festival- mud, crazy outfits, overpriced drink stands, mud, sponsor tents, port-a-potties, mud- but substitute the bands you've never heard of with weird names for horses you've never heard of with weird names. To give you a good idea of what my Derby experience was like, I have included a video from the Louisville Courier-Journal where correspondent Marty Pearl masterfully deadpans his way through a montage of drunk people slipping in mud and jumping on port-a-potties like he's narrating a documentary about the indigenous peoples of Borneo. If you keep your eyes peeled, you can catch me making a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo in the B-roll:

BRIEF SIDEBAR: When I was a kid, I was horrified by the phrase "keep your eyes peeled." It still sounds gross when I think about it.

I flew into Louisville a few hours ahead of the rest of the gang, so my friend took me to a bar near his house which locals had warned him was "dangerous" and "the kind of place where you'll get stabbed." Long story short, unless you can get stabbed by a one-dollar jello shot or a row of HDTVs hooked up to video game consoles, this was not a dangerous place.

I think a good rule of thumb is that when someone tells you to avoid an establishment because it's "bro-y" or "full of douchebags," steer clear. But when someone tells you to avoid a bar because it's"sketchy" or "dangerous," nine times out of ten that just means it's a low-key establishment where experienced drinkers flock in order to get stoned quietly and without having to pay a surcharge for "atmosphere." The tenth time, you're going to come away with a decent story.

Actually, what the heck- here are some patented ROB INGRAHAM LIFE GUIDELINES:

-When dining out, always read the whole menu. You can become the envy of many a dinner table by taking a few extra seconds to read the descriptions of dishes that don't immediately catch your eye.

-There's always time to say "please" and "thank you" (oh God it's true I'm turning into my parents).

-If you're getting ready to do something smelly in a bathroom, and that bathroom has a fan, TURN THE FAN ON. How is this not a thing? Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person on earth who understands that if a bathroom smells bad and it has a fan, you can use the fan to make it not smell bad anymore.

-Unless you have a good excuse, avoid escalators.  The stairs are usually faster and they will make you INVINCIBLE. (results may vary)

Anyway. JazzFest is gone, the dust has settled, we've had some time to recover, and here we are once again trying to sift through the rubble and get on with our lives.  We're back on the road now, and I'll be sure to write about this week of shows sometime in July.  Aside from a star-studded Rumpelsteelskin performance at NOLA Brewing, I didn't do much moonlighting this JazzFest, so I guess I'll have to actually talk about The Revivalists for a bit (weird, right?):

About ten years ago, I was fortunate enough to fall in with this crowd of musicians. I wasn't exactly Mark Wahlberg in Rock Star, but I had been a fan for a while at that point, so I jumped at the opportunity and I'm glad to say I haven't squandered it yet. That first year was a whirlwind of beautiful, confounding, "is this real life?' moments, which culminated at our first ever appearance at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2010. We opened the Gentilly Stage at roughly eleven in the morning. (Bit of a time capsule: I wrote a recap of that experience back when this blog was hosted exclusively on MySpace.  If I recall correctly, I spent most of that entry shaking my fist at Eyjafjallajökull, the Icelandic volcano that erupted and shut down air travel throughout western Europe, which caused my parents to miss the show on account of being stuck overseas. In the French countryside. Poor them.)

In the intervening nine years, we've made eight more appearances  at the Jazzfest (including 2019), seven of which were on the Gentilly Stage.  Jazzfest has always served as a watermark of sorts.  I am reminded of when my siblings and I were kids, and our mom would track our growth by marking our height on the wall next to the refrigerator with a pencil. I'm not going to do the work required to verify whether this is true or not, but it's plausible that, over the years, we've played every time slot on Gentilly.  It has been a long, meaningful relationship, and to headline that stage after years of steady climbing was, well-

Every once in a while, I have these moments I call "beautiful house" moments- as in, "this is not my beautiful house. Where is that large automobile. How did I get here?" I'm probably misinterpreting the lyrics, but I always identified with that sense of bewilderment, of looking around and suddenly realizing "wait, this isn't a dream." Our journey has always been one of gradual progress, of steady erosion. Think Andy DuFresne with a pant leg full of gravel. It's easy to get lost in the grind, and I've found it helps to step back and take stock every once in a while. Why hike up a mountain if you don't get to enjoy the view from up high?

The point is, I don't really know how we got here.  I'm pretty sure we took the stairs.

We also had a between-weekends show at the recently-opened Fillmore New Orleans, which, while less of a historic milestone, was a lot of fun. Just a classic Jazzfest show with a great crowd and special guests out the wazoo: Anjelika "Jelly" Joseph and Josh Kagler, The Naughty Horns, Pete Murano, Nate Werth, and Roosevelt Collier.

After Jazzfest, the band took an old-fashioned road trip up to Muscle Shoals, AL to capture some live in-studio performances at historic Fame Studios. I don't want to talk too much about the session itself, because sooner or later you'll probably be able to watch footage of most of it, along with approximately seventeen hours' worth of B-roll of us eating tacos and fiddling with our headphone mixes. But I will say that it was really cool to get into a place like that and walk in the footprints of absolute titans like Aretha Franklin, Duane Allman, Etta James, King Curtis, and the bad guy coach from The Waterboy. Anyway, Fame Studios is amazing.

The friend whose thing I'm plugging today is Andy Frasco and the U.N.! They opened our show at the Fillmore and by the time they were done, there was barely any stage left to play on because they just about burned the dang thing to the ground. If you haven't heard of them, they are absolutely nuts and you should jump at any opportunity to catch them live because their shows look like this:

Phew. I need to sit down. This won't be news to everyone reading, but our very own David Shaw recently appeared on Andy's World Saving Podcast  and shit got real. If you've ever wondered why Dave is "never going back to Snake 'n Jake's," all is revealed, and then some. Incidentally, Frasco starts this same episode with a bewildered Jazzfest debrief that really conveys the kinetic, chaotic energy of the week.  I'll leave you with an embed that will probably work and a raw link below in case it doesn't.