A lifetime ago, I worked as a counter server slinging lattes at PJ’s on Maple St. I was a punk 19 year-old kid that found a fun group to grow in, my co-workers a lot like family—many of whom are still today only an email away or closer. We had a shorthand as close compatriots often do and inside jokes too of course.
We’d often go out together, drinking, catching a show. But none of us, not one of us, really, truly dug Motorhead—at least not enough to go to see them play live. But we had a little fabricated vignette we would trot out periodically specifically about Lemmy. And that was, if only he’d do a set in one of our living rooms while we sat couchside, then, yes, we’d go. That was over 20 years ago, and damn if I don’t regret never having seen Motorhead now.
Same for David Bowie and Glenn Frey. The closest I ever got to Bowie, apart from this past Saturday’s second line, was back in 2001 viewing some of his wardrobe effects displayed on exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Just amazing. And Glenn Frey? I skipped the Eagles playing JazzFest in 2012. Why? No reason. Maybe it was a Saturday? Those Saturday crowds can be a bear and flat out unenjoyable. And all that’s done too. I think Beck is slated for second Saturday this year, and I can’t say definitively I’ll endure the crowd to see him. But thankfully I already have. Most recently at his House of Blues gig and prior to that? Opening night of Midnite Vultures in Austin, Texas back in 2000. Hank III opened, and a delightful evening was had by all. Now that was a good drum break.
Aside from planning, time, and logistics, going to shows takes money, and I haven’t always had two nickels to rub together. Especially, I don’t know, when one starts having kids and maybe a recession hits. Let’s just say, discretionary funds quickly become a desirable concept and ends there. Thankfully, winning tickets from WTUL or WWOZ to whatever show rubberstamped the way any music got seen. Even before that though, as a skinny teenager walking home from work each day with but a couple of bucks in tip money, I had to use my live music dollars discernibly. Why, back in 1993 I recall the conundrum of conundrums of the grunge kind: Pearl Jam was coming to town touring VS, but so was Nirvana with In Utero. I only had enough scratch for one show and had already seen PJ at Lollapalooza. So I went with Nirvana. And guess who’s not headlining JazzFest this year? The late Kurt Cobain, that’s who.
That said, will I go see Eddie Vedder et al in a few weeks? Meh, maybe, but I’m going with doubtful. They’re playing the first Saturday, and JazzFest Saturdays remain the aforementioned ursine, er, bear-like, remember? And I done seen PJ, albeit in 1992 and then in 2003, when *swoon* Sleater-Kinney opened, S-K being my primary motivation to attend that show. I don’t know. I’m more of a JazzFest Thursday kind of guy anyway. Local’s day: notably less crowded, and this year, headliners include Tedeschi Trucks Band & Friends and Elvis Costello & The Imposters. Hold my calls. To be sure, ever since Fleetwood Mac packed’em in at the fairgrounds whatever day it was a few years back, I’ve pretty much sworn off any JazzFest weekend day.
Adding to the list of lost artists in recent weeks, this morning I awake to find the inimitable Leslie Nielsen has passed. Another blow to the ranks of stage and screen, this on the heels of Alan Rickman’s passing. In a town that celebrates death as much as life, New Orleanians know how to raise a glass and tribute better and more than most. Honestly, how many cities of our density boast not one, but multiple encore screenings of Labyrinth? I’m guessing none. But let’s pump the brakes on this whole waking up to find another dead artist for a bit. That, and as ‘OZ reminds its listeners many times a day, “You know what you got to do baby, get out there, support, and enjoy some live local music!” Go out and get yours New Orleans, before there’s no more to be gotten. The lesson remains: Lemmy never did play couchside.
Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty on Freret Street and a married father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at UptownMessenger.com, he also shares his family’s adventures sometimes via pedicab or bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.