ALEX MCMURRAY

Diary

05.31.2012

Another Jazz fest

Well goddamn…It's been a few years now without a diary update and I have no excuses or apologies. Suffice it to say it just wasn't in the cards. The past 2 years have been a non-stop shit-fight and make no mistake. Mr. Sanchez likes to quote the great Louis Armstrong who always remembered to remind folks that all he wanted to do was keep his little "hustle" going. Well, the Jazz Fest has grown some real time-fangs for Yours Truly and on this Monday After Jazz Fest I can safely say I feel like I've gone 185 rounds with Sonny Liston. Which is debatable, I'm sure, but while I can sit here and listen to the dust settle outside my window and hear the tanker trucks pierce the night as they fly down Saint Claude, and feel my sacral plate recline into this chair and the whiskey loosen my typing fingers, and hear the air conditioner whine for the first time this year up in the bedroom where my wife lies in blissful, catatonic, doggedly-earned slumber, I can at least say that we have won the battle as well as the war for another year. The rains have come. The planet is right there in space where it was a year, or two years, ago. It is not hard to hear the rhythm. The rain comes very slow and the traffic is almost drowned out by the frogs.

 

There is a song by Blue Oyster Cult called "Veteran Of The Psychic Wars", which history will not be kind to, but which has one of the coolest titles around and which might resonate with all who have enlisted in the mercenary force that both staffs and attends the New Orleans Jazz And Heritage Festival. Now I am not one of these Wilt Chamberlains of the Music Sport--I hear Simon Lott on Saturday had 34 gigs --34!!! The most I ever had was, I think, 5, and this year no more than 3 in a day, but we put on this music festival right in the middle of the whole thing which is like running for congress the week your term paper is due--pure insanity. I have many many friends who work much harder--the ones in the bar business especially, and they have a certain toughness to them that is hard to match. They are truly on the front lines. The goddamn infantry. Hearts and minds and hopes and dreams littered all down Royal Street to Frenchmen and Beyond. The other night I saw a barback with his index finger duct-taped to his belt with an ice pack--the ambulance was fighting its way through the Quarter to bring him somewhere to be reattached. I saw--with my own eyes--a door guy run through with a scabbard. No shit! He lay over a table bleeding while a party of 20 retirees from Winnetka, Illinois wearing Jimmy Buffett lanyards trampled him, but not before they took his belt, with which they proceeded to whip the manager because the bar didn't offer Coors Light. There are heroes everywhere…The cabbies are like paratroopers landing in jungle after jungle often miles from the target and no friendlies for miles. To say nothing of those poor souls in the hotels--they are like the doomed crews in a thousand Hindenburgs…These are the veterans of the Psychic Wars--your waiters and busboys, runners and dishwashers, cab-wallahs, stagehands, volunteers and cops who grit their teeth and summon from somewhere deep inside that ability to SMILE in the face of this adversity, ENJOY this invasion and occupation…because hell…this is the business we've CHOSEN…

 

So of course I have no reason to complain and I am not complaining at all but you see the nature of the beast is that it demands total attention and it is physically demanding and psychically rigorous. One is rehearsing with bands for weeks leading up to the festival to prepare for performances that will happen only once. The intensity doesn't begin with the opening of the gates on the first Friday--it has been going on for weeks and months… It is the Great Harvest, and all hands have been in the fields so long they cant remember why…even going back to the winter and the fall…It is true for both musicians and club owners and restauranteurs and even Mr. Quint himself. The trick is to make the hay while the sun shines, and the sun is a known liar. And as I am sure Mr. Q or any dirt farmer can tell you--you must have the seed ready and the right kind of rain. The shoulder to the wheel and your hand upon your Bible or whatever it is you trust because now it is nut-crunching time…


So...here is the summer again and not a moment too soon. The heat has landed like a lead potato with extra butter and sour cream. So be it. It keeps the riff raff away. Into each life a little peace and quiet must fall. At least once in a while. Come down to the Saturn Bar some Thursday and we can discuss it. Just not tonight.

 

And perhaps you are stretching out your legs as I am and keeping the radio off and listening to the tires in the rain on the highway. And like me you are hearing the city start to sleep. And perhaps like me you are feeling those first stirrings of sleep and the time is coming for you to put up the tools and lay out the laundry and find the summer clothes and the work clothes will go away until we get back here again next year. This spot in space where we all meet each Spring.