ALEX MCMURRAY

Diary

06.10.2013

2013 Chaz Fest Wrap Up

Rain Threatens

Well it's been over a month so I guess it's about time to do the post-mortem on the 2013 Chaz Fest. The story this year begins and ends with the rain. We had several days of biblical amounts of the stuff leading up to Mayday, and the ground was thoroughly saturated. On Tuesday some of the forecast models were predicting 2+ inches for the day of the festival. All one can do at this point is shake one's head in dismay. There is nothing more fundamental than the weather with outdoor music festivals. We've been doing this a few years now and have heard plenty of horror stories of rain wiping out one or two day music festivals in places like Wilmington, NC, etc, leaving the promoters holding the bag for all the infrastructure--stages, sound systems, lights, toilets, fencing that they have rented and paid people to set up. Not to mention the deposits they have laid out to the bands. Now they are facing bankruptcy and ruin. We are a rain-or-shine event and know the risks and are prepared to go forward in everything short of gale force winds and horizontal sheets of water. People don't generally want to be outside in these conditions however and this will be reflected at the box office, or in our case the folding table in the driveway. This was definitely front and center in our minds as we waited for a window where the stage guy could load in on Tuesday. There was pretty heavy rain on and off all day and Mike Biagas (stage guy) tried a few times to time his set up for a few hours that it wasn't pissing down rain. He finally got in around 5 or 6 and got everything set up. Of course the sound crew wanted to get their stuff in after the stage was ready, but that was not to be and they ended up rolling it all in through the muck to stash it under tarps in the big shed, which meant that we had to work around these huge piles of stuff. Kourtney and Robin Denney and Dannal Perry were finishing up the signs and that was the only dry spot so it was a little tight. They managed to do that and get the lights up and then it was time to go to bed and dream about rain.

 

Next morning we awoke around 7am to get everything in place for the day. The weather forecast was pretty ominous but did not call for 100% chance of rain so we kept our fingers crossed. As Jeff Treffinger and I set up the PA on the side stage I looked up to see a sight I will not soon forget. Right above where I was standing I saw a hole in the clouds I saw a blue hole. I even took a picture of it. Next I saw a beam of light shining down. The sun! People started shouting. I was just finishing up with the PA so I hooked up my phone to do a line check. The song that came up on my itunes was the Easy Star All Stars "Getting Better" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHNSVbJMrXA which I promptly cranked up good and loud. Right away things were looking up, but the heavy black clouds full of rain that surrounded this ray of hope told us to seal everything in heavy plastic. It was around then that T.S. O'Grady returned with a few bales of hay which we spread around over the lower and muddier elevations. Things actually started looking pretty good. Rob Davis had his crew going strong and the main PA went up in record time. I don't know where he finds these guys, halfway houses, bus stations, burn wards or methadone clinics, but they work like oxen and are totally fearless. I think they would lash themselves to treetops in a lightning storm if he asked them to--Good guys to have on your side in a pinch. The beer showed up as did the ice, Pete and Jenny were rolling with their crew from The Joint, the merch booth was taking shape, all the Truck Farmers were putting the finishing touches on their setups. We got a light sprinkling between 11 and 12, but that was pretty much it for the rest of the day. 

 

Around 11 people started showing up. It seems the same people come at 11am every year. It's like a point of pride to them. I guess they want to pick the best spot. Now, I thought all the bands were great this year but when I look back at the lineup I see that the first two bands, The Stacks and The Glorioskis shine very brightly in the memory. I must have apologized to Steve Walkup and the other guys in The Stacks a dozen times for having to put them on first (for reasons too many to go into here), but they came out guns blazing and played 45 minutes of the best rock and roll I've heard at any lunch time or any time. Opening Chaz Fest is not an easy job, but these guys got the still-small crowd revved up and ready to go and were a hit with everyone. Next were The Glorioskis, a trio comprised of Helen Gillet, Debbie Davis and Myshkin, three pretty disparate artists performing together, I think, for the first time. Their voices are all quite different but fit quite well together and they are all very clear singers. The instrumentation of cello, guitar and ukulele makes a lot of sense sonically. The songs and arrangements were a hoot and the folks loved them.

 

Los Poboycitos did a great boogaloo-type of dance set, which I could hear but not see because I was busy getting set up to play with the unflappable Greg Schatz. Schatzy has played every Chaz Fest and is almost like an institution by now. He did mostly stuff from his now CD "Where The River Meets The Railroad Tracks" and it was, all in all, a lot of fun. I love playing with Greg  because he's so fucking chill that it's hard to get uptight, which is a good thing for me at Chazfest. Truth Universal was next but by this time I was in full Mini-Quint mode--walking around really fast putting out small fires and fetching things for people. Shaking hands and trying to kiss my wife now and then. I was able to get some pretty good pictures of Truth and his crew and was glad to see the audience responding well to our first-ever hip hop act. Later on he told me they had an excellent time and was interested in using the Truck Farm for a hip hop event. I wonder if that will happen?

 

Next up was the now-legendary Geraniums set. Tom Marron was unable to play fiddle and harp like he usually does, so I was enlisted to fill that considerable chair. I can't find the setlist anywhere but the band came out rocking harder than I can remember them ever doing. Brendan sounded strong and Treffinger was channelling I don't even know what. The pictures that I've seen of this Geraniums set all feature Jeff's face contorted in some kind of Peak Moment sort of way. He looks like he's going to explode. Daemon Shea tore a muscle in his arm somewhere in the middle of the set but kept playing anyway. He had a huge flap of muscle sticking out of his bicep like a flipper. I was just along for the ride, really, but these guys played like it was game 7 of the NBA finals. When it was over I felt like the guy on the Bulls to whom Michael Jordan said "why are you crying? I won it for you…" Even now about 6 weeks later I have people come up to me to tell me how good the Geraniums were that day. People stopped Jeff the same way the whole second weekend on Jazz Fest. Complete strangers.  Even Rene Coman called Jeff to say what a remarkable set it was. And he's in the band since they started in the 1990's and probably wouldn't call you if your house was on fire.

 

What can I say about the TBC Brass Band? They did what they always do--showed up right on time and completely dominated the proceedings for 45 minutes then vanished. Like avenging angels.

 

This year's dark-horse winners were The Tintypes, a largely unknown acoustic folk/country band, who chilled things out quite nicely after the TBC's explosive set. I'd never even heard these guys live, having booked them on the strength of their demo, and was nicely surprised. Jeff usually deals with the PA on the side stage but he was off tending to Daemon's disfigured arm, so I got the sound together for these guys which took a little doing as they are all acoustic and everything had to be miked. No big deal but I had to get over to the main stage to get ready for the Tin Men/Valparaiso Men's Chorus set, which went down pretty well. We did mostly stuff from the new CD then got out of the way for the chorus, which laid it out with it's usual exuberance. We were augmented as usual by some out of towners and stragglers--I don't ever know who is in the band that day until I see photos days later. It's the highlight of my Chaz Fest every year and the moment where I know from here on out the pressure is off a little. If we've made it this far there's not much to fear. Plus I don't have to sing any more. It's at this point that I usually have a Large Whiskey and exhale deeply. I completely missed Walt McClements' Lonesome Leash. Didn't even get a picture. I have regrets about this but I had to get ready for the next set which was Dave Pirner on the main stage. Dave had a guitar player with him and enlisted Chaz to play washboard and me to play bass drum. It was starting to get dark. The whiskey was taking hold. I began to overplay. Chaz shut that shit down saying, "you play bass drum--let me handle everything else." Good advice.

 

MC Sweet Tea closed out the side stage next and the party was officially rolling. It's around 8:30 and people have been drinking since before noon. Vendors are starting to run out of shit. The margarita stand was completely done by this time I think. We still had shitloads of beer. MC Sweet Tea gave way to the Rough 7 and here I completely lost it. I started stage diving underneath the stage--a strange trick I know, and one that left a pretty good sized gash on my forehead. Then everything ended all of a sudden and everyone was gone and there we were wrapping up cables and schlepping shit into the house. The End.

 

Post-script

 

A few days later our intrepid doorman/Übergreeter Peter Horjus sent around a weather map of the greater New Orleans area which showed rain falling everywhere except a tiny spot where we are. Lakefront, Uptown, Kenner, Saint Bernard…all had heavy rain that day. Scully told me that driving in from St. Bernard it was pouring, then he got here and it was sunny. What can I say? It kept our numbers a little bit down because people looked out their windows and said "fuck it..I'm not going to stand around in the rain today". So it wasn't too crowded. Kept the riff raff away.