Following a late-afternoon wakeup and dragging my Bourbon Street-sized hangover to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (barely) in time to catch Bruce Springsteen’s amazing set, I found myself some Cajun nourishment and in short order made my way to the Saenger Theatre for a highly anticipated tribute concert dedicated to one of The Big Easy’s biggest heroes (and obvious inspiration for The Electric Mayhem’s hip-happenin’ far out bandleader, Dr. Teeth), the great Dr. John.
The lineup was scheduled to include the likes of Mavis Staples, Jimmie Vaughan, Gregg Allman, Lucinda Williams, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Warren Haynes, and so many more, not to mention the man himself, Dr. John; the anticipation of such a conglomerate of talent was almost exciting enough to cut through the self-imposed physical and mental crunch that I was enduring, though the Springsteen set had been energetic enough to have already propped me up a little, and I’m sure the solid sustenance I was able to get down my throat between events helped to bring me back to life.
But the theatre itself really bolstered my energy. Merely stepping into the newly renovated space was somewhat exhilarating, the immaculately decorated flooring, the majestic chandeliers glistering overhead, the posh ornamentation of…everything. Wow (I thought), this is what a theatre is supposed to look like.
Emerging upstairs into the balcony I was thankful for my comfortable seat and was instantly mesmerized by the glinting starry lights embedded into the impossibly wide, blue ceiling. The upper crust of the theatre is inexplicably lined with Roman statues that lend it a pompousity that somehow remains firmly tasteful. In short, the room was built to impress.
Just as I was getting settled in nice and comfy-like, the lights went down and the MC’s voice boomed through the PA, shocking the sold-out crowd out of their seats with a surprise opening announcement:
“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to The Saenger Theatre tonight’s opening act, the king of New Orleans, Dr. John, and the Boss of New Jersey, Mr. Bruce Springsteen!”
The entire crowd leapt to their feet as the curtains went up revealing the evening’s stellar house band and the entire E Street Band backing up the good Doctor and The Boss on Right Place Wrong Time and we all went completely nuts together. There was never a hint that Bruce Springsteen was going to be involved in the concert whatsoever and then he goes and opens the show! That curtain drop truly stands out as one of the most exciting concert moments of my life. My gosh, it was so exciting.
I think it even cured my hangover.
The night progressed with one astounding performance after another, as artists like Jason Isbell, Widespread Panic, Irma Thomas, Cyril Neville and so many more stood onstage and did their thing (or more accurately, Dr. John’s thing in their own style) to a wildly appreciative audience who collectively knew that they were witnessing something special. Another great surprise addition to the evening was John Fogerty, while it was no big surprise that Gregg Allman sadly couldn’t make it after all, as his deteriorating health in his final years understandably caused cancellation after cancellation.
(I’m pretty sure that Lucinda Williams cancelled too, which is too bad.)
Oh, there was so much good music. Ryan Bingham was there, and George Porter Jr., and Bill Kreutzmann and Chuck Leavell, Allen Toussaint and Anders Osborne and so many others. It was a concert for the ages in the classiest room in America’s greatest city. Not bad for $100.
Oh, and speaking of deals, shortly after getting through the door I noticed two things: 1) a monstrously long line to the merch table, where one of the few things for sale was a nice limited edition poster for the evening’s concert, and 2) a much shorter line where the VIP ticket-holders were picking up their free goody-bags. A quick glance showed that each goody bag included a poster, so every VIP couple attending the show was getting two posters, AKA at least one more than they needed.
I bypassed the merch line altogether and approached the first couple I saw leaving the VIP table, offering the guy $20 for one of his posters. You’d think I offered a vampire a pint of blood. “Sure!” he yelped, handing me one of the posters. “I was just going to throw the thing away. Instead I think I’ll buy us a couple of drinks!” and taking his wife by the shoulder he led her off towards the bar.
I hadn’t actually noticed how much the posters were even going for so I doubled back to the merch table and checked. $25. Turns out my little brainstorm was pretty smart, fast, and economical.
The poster is framed and hangs in my kitchen. It’s a daily reminder that no matter how hung over I am, a little bit of excitement and a lot of rock and roll can usually pull me through.