By Laura Cayouette
The Youth Leadership Council Wednesday at the Square, presented by our own Super Bowl Champions, the New Orleans Saints, was once again a deservedly popular affair this May 5th. The evening opened with a fun, family festive attitude.
Thanks to Billy Iuso & the Restless Natives. Deep into a crowd pleasing set, he invited his daughter, Aria (8), to join him onstage and sing along. New Orleans has many music dynasties including the Nevilles and Andrews families. Iuso looks to be starting his own.
The concert series is free and all food and beverage proceeds go to YLC. The crowd, now thinned after Jazz Fest, is predominantly local and includes men in suits fresh from work, somebody's Paw Paw in a psychedelic shirt with an image of Jimmy Hendrix staring from his back, and children bouncing on shoulders.
There were many musicians in the crowd including Grady Champion, the 2010 International Blues Challenge award winning blues singer and harmonica player in town to play with Big Bill and Mud Morganfield, the sons of Muddy Waters, on a train leaving New Orleans today to celebrate National Train Day. Champion had been walking by Lafayette Square when he heard Billy Iuso and was drawn in by the music.
Jon Cowherd, fresh from Jazz Fest, where he performed last Saturday with Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band, and Margie Perez, who played Sunday in the Blues Tent were also drawn in by the music. Perez will be playing at the Square on May 19th along with other Threadhead artists Paul Sanchez and Glen David Andrews. Irma Thomas will follow.
Next onstage at the Square was Junco Partners with Brian Stoltz and June Yamagishi fronting on guitars. A man dancing nearby exclaimed that this was the best act he'd seen in weeks – and we just spent two weeks with the town packed to the gills with talent for Jazz Fest. I don't know if I'd go that far, but it was one heck of a show and a beautiful night for it.
So, I decided not to end it when the concert came to its rowdy conclusion. I headed down to a rumored free Rebirth Brass Band concert on Bourbon Street. Though local Louisianans may frequent Bourbon Street, local New Orleanians tend to avoid it, but the group I was with wasn't about to miss this so we hunted and waited until we saw the sousaphone emblazoned with the band's name and followed it into Rita's Tequila House.
In honor of Cinco de Mayo, Rita's Tequila House threw a block party, serving shots and chicken wraps in the street as the band set up on a truck's flatbed parked on Bourbon. Despite their newfound fame on HBO's Treme, many tourists walked past. I kept wondering where they were headed that would have better music than this?
We danced ourselves sweaty to this legendary band, formed in 1982 by the Frazier brothers, Phillip and Keith, Kermit Ruffins (who left in 1992) and marching band members from Joseph S. Clark Senior High School. Rebirth ended the evening inside the club with a sexy version of Cassanova.
YLC Wednesday at the Square takes place every Wednesday through June 9th at Lafayette Square 5pm – 7:30, rain or shine. Though it's free, bring a wallet – artisans sell their goods on site and there's plenty of good food and drink available. Next week, Happy Jack Frequency and Dirty Dozen Brass Band are scheduled to play.