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May 26, 2006

Tommy Castro at Mystic Theatre 5/13/06 by Jack Cohen

Last Saturday's show at McNear's Mystic Theatre in Petaluma started
off with Johnny Nitro & The Doorslammers who did a spectacular set.
Johnny mentored Thomas in his tip jar days and was the previous owner
of a couple of TC's favorite axes. Nitro's triple threat
(vocals/sax/wife) Syliva used the hall's acoustics to make everyone
take notice of her saxology while laying on her back or doing back
bends and other tricks that make Randy McDonald's occasional antics
seem pretty tame and provided some great vocals as well.

Johnny had founding Doorslammer member Johnny Ace on bass. He is not just a great bass player but is a fantastic showman and his "Funky Broadway" was a show stopper. Scott Silviera, longtime vet of great blues bands like the The Craig Horton Band, was on drums and his young son Miles played conga and bongos with skill worthy of someone much, much more seasoned. Ending their set Johnny let everyone know that Tommy was coming on next and said, "I've taught Tommy everything he knows--but, I didn't teach him eveything I know!"

The Tommmy Castro Band was fortunate to have Tom Poole in trumpet on a night off from Etta James' Roots Band. What can I say, Tommy was very excited that he was gonna be able to have his pals Johnny and Johnny on stage with him for a jam at the end of the concert and used that energy to provide us all with another great night of TCB songs both old and newer. The crowd was one of the best behaved I've seen in this venue and everyone, audience and band members seemed to be having as much fun as they could and still be wearing pants (that's one of my favorite Nitro lines).

Instead of the usual encore Tommy just paused long enough to bring
his pals Johnny and Johnny on stage to fill out the night in a repeat
of the musical "duel" they had seven or eight years earlier onboard a
Blues Cruise on San Francisco Bay put on by Laura "Lou Gillespie, the
original owner of Lou's Pier 47 on Fisherman's Wharf. The home page
of my other internet hangout, the Bay Area Blues Club, has a photo
taken on that day that you can see by using this link:
Tommy and Johnny Nitro had great fun trying to out gun each other and
Ace filled in every space with his bass. It's always fun to be at a
TCB show when the band is having more fun than the audience and this
was one I'll remember as one of the best I've been lucky enough to


Posted by Rolfyboy6 at 04:37 PM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2006

A Letter from New Orleans, Cleanup and Jazz Fest 2006 from Terri Louwaert

By Terri Louweart
I'll do the best I can Rolf, but you know I can't write [Ed.: Terri writes well]. There will be a lot of rambling. So sift through.
I'm gonna have to talk like I'm talking straight to you.

Lis flew down to New Orleans early for a convention related to her job. Wendell, a guy she met 5 years ago at the Jazz fest, drove in from Houston. Having a car Wendell did all the driving. My flight left Oakland at noon and I got into N.O. at 10:00 Tuesday night, by way of Atlanta. (Go figure!). Wendell and Lis were there to pick me up. We got in the car and they asked if I wanted to go to the hotel or hit a club called The Carleton Station to see Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes. Of course I wanted to hear some music!!!! So we hit the town running.
It was a funky little hole in the wall out of the tourist area. Wendell is a musician and has been traveling to the fest for many years. He knows a lot of the musicians, where to go, who to see, etc. He was a bottomless well of knowledge and information. The opening band was called the Hangover Outlaws; I wasn't impressed, too country for me, but great lyrics. It was late into the night before Johnny Sketch jumped on stage (Late for us, we had to be up early for ACORN volunteer work). But it was well worth the wait. It was a group of musicians all under thirty years old. Tight, tight, tight. The horn section was amazing. This whole group just sucked you in. I noticed there were a lot of people standing and swaying, but not dancing. It wouldn't be the last time I noticed that. Well hell, you know Lis and me, we jumped out there and just starting doing our thing dancing, before long other people started dancing. Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes as of that night would end up being my third favorite group of the week. We got home pretty late, especially with a two-hour time difference.


We were up early to meet the group at the ACORN organization for some volunteer work. Lis and I walked a couple of blocks to meet Wendell at the famous "Mother's Restaurant" --World's best-baked ham, est. 1938. Then off we went to the east side of town looking for the ACORN building. There were a few volunteers waiting and there were also people applying for assistance. When the volunteer group was gathered off we went in a van and Wendell’s full car. We headed about 11 miles east in the city. Just about a mile out of town you started to notice on both sides of the freeway that nobody was there. Miles of communities, gone. The houses, the businesses.... they once were all there, and now they are gone. Not a soul, not an animal, not a business, or streetlight, or stop light, all were gone. It was a ghost town for miles. You couldn't comprehend what you were seeing.
We arrived in the 9th ward, and parked in front of a house with a

FEMA trailer parked out front. With a little safety instruction we went to work. In full Tyvek suit gear, hot as hell. By 2:00 the house was gutted, down to the studs. Sheet rock, appliances, toilets, tubs...everything. The front sidewalk was a pile of rubble. At one point we had to make a run back to the ACORN building just for a potty run. There was literally nowhere to go, but back to the headquarters. While tearing out a closet in the center of the house, I found a hanging sign that said, "Welcome." It was under a pile of debris. I had to stop for a moment and get myself together or I would have lost it. As I walked up to the FEMA trailer to sit on the steps, I thought maybe they CAN hang out on their own front porch again some day. It was very hard to be where we were and not be consumed by the sheer sadness of the wide spread devastation of the area. I just kept thinking, “What about those houses over there?” None of the others were touched or being worked on. You had to just concentrate on the task at hand: gutting the house being worked on before 2:00 p.m.

We drove back to town and dropped off our passengers and headed back to the hotel for a shower and what we thought would be rest, BUT.... that was not to be. (Hummm, there wasn't much rest in store for the whole week).
Marcia Ball was playing a free concert in the park! When we got to the park, it was packed!! But we made it up front for some dancing. Chaz and the Jazz trio were playing. The concert was great. They said it was the biggest attendance ever at the park.
Wendell took Lis and me out to a great dinner in a nice restaurant down town. I had some great French onion soup and fresh tuna. Rolf, I swear to you, I never ate the same thing twice while I was there!
Then we heading to "Howlin Wolf's" downtown for more Johnny Sketch! They were opening for the Rebirth Brass Band! Lis and Wendell kept telling me, “You have no clue about a brass band until you hear a New Orleans brass band!” And man, were they right! Not at all what I thought. A whole stage of nothing but brass!! Dancing music, Rolf, I tell ya, dancing music!!! We danced our asses off, front and center. It's a pretty big place but with Lis, we always seemed to make it up front. (God bless her). [Ed. note: the wily and enthusiastic Ms. Fiekowsky, an experienced dancer and music fan, could get through the Green Bay Packers to dance up front.] It was another late night; I think we got home around 2- 2:30 in the morning.

We slept in until 9:30, yippeeee!!!! Lis and I decided to explore Bourbon Street during the day. It was to be our only side trip. We headed out at 11:00 down Royal Street looking for the Royal Street Deli. It started pouring down rain. So we dashed in and out of shops, and across streets until we found our destination. We were soaked. If you were a tourist, you wouldn't know to walk into this deli, but the locals all know it's the best deli in town. As soon as we walked in the door, some youngster started talking to us and bought us a beer. Lis had an Oyster Po’ Boy and I had a crawfish Po’ Boy. We chatted with this kid while we waited for our food. Tut was his name. We grabbed our sandwiches and did a mad dash through the rain three blocks up to the bar Tut told us about and where he’d be.

There were a couple of locals there (another hole in the wall local bar) and we had a great time. But the drinking progressed and well Rolf, you know I don't drink much, and I got tipsy. So we headed back to the hotel. Thank god once again for Lis. Bouncing off the walls walking down Bourbon Street, what a silly sight, though somewhat traditional in the French Quarter. We got back to the hotel at 4:00 and slept until 9:30. We were feeling pretty good then. We met our ride downstairs and headed to Frenchman street.
One of Lis and Wendell’s other friends, Tommy, had arrived in town. Lis met him the same year she met Wendell. Tommy was from N.O. but now lives in Austin because of Hurricane Katrina. We went to where there are three great clubs on one single block. The place was packed! Wendell is surely the King of parking because he always found a great parking place all week long. We went to a club called “d.b.a.” to hear Papa Molly and Eddie Bo, joined by Chief Monk Boudreaux of the Golden Eagles Tribe of Mardi Gras Indians. It was great music. We left at 2:00 to get a couple of hours sleep for the festival the next day.

Friday, festival day!!!!

Wendell has been going to the festival for so long and knows so many people. He always parks in a school parking lot for 25.00 a day. All of the money goes to the school. They also have sausages, soda etc. for donations. They knew Wendell there and all three days of the festival they saved him a prime parking space. Wendell is a very happy, always smiling, friendly, personable man.
All I can do Rolf is tell you the groups we listen to and the food (oh my god the food!!) we ate. There are 10 stages at the fairgrounds! We parked our gear all three days at the Southern Comfort Blues Stage that was home base. The first group we saw was Joe Krown playing his B 3 Organ. Wayne Toups and Zydecajun Band. Then Marcia Ball with Joe Krown backing her up. Then it was off to the "Fais do-do stage" to hear The Red Stick Ramblers. Then to the "Congo Square Louisiana rebirth stage" to hear Big Chief Monk Boudreaux & the Golden Eagles Indians where Poppa Molly was playing fiddle. Then we wondered off to the "Music Heritage stage" is listen to a tribute to Clarence Gatemouth Brown and to rest a bit. Back to the Blues stage we went to hear Tab Benoit, then Koko Taylor and her blues Machine to close the show. Whoaaa...she's a tough looking woman!!!!

Here's all the food we ate that day. Never heard of any of it so I went by Lis's recommendations. Spinach artichoke casserole, Seafood Au Gratin, Sweet Potato Pone, Seafood tamale, Cajun Boudin, Quail and Pheasant Andouille Gumbo, Crab Cakes, Soft-shell crab po' boy, spinach zucchini crab bisque, and we ended the trip with sausage sandwiches at the school parking lot. Got back to the hotel around 8:00 and after a quick shower off we went to the Howlin' Wolf Club again to see "Papa Grows Funk." This group, at least for this night, was my #1 pick for the week. They were beyond incredible. Let’s see if I can get this right: Fred Tackett from Little Feat on guitar, John Gross, June Yamagakto, Jeffery “Jelly Bean” Alexander on drums, Jason Miugeledorff on Sax, Theresa Anderson, Renard Pochard, Thane Theriot on guitar, Johnny Vidachocich on drums, Ivan Neville on keys, George Porter, Tony Hall, Eric Krasno. We got home at 4:30 a.m.!

We didn't get up until 10:30, so we missed our ride and had to taxicab it to the festival. We saw part of Theresa Anderson, and then Deacon John at the Acura Stage. Off to the Rebirth stage for The Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Then back home to the Blues stage. This incredible, unbelievable kid comes on stage, a yound man. Playing a steel lap guitar, his name is Robert Randolph. WOW oh WOW. Rolf you gotta check this kid out. This group would become my second favorite group of the week, by far!!! We ended the day at the Rebirth stage for the Ohio Players; I had been dieing to see these guys, what a show! Part way through the day Lis and I got in the middle of a “Second Line” parade and marched through the fairgrounds, it was a blast.
Food for the day...mmmmm. Fried chicken and gumbo, crawfish sec’, stuffed crab, potato salad, stuffed mushrooms, Cuban sandwich, Fried bread taco, shrimp and sausage.

Lis, Wendell and I had tickets to the Meters that night at the Community Art Center, with Robert Randolph opening. So back to the hotel for a quick shower and change and off we went. Another great show! Wendell and I went to the St. Charles Tavern for breakfast. Biscuits and gravy, damn, it was good!

Sunday, the last day of the festival.

We set up once again at the blues stage, right up against the rail. I wanted to see Lionel Richie, he was the last group of the day at that stage. Everyone was camped out at the Acura Stage for Fats Domino. We saw JD and the Straight Shot, then the Hot 8 Brass Band. About that time the rains came, it was a downpour for about half an hour. People were prepared, ponchos and umbrellas came out. People put their chairs over their head or just danced in the rain. All was good. Then it was Rockin' Dopsie Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters.

Lis and I walked around and did some shopping before going back to the Blues stage for the end of Sam Moore of Sam and Dave fame; we were still waiting for Lionel Richie. Well Fats got sick and they moved Lionel to the big Acura Stage! People were not happy. We stayed at the Blues Stage and listened to Sam play an extended set, then headed out for the hotel and a little rest. We had tickets for the four of us at the Howlin’ Wolf club to see the Rebirth Brass Band and Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk.
At the hotel Lis decided to check in on-line for her flight home the next morning, only to find that her reservation had been canceled. Since she came in early on a different flight, and didn't use the first leg of her round trip ticket, they canceled her ticket. Even though she’d paid for it. It was very upsetting; she didn't know how she was going to get home. She was a trooper though and still wanted to go out that night.

Lis, Wendell and Tommy were going home. I was staying one more night at the Hilton by the Airport. Lis had to buy a $500 ticket to get home! We decided to go the famous "Mothers” for lunch, since we had not eaten there yet. Holy moly, there was yet another line to get in the door, and then a line to order food. But it was well worth the wait. We had their famous Po Boy. Took half of it “to go” for dinner that night, it was that big. We went to the airport and I hung out with Lis for a little bit, then headed over to the Hilton on a shuttle.
The shuttle driver, Sara, told me the hotel had just opened three weeks ago and that Hilton had paid all of their employees while they were off during the disaster. I was so impressed. They still had very limited services, as was the case all over town. No manpower. They served food only at breakfast and dinner. I tried to use the pay phone and it didn't work. I made a comment about that to one of the maids; she just looked at me and said, “Not much works around here anymore.” I didn't know what to say. It was heart breaking.

What a trip Rolf, I will always return to New Orleans for Jazz Fest. It was one of the best times of my life, and one of the most life altering as well!

It's amazing to still see the devastation in and around New Orleans. This long after the storm, people seem to be worse off then when the storm first hit. There was an incredible amount of help and outpouring of services and money then. Now they are forgotten, the rest of the country has moved on. There are miles and miles of empty neighborhoods and businesses. Nobody is there. The houses and lives stand empty, as there is no means or manpower to repair and rebuild. People are truly doing it ONE, and I emphasize ONE, house at a time. I stood in the driveway of the house we were working on, looking around and thinking about all of these houses. You couldn't think about why you were there, the devastation was too big, so you could only keep working. It was just too sad to reflect on in the moment. Even being in such a deserted, devastated area, it didn't seem real. Not now, not this long after the storm, not in America. As I told you we had to drive 20 minutes back to the meeting place to use the bathroom, there was no where else to go. You could still see the bad water lines on buildings ALL OVER the city and beyond. Most houses and business still have the spray paint marking of date search, animals found, the body count. There were messages painted on the walls in hopes that the right person would see it. I want to go back, Rolf, I feel so helpless. Yes, money is needed. But people are needed even more than the money. Who knows, for once in our very small world, people are needed more than money. The way it should be, huh?

By the way I did run into a couple more locals besides Phyllis and Corey. Only I don't know their names. One was the lady from the Ivy Room. She is always there. Shorter than I am and a great dancer. The other one I always see at the Saloon in San Francisco. She has long blond hair. Small world

If you have any questions about the music or musicians, email Lis. She can tell ya anything ya want to know. This is the best I could do [Ed.: And mighty fine it is too].
Ciao Baby

PS. Sorry about the spelling

A link to a fine photo slide show of the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, music by Herny Butler. Includes a photo of Henry's piano seen by Terri. Please allow a few seconds for it to load.

Posted by Rolfyboy6 at 08:56 PM | Comments (0)

May 11, 2006

A Letter from New Orleans,the devastation and clean up, by Phyllis Early

by Phyillis Early
photos by Phyllis Early

I just returned from a 10 day trip to New Orleans, no need to leave the country to find adventure and volunteer work to do. It was our now annual pilgrimage to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival which runs for two consecutive weekends in April and May. This year my cohorts Cary, Greg and I found some cleanup work to do during the week in between. We worked with ACORN, a national organization whose
mission supports strong communiites and social justice, working on a
grassroots level. I'm writing this to share our experiences, and remind everyone that it will be a long term effort to rebuild this beloved city. Anyone who has been there knows that New Orleans is truly unique, and there is no other city in the U.S. like it. It is an amazing melting pot of music, food, architecture, southern hospitality, history and culture. And as anyone who has witnessed a natural disaster can attest, pictures do no justice. But what I saw was completely different than what I expected and I think it's important for people to know.

While there was plenty of damage from the winds and the storm itself, it was the flooding that has devestated the city. What we saw were miles upon miles of neighborhoods that have no inhabitants. Houses stand with watermarks anywhere from 2 feet to the roof line. Businesses and local strip malls are closed and abandoned. Even if they were rebuilt to open, there are not enough people living in the city for a work force - there's no place to live. Not to mention anyone to shop. This is what I didn't recognize before, the extent of the economic devestation. The 24 hour diners in the French Quarter close at 10 due to lack of staff. In our hotel they informed us upon check-in that there would only be once a week housekeeping service and they kept a supply of towels and TP behind the desk. Many business opened up just before JazzFest and taxis came back in to town only for the event. We were told that things would slow down to a crawl after the festival. There are piles of debris everywhere, and many places haven't even been cleaned out yet. Some houses still have furniture and personal items inside. The storm itself was one thing - for the people who didn't evacuate, after the storm passed they breathed a sigh of relief.

But then the flooding started. The canals and levees broke and things happened so quickly. I saw roofs with a small hole punched through where they had to bust through from the inside ceiling to escape. One afternoon we drove 50 miles east to Waveland, Mississippi. It's a small community that got hit particularly hard, the beachfront area was completely demolished, not a building left standing. But the difference between there and New Orleans was the flooding. As we returned to the greater metropolitan area we were stunned once again by the scope of the damage.

The work we did with ACORN consisted of gutting houses down to the studs. We'd rip through the sheet rock or plaster with hammers and crowbars, take that and the insulation and anything else and cart it out to the street in wheelbarrows. Kitchen and bathroom cabinets came out, wood paneling, moldy carpets and finally even the nails in the studs. We wore TYVEK suits and respirators and let me tell you, those things are sweat machines. We'd rip holes in the armpits and crotch areas for some ventilation and when we'd peel them off for water breaks we'd be soaked through. ACORN is diligent and accomodating to make sure volunters don't over-exert. Luckily the weather was still mild but the humidity can be fierce. We talked with volunteers who had been there in February, and they had to contend with much wetter conditions - at least for us the houses had dried out to some degree but the smell of mold at times was overpowering and things are still damp.

I won't even start with the politics involved, past or present. There is plenty to complain about and the lack of progress in the last 8 months is shocking. The city will never be the same and it will be years before it gets back on it's feet. But throughout my travels I always come home with this: As Americans we are ingenious. Smart, clever and resourceful. We also have big hearts. These people need help. Sometimes money is the best answer. But they need hands. Check out acorn.org. If you have a couple of days to spare they could use your help. Encourage your kids to go for a week. There is a FEMA tent set up that provides cots and meals for volunteers, if they can get there the cost can be minimal. Most of the building in the residential areas hasn't even started, they are still in the clean up stages. Habitat for Humanity is there and committed for the long haul. I plan to go back (although I may wait out the summer heat), and if you're interested let me know. Below are some pictures that help illustrate the situation.

p.s. I hope that it generates some interest and encourages at least one person to head down there.

As a blues man you'd be interested, one of the houses we gutted was Henry Butler's. It was about the saddest sight in the world to see his grand piano standing in the middle of the living room, moldy and ruined. His recording studio was also completely trashed, that was one sad day.

People left messages on their homes informing others how to get in touch with them, or simply that they were okay. Notice the red X to the left of the doorway. This system was used by search and rescue teams. The date would be on the top, we never found out exactly what the acronyms on either side meant but on the bottom would be the number of bodies found. Luckily, most said 0. Sometimes notes would be spray painted about dead dogs found, or where pets were taken. People were not allowed to take their pets with them when rescued. The new evacuation plans allow for this if the owner has a cage.

This picture is not so much about the house that is in ruins, but the view down the street in front of it. This is what neighborhoods look like. Vacant and abandoned.

FEMA trailers like these can be seen dotted around some neighborhoods, parked in front of the resident's house. They hook into the water and sewer system and have electricity. The ninth ward has still not reopened for residents to return in any capacity, the water in those wells is still contaminated. Notice the tree to the far left, there is advertising for roofing, house gutting, tree grinding, and mayoral campaign posters. The two guys are paid staff from Acorn, the agency we worked with.

The three amigos, suited up.

This is the pile of debris from gutting the inside of the house. (Only halfway done). Piles of toxic materials are set apart for pickup. If we found anything we thought might be of value, it was placed against the house. We did see crews picking up, but they were few and far between. There are piles of debris everywhere, and one can only imagine the potential for scatter and further destruction with hurricane season only a month away.

Cary is 6"5". This is where the water line settled, not necessarily where it was at it's highest point.

Sill standing and able to tell the tale. We'll be back next year.

A link to a fine photo slide show of the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, music by Herny Butler. Includes a photo of Henry's piano seen by Terri Louwaert. Please allow a few seconds for it to load.

Posted by Rolfyboy6 at 07:21 AM | Comments (1)