Nice to see you again. Shall we get right to business?
Yesterday, I told you about when I arrived in NOLA. Today, I’m closing it out with my 311 Day 2014 experience and some stimulating conversation. Thanks for coming back.
We Slept Hard that Night – Vol. 3
Within minutes, Christoph, Isabelle, Andrew and I arrived at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. Bordering on giddy, we got out of our cab and made our way to the entrance of the arena. Isabelle and Andrew had seats, so they would be standing in a different line to get in. Christoph and I had floor passes and would be standing as close to the stage—and our regular spot—as possible. We got in our line and waited patiently until we were finally let in. Once through security, we made our way toward the right side of the stage. There, we stood just behind a couple that was already beyond drunk and hyper friendly. They were great and so was everyone else in our section. We had lucked out.
As we waited for the show to begin, Christoph and I surveyed our surroundings. We chatted with the folks we met, held one another’s spots, drank, sang and danced together. It was a good crowd indeed.
311 lit up the stage, right on time. They started out high-energy and skillfully maneuvered through five hours of new music, old music, REALLY old music and music that had never been heard live before. While we weren’t in a small venue, the energy still felt intimate and intense.
Everyone that showed up was intent on having a good night and with the relentless vivacity that 311 brings to every show, we were granted that good evening. Cyclically, the band drove the energy in the arena up and then cooled it down several times. They kept the crowd engaged, connected and pumped. Every last one of us was excited to hear the next song, all night long.
A couple of times during the show, when the mood was slowed down and cooled out, I felt like I might collapse. My legs were exhausted from walking, standing and dancing. My knees were on fire and felt like they wanted to give out. For a moment, I wondered how the guys in the band managed to stand there and put on such a great show, without crumpling to the floor in exhaustion. “How come their legs didn’t look like they wanted to give out?” I thought. Then I remembered they probably weren’t walking the French Quarter and drinking, the last two days. I also noted that they got breaks between sets to sit down. I didn’t feel as old and frail when I thought about those things.
With a little perseverance, alcohol, adrenaline and herb—thanks for sharing, buddy!—Christoph and I jumped our way through five glorious hours of 311. The show did not disappoint. Some of the traditional songs, like “Down,” were omitted from the 62-song set list, and that pissed some folks off. I guess someone should remind them that they can listen to those songs when they attend a Unity Tour show during the summer. Personally, I didn’t have any complaints aside from cursing my aging knees and ankles, ¾ of the way through. More importantly, I was glad I’d made the trip from California to Louisiana in order to watch my favorite band tear it up for an arena full of dancing crazies.
With our legs throbbing, our mouths parched and our clothes drenched in sweat, Christoph and I walked back to our hotel. We wanted to cab it back, but not a single taxi stopped. We called a cab and then realized they wouldn’t show, either. Instead, we walked back to our hotel on sore feet and warm joints. We realized we were starving when we got close, so we detoured to IHOP. After eating, we dragged our sorry asses four more blocks to our hotel. Once inside our room, we collapsed onto our bed and melted into sleep. We slept hard that night.
With the concert over, Isabelle and Andrew flew home the following day. Christoph and I stayed a while longer. We had another day and a half to hang out and get to know New Orleans. We were lucky because we had the time and because our East Coast others, Lara and Steve, were staying on as well. Once Christoph and I awoke from our 311 Day coma, we texted Lara & Steve to meet for food and / or drinks.
The day after the NOLA show we had coffee, walked along the water, took silly pictures and listed to music in the streets. I took as much of it in as possible. Fortunately for me, all that walking helped the moment affix itself to my memory. We strolled some more, and finally made it to Marie Laveau’s tomb.
Ultimately, the four of us wandered into a casino because the guys wanted to gamble. Soon after our arrival, Lara and I found ourselves transfixed, watching one woman dominate an entire roulette table. The four of us hung out for a while, in the land of slot machines and glazed-over eyes, but Lara and I wanted to keep on moving because we’re not big gamblers.
She suggested that we check out a restaurant she’d heard about earlier. The guys were still busy playing the odds and we wanted to give them some time to get the gambling out of their systems. “They could meet up with us later,” Lara Suggested, motioning to Cristoph and Steve. “Perfect,” I said as we swiftly exited the casino. After a quick and windy walk, we found the restaurant and sat at the bar. This place had a long list of craft cocktails and I love that sort of thing. Excited, I ordered something called the Zombie Apocalypse. It was delicious.
The restaurant also had something called face bacon on the menu. Normally, I would never eat anything named “face” anything, but Lara convinced me to try. She essentially double-dog dared me and there was nothing I could do. An hour or two later, Christoph and Steve popped in. Together, we toasted once more and ordered up something to snack on. The food was delectable, even the food with horrible names.
After a while, we left and wandered around the city some more. We would be flying back to our respective coasts the next day and we wanted to squeeze as much fun as we could into this last one.
Eventually, we all got hungry and Lara was again prepared with a restaurant suggestion. Steve wasn’t into it at first, but he was quickly vetoed. He was outnumbered and hunger won in the end. Lara looked up walking directions to this latest culinary adventure and we took off. When we got to the restaurant, we found an hour-long wait. Without anything better to do, we put our name on the list and the boys lit up outside, where we all stood and conversed boisterously.
Keep in mind that I’m a loud person when I’m alone, but when I’m in the company of my friend Lara, it’s another story entirely. It’s as if the two of us work in unison to amplify one another’s raucous laughter. When the four of us—Christoph, Lara, Steve and I—are together and engrossed in conversation, we sometimes get rowdy. Plus, we oftentimes talk about taboo subject matter and when you’re collective voices carry like pack mules, it leads to interesting situations.
Sometimes, our unruly nature and off-color commentary can come across as offensive and turn people off. That’s what we’re guessing happened as we waited outside. Interestingly, the host initially told us it would be an hour wait, but we were seated within minutes of our arrival. As we were led back to our table, we wondered aloud about how we had gotten seated so fast.
It was Lara that first broke the silence which followed when she let out a laugh. Earlier, she had noticed that the other group on the wait-list, put some serious distance between them and us while outside. She said the other group had backed away at first and then left, when we got louder. For a moment we didn’t believe her. Then, we realized we’d been talking about autoerotic asphyxiation and dismembered baby feet. “Actually, you’re right, they so left because we scared them away. Score!” I said as we walked briskly to our table. “Yesss!” Lara replied as we neared our seats.
When we got to our table, we realized we were missing someone. Steve had broken off and disappeared. Lara surmised that he’d gone to get some beer since this restaurant didn’t have a liquor license. She was right and Steve popped up moments after we were seated. Quickly, we ordered our dinner and poured our beers. The conversation was then re-ignited and we delved into metaphysics, alternate realities, string theory, pubes, S&M, hot tuna, and god only knows what else. The point of the dinner wasn’t what we talked about, but that we got lost in the conversation and had a wonderful time.
I don’t know about everybody else, but for me, the other folks in the restaurant faded into the background and I was sitting at one of our dining room tables, kickin’ it with some beers, good food and excellent conversation. The place was teeny; formerly a big house, it was now a tiny restaurant. It was decorated smartly, no fuss, just clean lines, calming colors and quirky art. I noticed this stuff only when I got up to use the bathroom because I was consumed by dinner conversation the rest of the time.
A couple of hours later, when we were done with our dinner, we paid and got up to leave. We were each commenting on our meals and the restaurant, agreeing that it had been a great choice. We thanked Lara for choosing the place as we put on our jackets and collected our things.
Walking out, I noticed that the people sitting at the table behind ours, were wearing newspapers on their sleeves. That’s no metaphor, they’d somehow fastened newspaper to their sleeves and they were acting markedly kooky. Confused, yet amused, I smiled at them when they made eye contact. The restaurant was small and my group had to shuffle single-file, next to the Newspaper Crew, in order to get out the front door.
As we exited, I got a funny little vibe from that table and it occurred to me that they appeared to be competing with our group’s idiosyncratic, comedic nature. “Not possible,” I thought as I shook my head and laughed silently to myself. Lara then spoke up as we approached the exit and asked, “Were those people competing with us? You saw the newspapers, right?” As I pulled the door open and walked outside, I replied, “They were totally competing.” Together, we let out a strong dose of sincere belly laughter as we walked away satisfied.
None of us felt especially tired yet and so we thought about where we should go next. That’s when Lara invited Christoph and I to hang out at hers and Steve’s hotel for a while. Christoph and I accepted and all of us began walking in the general direction of their hotel. Once in their room, we looked out the window and checked out the scenery. Quickly, we all settled in and started talking again. I can’t even tell you what we were discussing; all I know is that about an hour in, someone from the front desk came knocking.
We were being too loud. Our amplified and multiplied laughter was keeping others from slumber. Lara thanked the hotel employee for the message and wondered aloud what time it was. It was just after midnight, Christoph informed us and we all scoffed at the thought of being shushed at midnight in New Orleans of all cities. We were in the French Quarter for Chissake, but it didn’t matter. Soon after the buzzkill interruption, Christoph and I headed back to our hotel. It had been a marvelous day and we were exhausted.
We all got up fairly early the next day because we had to check out of our hotels. We were flying home that afternoon and we figured we could get together one last time before heading to the airport. That morning, we got coffee and shopped. At the French Market, I got the affordable, local art I had wanted to purchase. We also found a café for lunch. We sat down, ordered and listed to some live New Orleans jazz, one the last time.
We walked around and into Louis Armstrong Park. There, Lara commented on the beautiful trees we saw.
“Up a tree, that’s where I’m hiding if we get overrun by zombies right now. They can’t climb,” she noted. “You’re right. Good strategy,” I agreed. Christoph then checked the time and we both realized we had to leave. He and I had a cab waiting for us at our hotel and Lara and Steve had to go as well. We said our goodbyes hurriedly as the four of us headed regretfully back into reality.
Some of you might still be wondering if Christoph was right about me building up these 311 shows in my head, only to be disappointed. Well, he wasn’t. Both shows lived up my expectations and the L.A. show exceeded anything I could have asked for. I heard every song I wanted to hear and nothing I didn’t. The band was into it, the crowd was electrified and the vibe was a convivial mix of shouting, singing, pushing, and shoving. Even the music I listened to while I sipped my drink and waited around for the start of the show, was good.
As for New Orleans, it was nothing short of fantastic. The 311 Day show did not disappoint and I got to explore every corner of the French Quarter that I’d ever wanted to see. It’s a given that I savored the music during the 311 showdown, but gotta tell ya, I enjoyed every street performance, van performance and bar performance, just as much. All the music that I was exposed to on these two trips—from the songs on the radio, as we drove into Los Angeles, to the melody bleeding from that creepy van parked on the street in NOLA—was sublime.
The melodies and guitar riffs encountered on this trip did a great deal to sooth me. I had danced until I was on the verge of collapse and I’d gotten to hang out with some extraordinary people. Whether or not I had built these concerts up too much in my mind, no longer mattered. What did matter, was that I had finally reconnected with the joy of being in the moment. It seems I had finally managed to shake off my numbness long enough to open my eyes and remember to breathe. Turns out, the music made it all right again, and for that, I am glad.