The Weekend’s Highs and Lows

The Highs:
– Otis Taylor’s version of “Hey Joe” during the Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival Saturday. Don Vappie played banjo with Taylor throughout the set and played a fevered, rhythmic solo when his turn came. Alvin Youngblood Hart followed him on guitar with a solo that was so thoroughly inside the blues idiom that it sounded conventional in contrast, but it was also so in the idiom that it sounded exactly right. The high point was Taylor’s touch – a one chord, all rhythm rave-up to finish the song, letting what people did on the one chord create a rippling effect and bristling excitement in a static place.

– Anders Osborne walking onstage at the Blues Fest to play “On the Road to Charlie Parker” with the Stanton Moore Trio. Osborne starts by playing with the knobs and his amp to coax out some feedback, and Moore starts accompanying the feedback. When the riff kicked in, the energy in Lafayette Square changed. Unlike Osborne’s ’70s blues-rock predecessors, he doesn’t lumber. He stomps, and the forcefulness makes all the difference. Someone told me that the audience at a northern blues fest – I think I was told Wyoming – didn’t get him, and that makes me worry about Wyoming. What’s not to get? And Osborne’s soloing at a really high, inspired level right now, exploring musical space in a genre that loves that sort of thing.

– Listened to Psycho African Beat by the Psychedelic Aliens in the car. The album collects the output of this Ghanaian garage band and what would have been side one leans heavily on early 1960s James Brown, and that alone would be worth hearing if not essential. What would have been side two is where things get great. “Gbe Keke Wo Taoo” blends acid guitar, fuzzed out organ, polyrhythmic drums and shouted vocals from the depths of the reverb tank to produce something based in soul and funk that’s genuinely psychedelic and could only have come from one place. The final tracks follow in that mode, and if it’s never as extreme again, it’s consistently involving.

– Read Tom Sancton’s story on France’s Bettancourt Affair for Vanity Fair. I have issues with Vanity Fair’s fascination with the lifestyles of the rich and richer – Why should I care about people who can’t remember if they own islands or not? – but Sancton does a great job of making a complicated story clear.

– The Saints won and looked good doing it. Sure, Chris Ivory should have gone off like he did considering Tampa’s run defense is one of the worst in the league, but we didn’t make Arizona pay for being one of the worst passing defenses in the league, so I’ll celebrate that we executed like crazy. Except for Garrett Hartley. Seriously, what’s up with that?

– LSU won, though someone will have to explain to me why Les Miles thought he needed to use a trick play to beat McNeese. Does he have a nutty clock in his head? And when it goes off, he has to do something truly ridiculous? Hard to complain too much about a team that’s number six in the country, but Miles’ wackiness is really monumental, so much so that it’s hard to feel like number six. Not so much, though, that LSU fans aren’t starting to think about how the team could beat Auburn (who gave up 45 points to Arkansas with a second string quarterback), then possibly Alabama and Arkansas – things no one thought when the season began.

The Lows:
– The lines at the Blues Fest were so long for the Joint, Walker’s and Vaucresson’s Sausage that they weren’t viable food options. (Yes, when that’s the only thing I have to bitch about, this was a good weekend.)