It’s the last full week before Jazz Fest, which means it’s last call for events and parties to stay clear of Jazz Fest competition for a while. That means it’s going to be another busy weekend in New Orleans.
Two events in particular stand out – one for a chance to party and dance in a gorgeous and unusual outdoor setting, the other to experience a mini-festival of New Orleans sounds as one of the great programs on the American radio dial comes to life on stage.
Grow Dat operates an educational farm in a once-obscure corner of City Park, tucked between the City Bark dog park and Pan Am Stadium. Student interns work the farm rows here, growing food to share with their community, and they get a full dose of youth development training along the way (see more on that here).
The City Park surroundings of oaks and lagoons are lush, and Grow Dat’s facilities are striking. The teaching rooms, offices and barn areas are all built from stacked, repurposed shipping containers.
This unique campus sets the stage for Thursday’s Hootenany, which Grow Dat bills as a barn dance party. Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes & the Louisiana Sunspots will bring their Afro-Caribbean-Creole sounds, the Small Batch String Band will also perform and there will be traditional square dancing, led by caller Nathan Harrison.
Pastry chefs from around New Orleans will bring sweets for the Cake Walk portion of the night, and there will be beer and cocktails for sale and food from the Fat Falafel, a truck serving what may be the best falafel in town these days. Food and drink sales during the event benefit the Grow Dat program.
This outdoor party lasts from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. and tickets start at $15. Get them in advance online here. Grow Dat Youth Farm is at 150 Zachary Taylor Drive in City Park.
From the farm and the barn, we move to the radio and the bowing alley. On Friday, April 19, Rock ‘n’ Bowl hosts a 15th anniversary party for "American Routes," the nationally syndicated public radio music program produced in New Orleans.
Friday’s event will bring something of the spirit of this long-running program to the stage, which is fitting since "American Routes" has been bringing the spirit of New Orleans, the Gulf Coast and American roots music in general to the rest of the country. That’s a wide spectrum of great sound, from Cajun and brass bands to blues, soul and funk, and the music on tap for Friday’s party follows suit.
The show will feature the Tremé Brass Band, the Lost Bayou Ramblers and a dream team of New Orleans R&B and soul legends. Irma Thomas, Ivan Neville Robert “Barefootin’” Parker and Walter “Wolfman” Washington are all on the bill, while Jon Cleary will anchor the evening on piano throughout.
"American Routes" founder and host Nick Spitzer will run the show, which will be recorded for later broadcast on July 4. Spitzer, a folklorist and professor of anthropology and American studies at Tulane University, started "American Routes" in 1998. Today, the show is carried by some 270 public radio stations across the country, reaching half a million listeners each week (it airs locally on 89.9 FM WWNO at 7 p.m. each Saturday and 6 p.m. each Sunday).
“Doing something as intangible as radio for 15 years, with our eclectic mix of sounds, it seemed like a good time to remember all the music and conversations we’ve had, from Cajun fiddlers and Mardi Gras Indians to Allen Toussaint, George Jones and Nina Simone,” says Spitzer. “Having this musical lineup with family, friends and fans in the house for a big show and dance at one of our favorite clubs is even better.”
The show begins at 8 p.m. at Rock ‘n’ Bowl, and advance tickets are $20 (or $25 at the door). There’s also a VIP event beginning at 7 p.m. where you can meet performers beforehand. This ticket includes food and drinks and costs $100. Find details and get advance tickets online here. Rock ‘n’ Bowl is located at 3000 S. Carrollton Ave.