Shamarr Allen told me to meet him on Frenchman Street. He told Brendan and Bobby to meet him there, too, and even though he told us all separately, we found ourselves arriving at the same time. Mike and Courtney came along, too, though Brendan was the one to relay the message to them, not Shamarr. It was a midnight meeting outside the perceived heart of New Orleans, though I’m apt to say we landed right in the middle of it.
Everyone’s faces were glowing from a day exposed to the sun, though their eyes told a different story. For some, their eyes said that their story had been told already, and that they were entering the finale to a day filled with New Orleans jazz, sunshine, overpriced alcohol and every spin on crawfish known to man. Others’ eyes said their day was just beginning, and that the stage lights bouncing off a tuba’s neck would be all the light they needed.
We entered Maison on Frenchman Street with high expectations, knowing our meeting with Shamarr would be more intimate and more heartfelt than our earlier encounters with Irvin or Tom or Big Chief, and likely to exceed our forthcoming encounters with Shorty, the Good Doctor, and the Boss. We weren’t scared; we were just eager. But before we got to Shamarr, we had to get through his Stooges.
The Stooges were surprisingly pleasant. Though they interrupted our experience to weigh us down with the news of their fallen brother, we danced through the sorrow. And instead of shedding tears, they encouraged us to simply have fun.
I wish that was the first time I witnessed dancing in sorrow, but Twin Peaks made sure it wasn’t. Okay, I’m done trying to lay this out like a story. Not because it bores me (I should probably try writing in a new style every now and then, at least to keep myself entertained), but because I wanted to write this thing by Friday, and stopping to rewrite every other sentence isn’t getting that done. So, we now return to your regularly scheduled blog persona.
Shamarr Allen lit the place on fire. (Not literally, though the smoke sweeping by the club’s entrance from the street grills next door might have hinted otherwise) The guy busted onto the stage near 1am and for the next 90 minutes or so and filled the room with charisma, passion, and I guess what you’d call jazz-rock. When I locked in my venture to New Orleans for Jazz Fest, I never imagined the best show I’d see would be a $10 midnight show outside the fairgrounds. Then again, I totally should have predicted that.
I have no idea how Shamarr Allen isn’t huge. I see concerts pretty regularly, and I’d have to say his show at Maison on Frenchman Street last weekend was one of the more entertaining shows I’ve been to. He’s the kind of act that “every guy wants to be, and every girl wants to be with.” Cool to the core, and pretty fantastic at what he does. While my Jazz Fest trip as a whole was incredibly entertaining, you might be curious as to why I’m singling out Shamarr here. Well, it’s because he paid me.
Okay, he didn’t like, commission me to write a blog post, but he incentivized me as best you can. After the first few songs, while talking to the crowd, Shamarr told everyone to follow him on Twitter (or to sign up for Twitter and follow him) because he’d be giving something away later in the show (I already followed him because I’m savvy like that). So after about another half hour of music and a failed attempt to show his new music video (watching the club employees try to figure out the projector was more painful than watching Phil Simms try to figure out a football game (I will pick a fight with ANYONE who thinks Phil Simms is remotely intelligent. Pick your weapon. I choose the cement block that now occupies Phil Simms’ brain hole (yup, brain hole – I’m going with it))), Shamarr activated his in-person audience to do something on his social channels. I was so proud.
As the audience all pulled out their smartphone guns to see who had the fastest fingers in the south, I knew my friend Brendan had this one in the bag. He banged out the tweet a good 10 seconds before I finished mine. But just because his bullet fired first, doesn’t mean it got there first. Somehow, I ended up being one of the top three Tweets received, using the content supplied by Shamarr, which landed me a slick poster (my brother also would have gotten one, if he didn’t say “club” instead of “Frenchman St.” – what a doofus).
Despite all of Shamarr’s talent and charisma, despite talking to him and some of the other musicians for a few minutes after the show, despite winning a prize that’s supposedly worth a few hundred bucks, just for sending a Tweet – the highlight of the show belonged to a surprise guest. You guessed it! Hiro Mano! (You didn’t guess it, I was joking ) Hiro casually walked onto stage with his guitar in hand, and seamlessly transformed that guitar into part of his body. You know how sometimes guitar players mouth along or nod along with the sounds their guitar is making? Well Hiro’s entire body mouthed along with the sounds his guitar was making. A description from me would do the performance no service. A picture of Brendan reenacting the next day just might do the trick though (look right, dummy).
While my Jazz Fest takeaways are a-plenty (don’t ask random groups of strangers more than 2 series of questions to settle a bet on where they’re from; don’t talk to men wearing Sherwin Williams T-shirts; don’t order a basket of crawfish without getting napkins; don’t play slot machines that feature kitties and/or glitter; never let an old man try to cut you in line just by saying “I’m an old man.”; get a life; recognize heartburn in its early stages; Tom Petty is completely and utterly worthless; holding up a baby at a concert is the new sign of respect towards musicians; if a random girl talks to you on a bus for 5+ minutes, get her number; if a restaurant has a “three-course sampler” on their menu, don’t try to make your own customized three-course sampler with two of your friends; don’t buy “BLT” chips and really expect to taste the “L”; kissing booths aren’t always open; in my next life I will make creepy glass figurines combining baby heads and animals because apparently those can be sold for around $3,200 a pop; don’t try to jump into someone’s arms without looking at where their big toe is first; sticking your tongue out doesn’t give you secret powers during a dance-off; nobody actually cares about Jonah Hill…just to name a few), there’s a void in my life from leaving so quickly. Shamarr, come to Boston. New Orleans jazz, come to Boston. I’ll welcome you with open arms. Or I’ll just see you again in 12 months.