Crazy Hearts in New Orleans

05/09/2023 Wesley Dean
View Article Crazy Hearts Diary

From New Orleans, Louisiana, to you, Crazy Hearts:

New Orleans is such a creative city, very artistic and bohemian, so different to any other city that I’ve ever experienced with its French influence. It’s vampires. There’s a sense of some mystical presence. At every turn an offering for your fortune to be told and in a bar I stumbled upon by chance, there was an option to have some fresh vampire fangs to be attached by a local dentist. New Orleans offered it all.

After politely declining the fangs, we went across the road to the historic Preservation Jazz Hall, established in 1961, and watched the Preservation All Stars perform. It was a hot and sticky with its intense humidity but worth every bead of sweat. The jazz, unique, raw, and real, and everyone packed into the old hall, hanging off every note. The air was thick, and the music stained your soul. Steve McQueen frequented the hall back in the day, there was a scene from one of his films shot there..

It certainly wasn’t all Jazz, Vampires and movie stars though. A day earlier, we’d arrived at an RV park in the middle of the city, and to be honest, it was more like Alcatraz than it was an RV park. I felt very uneasy. It was so hot and oppressively humid. Despite all this, we decided to embrace it. We said we were going to stay and make it memorable, but obviously my family’s safety is my highest concern always.

The kids really wanted to swim and there was a pool there, so they were happy. They got their bikes out and started riding around, but I quickly discovered that the RV wasn’t plugging in. The electrical system had completely died, and they wouldn’t allow us to use our generator because of noise pollution in the park, so things got very hot, very fast. No generator meant I couldn’t keep the kids cool, and I was quickly realizing we might have to move.

We tried multiple times to plug the RV in, but nothing. Each time we tried a new power pole it took about 45 minutes. We were dripping with sweat and getting pretty overwhelmed. The pressing matter was that I had a show planned at the House of Blues in an hour, so we had to quickly pivot and find brand-new accommodation plus get to the show on time. I unpacked the RV and saved whatever supplies I could, then raced the family across town to an airbnb where they could stay cool. Then I had to pack my gear and get to the venue in time with my awesome crew to play my first show ever at the House of Blues.

We made the venue just in time to play the hour and a half show. I unloaded my gear, had a quick change of shirt and started rockin’ out!
At first I was playing to an empty room, but as i started playing, a healthy crowd started to build, in fact, it had filled the room, and I ended up playing three encores.. A fine ending to a pretty brutal day. There was some magic in that room for sure. A big blue neon Buddha was my backdrop for the set, and I had a great mate drive down from St Francisville to be there. There was a talented guitarist who joined me for a few songs as well. The crowd was hootin’ and a hollerin’. The audience was so receptive and kind. I’ll definitely come back to play the House Of Blues. I grew up hearing about the venue as a kid, and so it was a dream to play it.. They were so generous to give me a tour of the venue after my show. The walls were dripping with musical history. A pretty great ending to a 20 hour day.

After the gig I made my way back to the airbnb. It was such a relief knowing the kids were safe and out of the extreme heat. As for the RV? We had to park it on the other side of town at a friend’s house among the narrow streets of New Orleans. We were lucky to know someone who lived there, and we could relax knowing the RV was safe and sound. It really was miraculous, almost like it was planned! Super thankful to so many who helped us sort it out. That’s another theme in this journey, at every point there was someone, somewhere, waiting to help or guide., Now I truly understand the sentiment of Blanche DuBois’ standpoint in A Streetcar Named Desire, “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers”. Also set in New Orleans. There’s nothing like southern hospitality.
On our second night we were invited to a beautiful family home, for an incredible feast prepared by the one and only David and Mary Martha Quinn and her incredible extended family. We were so grateful to have a home cooked feast, Cajun style.

But, from this point on, everything started to become a logistical nightmare… relocating the RV and moving in and out of it at every destination depending on whether it worked or not, was like moving a mini house. Each pack and unpack took hours as we didn’t have suitcases and I had a lot of gear for the shows. The vinyls needed to stay cool and the guitars couldn’t get hot either. With the extreme heat and everything we needed to capture content wise, it was super stressful and a very frustrating workload at times. What was I thinking… a tour made up in real time across America with nothing but ourselves during the hottest summer in American history, in an RV with no power, shooting 10 music videos with two small kids..!!

Despite all this, I really loved my time in New Orleans. And the challenges are always remembered fondly. It was great to experience a city so rich in history. I’ll come back someday soon. The food was out of this world. It was my first time experiencing Cajun food.

Thank you House of Blues, Mary Martha and everyone who helped us. Here’s a poem I wrote about this inspiring city:

New Orleans
creaking balconies and ancient halls
free time jazz plays through cracked walls
where the light gets in through the vampire’s playground of mystery and sin
rickety streetcars and open bars
buskers and their empty jars
outside the rain falls in gutters and tarps
the fortune teller turning cards
delivering messages future, present, and past
in between nightmares and dreams
weird scenes
bare feet on bourbon street
a chaotic kind of peace
this, new orleans

Wesley Dean