Fall in New Orleans means cooler weather, Saints games and a whole lot of festivals. There’s a festival for every week of fall in New Orleans, each one wonderfully unique and different from the next. Because it’s New Orleans, these festivals aren’t your typical town fair scenario – they’re specific to New Orleans culture that just can’t be found outside the Crescent City.
In this episode of GoNOLA Radio, our hosts explore the fall festivals that make New Orleans an unusually special destination this season. Fringe Fest coordinator Kristen Evans joins our hosts George Ingmire, Lorin Gaudin and Mikko to talk about the alternative New Orleans festival that showcases the art of daring local and national performers. A Scribe Called Quess?, one of the principal slam poets at the Welcome to the Fold spoken word event for Fringe Fest, stops by to talk about his art and his role in this year’s festival. In addition to Fringe Fest, we look toward the Hell Yes Fest this weekend and the upcoming Oak Street Po-Boy Festival and the Words and Music festival.
GoNOLA Radio is a free New Orleans podcast hosted by Sunpie Barnes, Lorin Gaudin, George Ingmire and Mikko about the food, music and culture of the Crescent City. Subscribe to GoNOLA Radio on iTunes or download to your mobile device on Stitcher. GoNOLA Radio features music by Cale Pellick.
Welcome to GoNola radio. My name is Sanpa Barnes, and I will be your host of hosts as we explore New Orleans to learn about the city’s rich cultural heritage, food and music. We’ll bring you experts, the real deal experts, who will talk with you about the people who make New Orleans such a wonderful place to live and visit. Its GoNola Radio.
Hello everyone welcome to our show again. We have we have Lorin Gaudin, the food goddess. We have George Ingmire, the music God.
Q: I’m your friendly neighborhood Mikko, and today we’re going to be talking about the festivals going on in New Orleans throughout the month and the one that’s really kind of swept up everything. We have our special guest today Kristen Evans who’s the coordinator from the Fringe Fest, and you’ve done be impossible. OK, I’ve been involved in theater in New Orleans for close to 30 years you have made New Orleans a national now international place for other producers and performers to come in and locals to flower. But more impossible than that people are coming to the shows . And that’s really the amazing thing. Thank you so much for being with us today. What makes New Orleans, such a great place for the Fringe Festival?
A: Well, first off thank you for having me here today it’s really a natural in some ways, isn’t New Orleans kind of a Fringe Festival all year-round.
I think so, yes.
A: And so what we did it was in 2008 we had an idea of doing a small theater Festival along St. Claude, and the idea just got completely out of control and it become not just a few shows on St. Claude but we decide to just go for it and present 30 performing groups, and in more groups added in as they brought their own venues which is the way the festival has really grown in its size.
Q: Now it’s interesting because Fringe embraces more than just a straight theater. There’s a performance art component, music embraces more than straight theater and other things, many, many other things. Edinburgh’s a very famous one, there’s one up in Edmonton, Canada. There’s Serventino in Mexico has become an international mainstay. Yet the word on the street, the theater street around the country is that the New Orleans is the Fringiest of the Fringiest. What the heck does that mean?
A: Well that is the word. I think the that performances are a big part of it. You know, performers are drawn here as well, as the New Orleans performers bringing work because audiences love it. They’re bringing work that audiences want to see. And audiences in New Orleans, they want to see wild, they want to see interesting, unusual stuff. We see performance of all types and in some ways we kind of live performances in New Orleans. So, audiences really embrace this stuff. So performers love performing for folks in New Orleans here. I think that’s a big part of it, and a big part of it too is that we perform and present the shows in the neighborhood. So the venues might be in somebody’s house. They might be on somebody’s porch, they might be in an old church, they could be in a Mardi Gras float den.
Q: A shipping container.
A: Absolutely, you know, and that’s exciting for folks to go and see theater in a different space actually makes it actually something much bigger than theater.
A2: What kind of performances are we talking about, you said theater but there’s probably poetry.
A: Yeah, Theater in a very broad definition. That’s right there’s poetry, we actually have a featured spoken word performance. We have circus arts, there’s dance, there is musical theater, cabaret. There’s this broad category called interdisciplinary and so that could be just about anything. What we’re seeing a lot to is people integrating in video arts into their shows.
So mixed-media kind of thing.
A: Yes, the categories are very fluid, and you can be sure that you’ll come and see something at the Fringe that you’ve never seen before we can pretty much guarantee that.
Q: But is not just for adults, right, it combines like it might be something that might be off hands, off for kids but that’s not so, right?
A: Yes, we actually have quite a number of what we call kid friendly shows. So these are shows that kids will enjoy but probably parents you will enjoy it too. And to create all sorts of activities and arts events that are completely free for families. We call it Family Fringe, and that happens the Saturday and Sunday of the festival from noon to five. We have everything from a bicycle repair workshop going on, to aerialists doing work, to youth dance performance, art activities. Sankofa markets coming out there.
Q: Oh, that’s neat.
A: Lots of great stuff. Part of what makes the fringe Festival, the fringe Festival is encouraging people to take risks, right. we want to ask our performers to take risks we also want our audiences to take risks too and maybe choose to see something that they wouldn’t normally. So we keep the ticket prices really inexpensive and the shows are not that long. So people will take chances and see stuff that they might not have in the past. And then we do our best to try to provide lots and lots of free things for people to do. But you know, another exciting element is we have these bring your own venues for all these different shows. Local artist can line up their own venue, and this has made the festival expand, so now we have 70 performing groups. the website is www.nofrindge.org ticket information and all the other activities going on.
Q: Qwest, you’re a spoken word artist, a poet and actor, a hip-hop teacher and it seems to me a lot of other things. Quest, welcome to the show.
Quest: Thank you. I like that.
Q: You’re welcome I love a scribe called Quest is a great name. So tell me, are you from New Orleans, or were you from originally?
Quest: Originally Brooklyn which is the northern version of New Orleans as far as I’m concerned, so born and raised there but, I been down here for a long time. High school graduate Abramson all that good stuff.
Q: And we brought you in because you’re obviously going to be part of the Fringe Festival and the Fringe Fest is having a spoken word event as well, which the information will be on the website, and you’re taking part. And this is your third year taking part, correct?
Quest: Yeah, stars just aligned it to be so, you know this is my third year being a part of it. Being directly a part of helping organizing it. I don’t work for Frinch, but I worked with fringe for the past three years coincidentally. It’s been a lot of fun every year.
Q: And you know hip-hop, spoken word is a lot of in your face lyrics. What are you trying to say when you perform your art, where is your stance?
Quest: My stance is on the stage, whereever I’m at that the moment that’s what’s going to come out. Every year it is just kind of aligned itself such that everybody just speaks their heart at the moment and it’s always very relevant. The difference between spoken word and page poetry, and I tell my students [inaudible 00:07:05] this is the poetry that you have to live that comes alive, that really beats with your heart and everybody in the spoken word tradition from Allen Ginsberg to Maria, Baraka, you know all of my contemporaries that I share space with now we all understand that the poetry is not just to be read it’s to be bled, to be lived.
Q: So you don’t go on stage with an agenda then, you go out and say what’s going on for you at that moment.
Quest: I mean in so much as I’ve like memorized pieces usually, hopefully, you know what I mean, and I go up and do those that’s like the closest I have to an agenda, it’s not like a lesson plan. It’s not like I have everything all lined up, if somebody wants to hear something different or the crowd calls for something different I just might do that.
Q: Well you’ll be able to catch Quest, A Scribe called Quest at the Fringe Fest this year, and we thank you for being with us.
Quest: Definitely, and that’s going to be a Sound Café November 17th, 7:00 show and a 9:00 show, you can come to either one. I look forward to seeing you.
Q: Awesome. We’ve got the Po Boy Fest coming up, now come on.
A: Are you kidding it’s bigger, badder, better than ever. It’s unbelievable how that particular festival has exploded. It is packed but what is amazing about it this year is that they’ve added some new elements. One of the new elements is that they’ve moved the music stages off to the side streets, so that there is more walking space from Carrollton to Eagle. Which, you know takes you basically from the streetcar line to the train tracks or the river if you want to look upon it that way. I think that’s really neat.
There are retailers. some of the retailers on Oak Street are actually going to be open Oak Street business is selling their stuff, not everybody some of them account of a cool place to sit and eat your yummy po boys and what have you and drink your beers and do whatever it is you want to do. That’s going to be behind Castleon [sp] pharmacy in their parking area. They’re setting up basically an eating space with tall tables picnic tables etc., but let’s get that food because there are some great highlights this year.
I mean Po Boy Fest has been such a blast because people have been doing crazy things like this they’ve done all kinds of, wacky po boys. Taking bread pudding and putting it on poor boy bread that was a big-time winner. Last year [Wow Wingery] won for a really funky, sort of an Asian inspired shrimp Po boy sandwich. Then, you can get good old regular oyster Po boy’s and shrimp homeboys from different vendors but this year we’ve got Cane River meat pies, which I happen to be a huge fan of Cane River, meat pies. They’re really delicious. They’re going to do a poor boy this year, which is fantastic it’s with their signature ground beef they’re also going to offer a mini meat pies that you can get. Fat Hen on St. Charles Avenue, is in the fest this year and they’re going to do a po boy called the impostor with smoked ham, fried egg and pimento cheese. Like three of the most delicious yummy things that you can put… And then right there on top of yummy Leidenheimer bread, it doesn’t get better than that.Voicroissant, [Van] Voicroissant is out there with his business doing all those gorgeous hot sausages, craw-fish sausages. He’s doing them on sandwiches or for those of who are not eating bread for some strange reason, on a stick. Blue Frog Chocolates is also doing chocolate dipped zaps, crawtator potato chips. I mean heaven on earth right there spicy, salty, crunchy, sweet deliciousness. Lots of fun stuff at Po Boy Fest this year.
Q: Just needs bacon on top.
A: Let’s add it.
Q: That’s November 18th, and there’s a music component, and I’m just dying to hear about the Los Poboycitos, the best name ever.
Well they’re kind of a typecast band if you think about it. Los Poboycitos I think they proceeded the festival but there a Latin soul and they bring together everything from like Willie Bobo to Ernie Cato. So, you got New Orleans but also, this Latin soul scene from the early 70s a wonderful, wonderful job. They’re drummer is actually really good at putting down flooring if you need your floors done.
A2: That’s a pretty little tidbit.
Q: Check on Angie’s list.
B:It’s true. Yes. and then Honey Alan Swamp band, which is developing a really strong following somehow, even though their sound isn’t quite like the Radiators a lot of the people who love the radiators are now kind of finding themselves…
A2 : It has that funk, it has that Radiator funk attitude.
B: It’s really good music this way to, they’re going to be out there doing their thing. Then there’s a fairly new band called, The Treme Funktet, which is lead by Cory Henry, who is not fairly new, but he’s been doing it for a while now. He formed The Little Rascals so they’re going to be really amazing. Then there’s flow tribe which is quite funky . So it’s going to be a great time to go out and eat and also work off what you’re are eating. Listening to the music, there’s going to be a lot of great music there, but those are the four that you definitely need to know about.
Q: So go early so you can get in front of those lines of some of those amazing Po Boys. We have two more things to talk about. Words of music is one of the under the radar events that happens every year in New Orleans Rose Mary Jane, who’s a poet herself and her husband, they run the Faulkner house books downtown, down in the French Quarter. Words and Music Festival draws some of the greatest writers working from around the world, but mostly American writers. Every year, and they have a focus, this year their special guest is Ernest Gaines. The author of, ‘A Lesson Before Dying and the autobiography of Mrs. Jane Pittman, and they’ve added a music component this year which you seem to know more about than I do George. What are they doing exactly this year?
C: Two to think about would be the lecture, the talk on Ernie Cato that Ben [Sanmill] is going to be putting together. He just wrote a book on him and I believe I’m trying to think about who did the photograpy. He’s in [Crill] String Beans. Rick Olivia, he did a lot of photography for that. The Emperor of the Universe of course, Ernie Cato. But then there’s also talk about Congo Square and it’s connection to the music scene. Those of you out there listening who’ve never seen Congo Square, don’t know the history. It’s a real important place where early jazz was created by virtue of free people of color and slaves all coming together and Native Americans coming together, and trading these traditions off of each other. Kind of like we continue to do, but historical circumstance.
Q: I have the Web links to the Fringe Fest, The Po Boy Fest, and the Words and Music Fest and the final fest, which is actually sort of the upswing to is the Hell Yes Fest. And this is a big comedy Festival. It’s it’s claimed here to be the biggest comedy fest in the goal, South which is quite a distinction. They’re featuring Duncan Trussel [SP], and Christian Finnigan and then, a lot of local performers. Comedy is something in New Orleans still getting its foothold…
B: But there are plenty of people that think they’re damn funny.
Q: None of them are on stage, no that’s unfair. They’re getting organized, they’re getting their stuff together, comedians that is in New Orleans. Kind of like with theater was Kristen about, you know, 15 years ago, but this festival is really, like last year was quite popular. This is safe to come out and see.
B: Ask me should we go?
Q: Lauren, should we go?
B: Hell Yes.
Q: You ought to be on stage. All right, were going to go out with that joke. You’ve made me hungry, and hungry for alternative theater. Thank you to Kristen Evans again, good luck with the festival this year.
Kristen: Thank you.
Q: And Lauren, thanks for making me hungry again and George, all ways the voice of depth and wisdom.
George: Your welcome.
GoNOLA radio is a production of New Orleans Tourism and Market Corporation, in conjunction with FSC Interactive. Music by Kale Pellet. My name is Sanpa Barnes. Tune in next week by subscribing to GoNOLA radio on iTunes or GoNOLA.com.