Juneteenth: A Gulf Coast Good Time In A Hipster-Free Zone
Glen David Andrews (left) and "Mardi Gras Indian" Terrence Gasper
Photos courtesy of Miller Theatre Advisory Board
Sunday's Juneteenth extravaganza at Miller Outdoor Theatre proved to be another chapter in why, here at Rocks Off, we love our town. In spite of Hades-like mid-afternoon temperatures, brisk breezes cooled the evening, leaving trombonist Glen David Andrews and his New Orleans band to worry about the heat index as a huge crowd lolled on the big hill at Miller.
The whole event was another opportunity to realize what a fine facility Miller Theatre is. It was also another opportunity to marvel at Houston's diversity and its post-Katrina love affair with all things New Orleans.
Nothing could have been finer, or more appropriate, than having Houston musical treasure "Texas" Johnny Brown open the show. One of the most vigorous 83-year-olds any of us may ever see, Brown has retained one of the sweetest voices in Houston blues, and he regaled the crowd with his classics like "Two Steps From the Blues" and gave the first history lesson of the night by illustrating why he is one of the true song stylists of his era and not just another 12-bar player. This man can write a song.
Texas Johnny Brown
Former Houstonian Corey Ledet, again appearing with Lil' Buck Sinegal from Clifton Chenier's seminal zydeco ensemble, brought the heat up with his danceable South Louisiana boogie. Unfortunately, due to fire-code restrictions, Miller's "dance floor" in front of the stage couldn't be utilized, putting a slight damper on Ledet's set because zydeco is first and foremost dance party music. Still Ledet had the crowd on its feet before he surrendered the stage to Andrews.
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Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats
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And indeed it was Andrews the crowd came to see, and he did not disappoint as he brought out Houston native and Treme cast member Davi Jay to lend his voice to the proceedings from the stage while Andrews led a second line march off the stage and out through the crowd on the hill while ripping through Mardi Gras classics.
Andrews got people out of their seats and on their feet and kept it up. By the time the night was over, Rocks Off found ourselves standing less than two feet from the Treme regular as he blasted away on his trombone with a gaggle of children dancing at his feet, an almost perfect ending to a great evening.
Great music aside, the Juneteenth celebration was another cultural and social triumph for the City of Houston, with Mayor Annise Parker on hand to shake her booty and put an official stamp on one of the most important days in our state history.
We couldn't help but marvel at the great atmosphere that enveloped the park on Father's Day as many families picnicked and barbecued and enjoyed the program. And we couldn't help but notice that Miller Outdoor Theatre was, at least on this night given over to blues, zydeco and brass-band music, a hipster-free zone.
Rocks Off loves our town.
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