John told me a number of times that I should go to Preservation Hall, so Tuesday morning I looked up the website. I recognized the name of the guy playing that night (because I’m a big Harry Connick, Jr fan and a bit of an obsessive nerd, I happened to know off the top of my head that Shannon Powell was the drummer for his big band in the early nineties (We Are In Love is possibly my favorite album)), so I planned to go after work. First set started at 8pm. Unfortunately, I had to get through the whole day first. I invited my coworker, who I’ll call Crazy (the only other person on this trip who actually works for my company – everyone else we worked with that week works for our client agency), and we got invited to dinner with one of the clients. I didn’t particularly want to hang out with anyone from the agency after working hours (I was hoping to relax. I didn’t want to be on anymore.), but I didn’t have a not-rude way out just then. Anyway, she wasn’t interested in going to Preservation Hall. I could handle dinner.
Dinner was uneventful, even boring, especially because Crazy bailed on me. It started pouring down rain (like flooding rain – we could have swum down Canal Street), and she called to tell me she was staying in. I had an teeny umbrella that barely kept my head dry, but nothing was keeping me from Preservation Hall that night, so I met my client coworker outside her hotel, and we ran through the rain to the Palace Cafe. Got drenched from about mid-thigh down. The food was good (I had andouille crusted fish – spicy and delicious), the conversation was boring, and as soon as I dropped client coworker back at her hotel, I headed out.
If you’ve never been, Preservation Hall (at least where the band plays) is this tiny little room with dirty wood plank flooring, a few wooden benches in the middle of the room (maybe four) and along the walls, a row of cushions up front, and some standing room in the back. The entrances to the room are on the left side if you’re facing the street (and the band). There are two doorways on that side, one near the front of the room and one near the back. You go in through the back and leave out the front, and the doorway near the front is right by the band. When I came in ($12 cover, and $2 for traditional requests, $5 for other requests, $10 for “When the Saints Go Marching In”, noted on a little sign on the wall behind the band), the band was playing, and as I passed the front doorway, I looked in, saw Shannon Powell (Shannon Powell!), and he waved at me and gave an enthusiastic “Hey!” That was awesome. I gathered he really liked to see people come in to hear him play. There were a ton of people there already, so I joined the crowd in the back and found a spot where I could see. Sort of. If I stayed on my toes and looked over a guy’s shoulder. Still, the music was awesome, and we all had a good time. The set ended about nine, maybe a little before, and I stuck around for the next set. I watched the people leaving talk to members of the band (Shannon Powell on drums, Lars Edegran on piano, Clive somebody on trumpet, somebody else on bass, and Scott somebody on trombone) as they filed past them on their way out that front doorway, and I decided I’d talk to Shannon and gush a little on my way out after the next set. I found a better spot along the right-hand wall for the second set. The crowd this time around wasn’t as lively. I was the most enthusiastic person there, clapping to the beat, having a wonderful time. Totally fun, and I decided to stay for the third set. How often will I get to see this? I’ll manage staying out late on a work night. My enthusiasm didn’t go unnoticed. After the second set ended, Mr. Powell came over to meet me. Wanted to know who his fan was, I think. It turns out he said hi to me when I came in because I look like someone he used to work with who left town a while back. He thought she may have been back for a visit. Yeah, that’s not me. But still, I’m an enthusiastic fan. He asked me what I was drinking (I didn’t have a drink), and I said nothing right now. He beckoned me along after him. We went across the street and stepped into a bar. (Johnny White’s.) I was feverishly trying to think of what to order that wouldn’t be either gross (to me) or totally lame (to him). He asked, I said rum and coke, he said he’s drinking rum, too (rum and orange juice, I think), I said that sounds good, and he ordered me one. And waved me away when I reached for my wallet. He bought me a drink. ! We chatted a little (where am I from, where are you touring next, etc), and he asked me if I wanted to hang out with the band later. I panicked a little, said I couldn’t, I’m here for work, and I have a presentation in the morning. Lies! My presentation was the day after, in the afternoon. He said something about getting my number so we can stay in touch and catch up when he comes to DC. (I was thinking to myself that I was not that captivating during that conversation. Still, he’s didn’t come across as sleazy. Just friendly.) Anyway, I regretted the presentation lie and decided I’d tell him I mixed up the days if he asked again. (He didn’t.) He said he’s playing at the Palm Court the next night (Wednesday). I asked about it, and he said they have great food, great music. I said I’ll be there. We went back to the hall for his third set, and I took my spot back on the wall. Good third set (the crowd was better than for the second set). We all danced at the end. The guy hugging the wall behind me thanked me on behalf of the band for being able to clap on the right beat (2 and 4 as opposed to 1 and 3 like a few idiots in the audience). I tipped the band (as you do), and Shannon said “Palm Court tomorrow?” “I’ll be there at 8.” I headed out and walked back to my hotel, grinning like an idiot at everyone I passed (it was a little before midnight), and called Mindy to rave about my evening. What did she want to know? “What are you going to wear tomorrow?” We have priorities. It was SO. MUCH. FUN.