Light-footed Treme actor on Gumbo YaYa

James DuMont may have one of those mugs that looks familiar but it was his feet, not his face, that first caught my attention.

Antoine Diel and the Misfit Power had started in on a salsa number when DuMont broke off his conversation with the doorman, burst into the night club, grabbed the hand of an unsuspecting but willing woman and started dancing in the narrow open space between the band and the patrons of The Spotted Cat.

Diel and his band were hot that night. But so was DuMont. And that’s when I put my finger on why he looked familiar. For all four seasons of Treme, DuMont played the character of Captain Richard Lafouchette, the honest sheriff department officer who routinely complied with Toni Bernette’s request for public records.

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James DuMont

Not a major role but one essential to moving the plot forward, similar to the hundreds of other characters he’s played in movies and television over the last four decades. And yet later as we stood talking outside the Frenchmen Street nightclub, he modestly didn’t believe I had recognized him. “Who told you?”

Off camera DuMont is a helluva lot hipper than his Treme character who he depicts in one scene orgasmically wolfing down a piece of fried chicken at Lil’ Dizzy’s Cafe. I found it hard to imagine him playing the red-baiting corrupt congressman J. Parnell Thomas in Trumbo or the breast-growing empathetic husband of a pregnant woman in the television show House. Later, when I checked out his IMDB profile, the role I thought best fit his personality was his first one, an uncredited appearance in The Blues Brothers as “kid dancing in the street.”

Born and raised in Chicago and New York City, DuMont now lives full time with his family in New Orleans.  (this last sentence was changed from my original post when we had to reschedule his interview) He joined me on my radio show on June 2 to talk about New Orleans, its music and just how tasty Lil’ Dizzy’s fried chicken really is. (Listen Full show or just listen to the interview.)

New Orleans guidebook writer to be on Gumbo YaYa

It was a typical New Orleans experience meeting Michael Murphy.

My sister, brother-in-law and I were standing on the sidewalk along Chartres Street looking around, pointing and arguing.  An invitation for just about any social-by-nature New Orleans denizen to politely butt in. In this case, we were in the hands of a professional.

Guidebook writer and tour guide extraordinaire Michael Murphy had just stepped out of a nearby bookstore when he untangled our conversation. My sister had thought that Morning Call Coffee Stand , which had abandoned the French Quarter in the 70’s in favor of a strip mall in Metairie, had returned to the area. Nope, Murphy explained. It opened up a great new location at City Park–a satisfying compromise of continuing a century long legacy of serving cafe au lait and beignets to locals while still taking full advantage of the city’s daily onslaught of sightseers.

Michael_Murpy_FEAR_Da_web-300x260As will happen in New Orleans, a good deed of offering directions turns into a 15-minute conversation where we each share how we ended up in a city we all loved.

In Murphy’s case, it was love at first sight, having visited the city in the 80’s on a business trip.  He moved down about seven years ago and has made it his calling to acquaint others with the charms of the city. In addition to being a hotel concierge and conducting private tours, he’s the author of four unique guidebooks.

“Eat Dat” is not your typical restaurant guide. While the book provides “best of” lists, it  really shines when Murphy focuses on the stories and personalities behind the cuisine. “Hear Dat,” to be released in mid-April, introduces readers to the wide range of New Orleans music and night clubs and the talented professionals who make it happen. It’s a tough assignment. But he does a good job of covering the broad range of live music you will find in New Orleans from Jazz and R&B to Hip Hop and Alternative Rock. .

Having bravely written about food and music in a city that takes both personally and seriously, Murphy throws caution to the wind with another release, “Fear Dat” about New Orleans voodoo and stories of “assorted butchery & mayhem.” He also has written a very practical guidebook called  “111 things Not to Miss in New Orleans.”

Murphy and I will rekindle our relationship on the air on Thursday when I hope I can get him to share a few ideas on how visitors to New Orleans can make the most of this year’s festival season.

Podcast of the show, including the interview with Michael Murphy. I apologize for the distortion in the interview. New recorder and not used to using it on live interviews.

New Orleans festival season offers more than JazzFest

The New Orleans festival season is fast approaching. While the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is the crown jewel of the season, there are reasons for the music tourist to consider visiting the city at any time during the long festival season other than JazzFest. Here’s a few.

The Crowds.  New Orleans is a tourist town year round but it can be overwhelming during Mardi Gras and JazzFest. During those peak times, restaurants and nightclubs are a harder to get into and lodging is more expensive. Go before or after JazzFest and the city feels more relaxed and accessible.

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Glen David Andrews performing at Jazz in the Park (Louis Armstrong Park) in 2013.

Free Outdoor Concerts – New Orleans offers some wonderful outdoor concerts showcasing local musicians in a festival atmosphere. There are two exceptional, easy to get to concert series that run through the spring. This year, “Wednesday at the Square” features Marcia Ball, Amanda Shaw, Tab Benoit, Flow Tribe, Honey Island Swamp Band, Kermit Ruffins, Anders Osborne and Soul Rebels. This downtown show held in Lafayette Square usually features an opening act, runs from 5 to 8 p.m. and is surrounded by ways to purchase food and booze. On Thursday evenings, Louis Armstrong Park comes alive with Jazz in the Park. This event attracts more locals with chairs and picnic baskets but you’ll still find sustenance and drink in this park just across historic Rampart Street from the French Quarter.

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Local dance group performing at Freret Street Festival

Neighhorhood Festivals –  Only in a New Orleans neighborhood festival would you find youth dance groups and more established artists like Bonerama, Mississippi Rail Company, Tank and the Bangas, and New Breed Brass Band. That was just a sampling of the three stages last year that defined the boundaries of the Freret Street Festival, one of the early season neighborhood festivals in New Orleans. Neighborhood festivals run throughout the year, except for JazzFest. Check the festival schedule and sample a few online such as the Bayou Boogaloo –- definitely on my bucket list for a future visit. You’ll find most New Orleanians are incredibly social—almost to a fault. Go to a neighborhood event or establishment and if you are reasonably gregarious, you will meet locals who will happily share their opinions on bands, restaurants and the best route to take to your next event.

IMG_1454French Quarter Festival – This four-day event attracts more audience than the more well-known seven-day JazzFest. The difference is that the stages are scattered about the French Quarter and they are free, making it easy for the casual daily tourist to get sucked into the music. Whereas JazzFest adds a healthy dose of world and national music acts to their line up of local performers, French Quarter Festival is almost exclusively local musicians. Held two weeks before JazzFest, it’s the first major festival of the season. If you’re already staying in or around downtown, you won’t need to taxi or bus to the fairgrounds as you would with JazzFest. Last year French Quarter Festival headlined with Allen Toussaint, who later joined in a delightful conversation with Deacon John about Cosimo Matassa at the festival’s interview stage. I can’t tell you how fortunate I felt to be in the audience for both of those events.

freret-street-festival-2Lagniappe. Regardless of when you go, relax. You won’t be able to do it all. Things will get in your way, like torrential rain storms. Last year, I had set my mind on catching Irma Thomas at the big stage by the river at French Quarter Festival but when I saw a mass of dark clouds headed my way, I reluctantly ducked into the House of Blues courtyard. What a break. Not only did I stay dry but I became acquainted with the talent of Sarah McCoy and Colin Lake –two performers who were able to keep playing despite a very heavy rain. The Irma Thomas show was cancelled. Slow down, take care of yourself and enjoy the moment because you’re in New Orleans, baby!

P.S. JazzFest is a hoot and you should do it, particularly if you haven’t and have always wanted to. Here’s my five things you should know about JazzFest.