As soon as we reach New Orleans, I feel a wave of calm wash over me. The sun is just beginning to set, and the air is pleasantly balmy. It feels like the city is giving me a big hug. The show starts late, so we head over to Siberia for a quick meal. We played there our last time in town, and the food and general vibe made a strong impression. When we arrive, a bluegrass duo is playing a song about getting kicked out of Waffle House for making out in the booth. They’re good, and charming. The front room is full, but the back has plenty of room. I make a bee-line to the food window and order. Everything is delicious at Siberia, and just absurdly cheap, so deciding is hard. I eventually settle on a beet burger and a side of grilled asparagus. The guy who takes my order looks like he is genuinely thrilled to be doing so. I order a rye and soda, and head to the back to await my food. It arrives quickly, and it is the culinary highlight of tour so far.
Everything about this burger is top-notch. The patty itself, made of beets, lentils, and cashews, is ever so slightly crispy on the outside and way more substantial than a vegetable-based burger usually feels. It comes on a soft, fresh onion roll with goat cheese, greens, tomato, thinly-sliced pickles, and very spicy Polish mustard. Tangy, savory, sweet, and salty, with a way higher quality of fixins than you generally find in a bar burger. It also costs, like, seven dollars. Clearly we are a long way from home. The grilled asparagus is done perfectly, with the slightest char starting to build up on the outside and just the right amount of salt. It comes with even more of the mustard. This meal is completely satisfying, and I do not feel at all gross after eating it. I feel great. Belly full of beets and rye, we set off to load in for the show.
The show is at Saturn Bar, one of the diviest dives I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. The word “dive” has become a sort of annoying shorthand for “bar with a carefully-curated patina of faux-grime and no cocktail menu”, to the extent that many bars now even self-identify as “dives”. But the origin of the word was derogatory; unsavory. When you go to a place like New Orleans, you realize that most New Yorkers have never been to a real dive. People are smoking. There is a puddle of standing water in front of the toilet, which has no door, and doesn’t really “flush” in the traditional sense of the word. There is one of those trough-style urinals. No soap. Graffiti everywhere. The owner has a cat, and let’s just say the cat seems to have decided that he or she is now the owner. Not denigrating the place; these are just facts, and if you hang out there it’s because they don’t bother you. This is a place people go to get a solid-to-serious buzz on in the least pretentious manner possible. You stop noticing the smell after a pretty short time. The bartenders are lovely; cute Southern women who take shit from absolutely nobody. Becca tells me later that one of them broke up a fight last week by coming from behind the bar and beating the pugilists with a Louisville Slugger, and I don’t doubt it for a minute. When asked about it, she giggles demurely like it’s no big deal. I already love this place. I order another rye and soda. Our friend Ingrid arrives, and we catch up for a while. It’s particularly cool to see her on this tour, because she was actually staying with us when we wrote and recorded a lot of the songs that would become Infinite House, several of which have been newly added to our set. To honor this special connection, I’m going to plug her current business venture: Panties With A Pocket. I can’t speak to their functionality, but I think it’s a great idea and they certainly look cute in the pictures. The inadequacy of traditional female garments for carrying things comes up frequently in conversations with female friends. Ingrid has a solution. Panties With A Pocket: for you, or the practical woman in your life. You can put money in there, or your ID, or maybe a condom so that when a casual hookup gets your clothes off for the first time he immediately understands the terms. The possibilities are endless. Maybe don’t put your keys if you have a lot of keys.
Our old pals Native America play the first set, which is well-executed but beset by technical issues. They’re really taking one for the team, the vocals sound like absolute shit through no fault of theirs. Later they assure us this was on purpose. They play here all the time, and nothing is at stake for them at this show, so they wanted to make sure all the fuckups happened in their set rather than ours or Krill’s. I am touched by this gesture. There is a longstanding custom of local bands paying it forward to touring bands, sacrificing a cut of the door to pay them more and things like that, but this is really above and beyond, demonstrating both foresight and class. And just in time for Krill’s set, the cavalry arrives. Some friends from town have heard we would be playing at Saturn, and figured the PA might have something wrong with it, so they bring their own. Later, one of them will give us the key to his house and go crash with his girlfriend to ensure that we all have room to sleep. This is some real Southern hospitality. Why are people so nice to us here? I am filled with gratitude. Krill puts on their best set yet. As many times as I’ve seen them, it never gets old. Our own set is well-received, and the bar is now packed with people we know and sort of know from previous trips. Stepping outside for some fresh air, I realize that I can in fact take my drink outside with me, because I am in New Orleans. The sidewalk becomes the front porch of any bar in nice weather. The temperature is still perfect. I take a moment before I engage with anybody to just look around and be grateful. The night passes quickly, and before I know it it’s three or four in the morning and we’re loading into the house to sleep. The cat and I hang out for a bit, but it soon becomes clear he is just buttering me up so I’ll let him outside. I let him outside. I sleep.
We’ve got a long drive ahead of us, so we wake up early to have a proper breakfast at Slim Goodie’s. Carlos has been talking this place up for years and I don’t think I’ve ever actually been before. I get this delightful mess of pretty much every tasty breakfast ingredient:
Two eggs over easy, cheddar cheese, thick-sliced bacon, and meaty-ass chili over hash browns. The hash browns are grated super thin and have a nice crisp along the bottom. Chili is hearty and flavorful. It hits the spot.This is the Platonic form of breakfast. I douse the whole thing in hot sauce, as is my wont. I drink at least four cups of coffee. Although I do not order the item pictured below, I feel compelled to document it.
Look at this perfect over-easy egg just encased in a pancake. A masterpiece of short order cookery. I try to guess how it is made by examining it. The indented ring around the egg obviously provides some sort of clue, but doesn’t take me all the way there. I will just continue to believe it is magic. Next stop, Austin.