Monday, June 25, 2012

NOLA in Williamsburg

It was hot in NYC last week. Record breaking hot. It was 97 degrees with 1000% humidity so it felt well over 100 degrees. This is the kind of weather we expect occasionally in August but not in June. When this weather hits we tend to stay indoors. But I decided to embrace the heat on Thursday. By now you know how much I love New Orleans and 100 degrees with full humidity is what they call a cool summer day down there. So jumped on the L to Williamsburg to get my NOLA on.

First stop, a return trip to Juniper. Juniper is the great Cajun restaurant I wrote about recently. What could be better on a hot summer night than eating great cajun food? I was hoping they still had their Jambalaya on the menu. They did.

Generous amounts of sausage, mussels, shrimp and chicken studded this version of the Cajun classic. The perfect balance of heat and spice (the hallmark of Juniper) make this a yet another reason to make a pilgrimage to Juniper. This was the start I needed for my evening (I also shared the catfish sandwich again and it was just as good the second time.)

With a belly full of jambalaya I was ready for the main event. Anders Osborne at Brooklyn Bowl.

Brooklyn Bowl is modeled after the legendary Rock 'N' Bowl in New Orleans. It is a great, massive space with a carnival like atmosphere. The main room is a big space with a nice stage for shows. The full bar is stocked with a nice selection of Brooklyn and local beers. Blue Ribbon does the food, delivering top notch versions of classic comfort food (fried chicken) and cajun food (oyster po' boys). And yes, there is a full bowling alley. There are those who grumble that it is not a great place to see shows but I love the place. The Alabama Shakes show I saw there was their best, so much for it not being a great live venue.

The draw for me on Thursday was Anders Osborne. Anders was born in Sweden and moved to New Orleans over twenty years ago. He has fully immersed himself in the music and culture of his adopted hometown and with his distinct voice, blistering guitar playing and strong songwriting Anders has become one of the leading artists in that town. Blues, rock and heavy doses of  swamp are the signatures of his sound.  His 2010 release American Patchwork was my record of the year and his newest record, Black Eye Galaxy, is a strong follow up.

Anders Osborne has also become one of the best live acts in a town full of them and his show at Brooklyn Bowl on Thursday was no exception. I have seen Anders a lot and I can say he has become one of the most constantly strong performers there is. His new album, Black Eye Galaxy, is one of his heaviest to date and his set on Thursday followed suit.

Backed by a crack band Anders played a tremendous 2 1/2 hour set. He was eventually joined by another guitarist, keys, sax and harmonica and performed songs from the new album, his catalog and some choice covers. It was the kind of set you see on a nightly basis in New Orleans but rarely here. To watch an artist stretching out, jamming, playing, joined by friends and going as long as the crowd wants is all you can ask for and one of the great pleasures in life. By the time I hobbled out of Brooklyn Bowl on Thursday I was exhausted and soaked, my legs ached and I was completely happy. It felt like another great night in New Orleans, except that I got to take the L train home and sleep in my own bed. It doesn't get much better than that.

Juniper - 112 Berry Street between 7th & 8th Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Brooklyn Bowl - 61 Wythe Avenue between 11th & 12th Street, Willamsburg, Brooklyn

Anders Osborne - myspace -

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