THE GIG: Josh Garrett & the Bottom Line, 8 p.m. on Tuesdays
THE VENUE: Old Point Bar, 545 Patterson St., Algiers Point
THE SCENE: Where everybody knows your name, or at least act like they do
THE DRINKS: Great neighborhood-bar prices, but don’t ask for anything fancy. Good selection of draft beers.
I love and respect the Mississippi River, but I prefer to enjoy it in a radiant, not direct, sense.
The Mississippi River had crested only a week prior to my excursion to the Old Point Bar to see blues-funk outfit Josh Garrett & the Bottom Line. My boyfriend thought it would be fun to take the ferry across the river to Algiers. I had no desire to take a joyride across the swirling, swollen beast.
I’ve read “Rising Tide.” Even though I knew the levees had been declared strong enough to handle the crest, and even though the ferry probably wouldn’t have been running if there had been any real danger of an accident, I just don’t like to mess around with the Mississippi River.
I gritted my teeth and agreed. So as we launched from the top of Canal Street and as the ferry slowly cut its way through the remarkably high river, I couldn’t help but get on edge. I looked at the hydrologic chaos surrounding our vessel, currents rushing and swirling and competing in decibel level with the ferry’s engines, and soon averted my eyes.
Yes, it’s silly, but in any case I was a bit wound up by the time we parked on the side street adjacent to the Old Point Bar. As it turned out, I didn’t even need to step onto the pavement to get some colorful comic relief from one of the bar’s regulars, who, after we had turned off the engine, began playfully humping the hood of the car. Why he was compelled to do this, I cannot say, but it was certainly effective in making me laugh and taking some of the edge off my ferry ride.
The band was in the process of decompressing, too, for they were running uncharacteristically late after a long day in the studio cutting tracks for their new album. Three of the band members sat at a table outside, smoking and pulling on beers as they waited for their fourth member to arrive. Drummer Kyle Sharamitaro was confronted by a well-lubricated regular, a sassy older woman wearing a black cocktail dress, who wanted to know why he hadn’t said hello to her yet. Sharamitaro apologized, and they chatted.
Inside, a chafing dish full of tasty jambalaya and a wonderfully creative cake employing leftover Easter candy as decoration sat free for the taking. The bar was smoky as all get out, but it’s at least large and high-ceilinged enough to let the smoke wander to far corners. I was delighted to find one of my favorite beers, Magic Hat #9, on tap. I’ve never seen that anywhere else in New Orleans.
Sometime after 9 p.m., the band took the stage, and started off with an easy, loose funk tune to warm up. Garrett executed a bluesy solo, and the members played off one another with ease, smiling at inside jokes and grooving right along.
The band’s arrival did not disturb any of the folks at the bar, who continued their barroom chatter and storytelling as the music flowed. One well-dressed older couple listened and sipped white wine, while a man wearing sporty whites asked the female bartender, “Hey, how’s about you and I do a shot?” Another man in green scrubs entered, found a bar seat, and watched the NBA Finals game on TV.
“We apologize we’re tardy today,” Garrett said after the second tune ended. “We’re recording our next record.”
As the band went into one of their new songs, an as-yet-unnamed ditty, it occurred to me that everyone in the bar had been working hard or just worked up, and was finding a good buzz and some solace in the Old Point Bar.
At set break, my boyfriend and I climbed on top of the levee to admire the beauty of the Mississippi River, which I was happy to do, this time from afar.