Jazz Fest is always an exciting time for New Orleans. The influx of music-loving tourists combines with the city’s passion for music, and the result is an electrifying display of performances. With literally thousands of concerts to choose from, not only do fans have to make some difficult decisions, but artists do as well. We couldn’t be happier to have Anders Osborne performing at the inaugural NOLA Crawfish Festival, taking place during the “daze between” weekends of the main event from April 25-27.
In this new interview, Osborne talks about his love for crawfish and his longstanding friendship with Crawfish King himself, Shaggy. Between that upcoming Crawfish Fest performance, his role as a judge for the fest’s Crawfish boil, a performance at the Fairground and two nights of Dead Feat, we just can’t wait! Read on for B. Getz’s exclusive with Anders Osborne below:
L4LM: So to start off, just tell us a little about how you connected with Shaggy. Your friendship, and your involvement in the different crawfish boils he’s put on through the years.
Anders Osborne: You know, there’s a real story, or I could make up something pretty! But the real story is, we used to hang out at a place called Checkpoint Charlie’s, me and a few other bands, a couple of guys – Jack Quigley and Irene and the Mikes and Kenny Holiday – we started music at Checkpoint Charlie’s in the very outskirts of the French Quarter in the late 80s. And Shaggy showed up a couple of years into that. Without getting into too many details, we were…exploring our youth and our flexibility. We just became good buddies, and when he got into some legal trouble I helped him out with that. And then we just kind of connected. He asked me to sign something so that he could get out on the weekends, and he was my roadie. It’s basically been a lifelong…adult lifelong relationship between me and Shaggy. Then we cleaned up, and became even closer friends. His business started booming, I’m extremely proud of what he’s doing. He’s taking care of business and raising a family, he’s just incredible. We talk every week.
L4LM: It’s a beautiful thing to be able to ride that path together and maintain the friendship even stronger after all these years. I’ve spent a few nights in Checkpoint Charlie’s, I know the room, but I didn’t know the history.
AO: It started out as a Mexican restaurant, and then it was empty for a long time. Then Igor opened this place up and I lived a block away and needed something to do in between out of town gigs, so I got a Tuesday night, and this guy Jack Quigley played on Monday nights. That’s how it started. We’d play for 20 percent of the bar, which at the time was two people each night – there was nobody there. So we didn’t make a whole lot of money. But eventually it grew into a major scene, in the early 90s. It was hoppin’.
L4LM: So that’s how you and Shaggy became friends, and now I understand you play at the events, his different boils through the years. You’re a headliner at this year’s NOLA Crawfish Fest, and you’re also a judge. Why don’t you tell me what you’ve got in store for that.
AO: Crawfish is something that everybody who lives in or is from New Orleans or Louisiana in general, you encounter it every season. It starts around February and March and runs up till about June. The thing about crawfish is there’s a lot of different nuances to boiling it, and if you boil it in a certain way it might get darker, spicier, saltier, some people use more vegetables and sausages and stuff like that. There’s little things you can do that become your own recipe. What Shaggy’s done is there’s a lot of citrus, it’s very bright and has a happy feeling. It’s like a grape, you could eat it for a long time, snacky thing. His crawfish makes me happy.
L4LM: Do you feel like you’re going to be a good judge of the different entries this year?
AO: Nowadays I’m pretty clearheaded so I think I could tell the difference, but I think that’s a personal flavor. I think I’ll have a lot of fun eating all kinds of good crawfish! That’s for sure.
Musically I’m gonna be part of the Crawfish Fest All-Stars on Wednesday the 27th with Billy Iuso, Dave Malone, George Porter, Jr, and Terence Higgins. I’m just gonna try and keep up with those guys.
L4LM: You’ve played with those guys for decades now. I know you and Billy go way back, he’s been in your band in different incarnations. You think that you guys will just coalesce and do some traditional New Orleans tunes, the songbook?
AO: I think so, I think so. I mean, Dave Malone and George Porter – between the two of them they know every song.
L4LM: George wrote half of them.
AO: Yeah, that’s right. And me and Billy and Terence, we’ll just be the young ones hanging on.
L4LM: As usual you’re gigging throughout Jazz Fest. Anything you’re really looking forward to?
AO: On Saturday I play the Fairgrounds, and then Saturday night and Sunday night I do Dead Feat at the Howlin Wolf, which is me and some members of Grateful Dead, Little Feat, Jackie Greene’s there, my bass player and drummer are there. We do a combination of a couple of tunes we love, and then a couple of Grateful Dead and Little Feat tunes, and a couple of my tunes. That’s gonna be great.