2018 Primetime Emmy
& James Beard Award Winner

Nothing Beats the Monday Blahs Like a Party in the Streets

Nothing Beats the Monday Blahs Like a Party in the Streets

This week, illustrator Daisy Dee is sharing dispatches from a week spent drinking in New Orleans during Tales of the Cocktail.

Soju at Yuki Izakaya

Hiroshi picks me up from the hotel lobby. We’ve planned to go down to Frenchmen Street to enjoy my favorite part of New Orleans, the constant stream of live music. I secretly hope that the Young Fellaz Brass Band will be playing on their corner like they do almost every night, but our plan for now is to eat dinner at Yuki Izakaya, a quiet, unassuming Japanese pub.

It’s a quiet Monday. The band that is playing is called Up Up We Go, a group with rotating musicians centered around founder Salvatore Geloso. Tonight, Shawn Meyers accompanies him with percussion. The music is smokey and dreamy, the vocals reminiscent of Amy Winehouse.

We make our way to the very back of the bar, close to the kitchen. Hiro introduces me to his friends behind the bar. I order soju and Calpis and Hiro chooses an Asahi Black. We order some takoyaki and other snacks, and settle into our stools to take in the band.

I love to draw musicians because it’s one of the few times when I don’t seem like a complete creep for staring at strangers for uncomfortable lengths of time while seemingly taking notes in a tiny black book. Yuki’s is dark and we are seated quite possibly as far away from the band as we can possibly be, but there is enough light to make out their faces. Geloso’s bright, chandelier-style earrings stand out to me in the dim bar, as well as his striking silhouette, while Meyers moves a little too quickly for my eyes to track. I attempt several times to get a likeness but fail.

Halfway through their set, the Young Fellaz Brass Band can be heard outside, setting up for their nightly performance. They’re a large, rag-tag group of young street performers who take up musical residence almost every night on the corner of Frenchmen and Chartres. A tiny part of me wants to abandon this drawing and the dark bar to go dance in the streetlight to their high-octane performance. I’ve heard that some of the musicians who perform in venues on Frenchman are resentful of the brass band, as their high energy and volume penetrates right through the buildings, competing with the performers inside. The Young Fellaz Brass Band are a magnet, drawing people to an abandoned corner curb; the crowd can get so big it spills into and across the entire intersection.

To me, this is wonderful. This band brings their A-game night after night. They know how to entertain a crowd and they hustle, sometimes performing for hours. Sure, they are loud, but they’re a fucking brass band. Of course they’re loud. I can see how other musicians would view them as competition, but just as a rising tide raises all ships, the start of the set out on the street corner has forced Up Up and Away to raise their own energy levels as well. After their short break, they come back with a funky song that interacts playfully and competes for volume with the band outside. Their set becomes more kinetic and loses the lazy Monday vibes from earlier in the night. I’ve become consumed with covering up a tragic attempt at a face with a brick wall in my sketch, so I decide to stay at Yuki’s while finishing the drawing. I watch the rest of their set while enjoying the sounds of the chaotic party going on in the streets in the background.

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