As businesses slowly reopen since the loosening of COVID restrictions, things are going mostly well. Customers are plenty, yet staffing is difficult. Getting produce from the farms to the stores isn't as easy as it was before. Emily Vanlandingham saw an opportunity to do something to inject cash flow into the local farming industry, the restaurant industry, and the music industry simultaneously in a fun and fantastic way.
Emily graduated from the Culinary Institute of America's first class of Master of Food Business program in September 2020, and she saw a chance to make a big difference. She created Farmstand Entertainment in order to bring revelers in front of live musicians while enjoying amazing food and even some fresh produce to bring home after.
I was invited to attend the second evening of the drive-in concert, which featured beloved bands/musicians Honey Island Swamp Band, George Porter Jr., and Jon Cleary. I would call that lineup a treat all on its own, but there was so much more!
Attendees were asked to select between four menu items from NOLA Charcuterie, La Petite Grocery, Luncheon, and Butcher. It was a difficult, but tasty decision to make. I could not resist having NOLA Charcuterie's meat, cheese, and fruit box, in which there was lovely salami, gouda, grapes, olives, and even Lindt Lindor chocolate. To get some more veggies, I opted for La Petite Grocery's Chilled Grains meal with cucumber, tomato, cauliflower, and a side salad. All of this was washed down with local beer and hard seltzer from Urban South Brewery.
As we ate, we were enchanted with the swampy, groovy sounds of Honey Island Swamp Band. Looking back, I would say that they had the most varied setlist of the three bands. The quintet flowed effortlessly between swamp pop to funky festival-type music to even some bluesier pieces.
Next up was festival favorite George Porter Jr. George has always been characterized to me as a musician's musician; he works to embolden working musicians regardless of genre. He picks up talented up-and-coming players to play with him and to help them meet other musicians who may want to work with them. George sat at his place right in the middle of the stage, almost to the edge so that he could get a little closer to his socially-distanced audience. For an hour, he casted a spell of slow, steady funk over the lot. People were easily entranced, and they swayed and grooved along to each and every note. He said between songs how much he enjoyed being there with us knowing that it was a mutual feeling.
Boxes full of locally-grown produce courtesy of Crescent City Farmers' Market, including tomatoes, strawberries, zucchini, and much more, were then distributed to each car, though many people chose to donate their produce box to the Second Harvest Food Bank. During the previous show, 831 pounds of local produce was collected, which translates to 700 hot meals for those in need!
Jon Cleary and his band took to the stage as the sky began to mist, but that didn't stop the music. Jon and his players were truly outstanding on this night. Funky, upbeat rock 'n' roll just sounds so soothing when it rolls out of Jon Cleary's speakers. While I had to retreat to my car to escape the bit of rain, Jon played on like a champ, singing songs about how excited you'll be when your lover returns home and how to have a good time on a Saturday night. The umbrellas popped out, and his biggest fans danced and second-lined in the rain.
Farmstand Live is a musical and culinary entertainment concept that should stick around for a long time, come what may. It's always a good idea to introduce more people to the world of local produce and the people who grow it while also giving them a great time.