Who is the R&B diva making a surprise appearance in the gospel tent? What Canadian songstress is jamming with what New Orleans group? Which Beatle is performing with what Crescent City songwriter? What U.S. President is coming to the Fair Grounds, no doubt? What multiple Grammy-winning trumpeter is going to get funky in Treme—it was on the radio! And what zydeco legend died in his sleep last night?
And most important: Who let the turbid streams of rumor flow/Thro’ either babbling world of high and low? Tennyson said that. I think he sat in on guitar with the Iguanas.
I haven’t found it yet, but somewhere at the Fair Grounds—maybe between the Music Heritage Stage and Lagniappe—the site construction crew sets up one hell of a rumor mill. And this year, no matter how far-fetched, how loose the talk, I almost always believed it. And I repeated everything. Faithful friends followed my leads but the apparitions mysteriously evaporated. Of course, the thing about New Orleans at Jazz Fest is that wherever you go, great things are gonna happen anyway. So here are some highlights, a couple lowlights, and the wet lights of ’93 …
All days: The return of the Lagniappe Tent couldn’t have come at a better time. There’s no stage better for acoustic music, when keeping a canvas lid on things just helps everybody focus a little more.
Another old pal: New Orleans tap water. In years past, I forsook my faucet friend for those handy paper cones of Kentwood’s finest. But I came back to the miracle of the Mississippi, didn’t I? Oh, there were some goofs trying to hawk plastic bottles of designer water for $1.50—there’s a tradition as Louisianian as a set by Michael McDonald.
And on the second weekend, on the just and unjust alike: the rain. Where were you when the sky fell on Friday? I was standing without an umbrella, listening to Lloyd Price sing “Misty.” One friend caught the rest of that show from inside a dry porta-potty, looking through the little window. But as D.L. Menard philosophically opined on Sunday, while watching his mud-soaked waltzers slip around in a circle: “What do you expect? It’s Louisiana, it’s raining.”
And then there was the rain’s logical offspring: mud. How to cope with a racetrack of ankle-deep slop? Well, you could spend a day picking your way carefully from island to island, but New Orleanian Nicki Bunting, still pulling chunks of light-brown crust from her hair, recalls what she did on her favorite day of Jazz Fest—and explains the geological evolution of Lake Ray-Ban.
“I was wearing flip flops and the mud kept sucking them off, and I was finding myself reaching in elbow-deep in the mud after them,” laughs Bunting. “So after awhile I took the damn things off and barefooted for the rest of the day. And when you’re barefoot you can’t help but dance and frolic…lt was over at the Ray-Ban stage that this trough of mud developed, and when Buckwheat Zydeco was playing people started dancing in it, making it deeper, so that by the time of Santana it was a small pond. Soon the mud started splattering up to other parts of the body, and that was as far as I intended to go, but when I came back to see the Neville Brothers, a woman whose face I had painted with mud was now covered head to toe, and I probably called her a name. Then I turned my back on her and walked away. And then I felt this strong pull on my shoulder—this is a very strong woman—and I felt myself being thrown headfirst into the mud.”
The number of mud people grew to around 60, estimates Bunting, including one couple making out in the middle the whole time “like a Dentyne commercial.”
“We mud people weren’t at Jazz Fest,” concludes Bunting. “We were Jazz Fest. We were walking Jazz Fest.”
On to the music…April 23: The highlight of Dylan’s set wasn’t the lovely obscure ballad called “Jim Jones,” or Lucky Wilbury’s surprisingly rockin’ guitar tradeoffs with Dickey Betts. No, it was the way the troubled troubadour grinned and kicked his leg at the end of the show—as exciting as a duckwalk. Also Friday, Michael Doucet showcased Beausoleil tunes from a new Rhino release and Cowboy Mouth’s Fred LeBlanc showcased Spiderman skills on the scaffolding.
April 24: The bad-ass Bluerunners ran me into the ground, wheezing and panting like a defeated coyote in a Roadrunner cartoon. And that was just after a waltz. I staggered over to hear Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias and then the stage-thumping Crownseekers shook the Gospel Tent—the lead singer peeled off his suit jacket and we all knew we were in trouble. But the most sublime moment of the year? Standing between the Lagniappe Tent and the Gospel Tent around 5:30, it was possible to hear both the Hackberry Ramblers and the St. Francis DeSales Youth Choir, each belting out “The Saints Go Marching In” at exactly the same time.
April 25: Although Raymond Myles reported that his first appearance at WWL/Ray-Ban was a sign of the Lord’s blessings for the gospel singer and his choir, the RAMS, his show seemed a little out-of-reach on the big stage. Maybe that’s why he launched a last-minute reprise at the end of the day that blew out the sides of the Gospel Tent. Also in the House of Rhodes, Dorothy Love Coates proved to be the only singer I saw this year that the tent security wouldn’t stop from climbing down the front of the stage into the crowd. Next door in the Lagniappe Tent were the easy grooves of guitarist Chris Smithers, and Sonny Rollins closed out the WWOZ Jazz Tent with a saxophone so low and sweet that one could hear little whispers forming in the bell.
April 29: A zydeco showdown between Boozoo Chavis and Beau Jocque? The newcomer Jocque turned the head of anyone who came within earshot of his deep, bellowing roars, but the hard-working Chavis ain’t resting on his dogs. Every gig finds Chavis debuting new, quirky, totally-Boozoo tunes. This day showed off both sides of the current resurgence of old-time, country-rhythms zydeco. It was unusual to hear the Cajun Savoy-Doucet Band with a full rhythm section, and phenomenal to catch Li’l Queenie with a big band and a big stage and, as always, a great big voice.
April 30: Earl King, the man with two royal titles in one name, ruled the land of Ray-Ban. The hands-in-the-air surprise hit of the fest: the Klezmer Allstars, with the Neville Brothers’ Mean Willie Green sitting in on drums. This band is getting too cool. Equally cool was the back row of cut-up horn players of the McCoy Tyner Big Band—they were doing everything short of blowing spitballs at the soloist.
May 1: Best out-of-season Christmas song: Ambrose and Calvin Sam’s zydeco stomp about taking off your panties and giving ’em to Santy Claus. Best special effects: thunder and lightning during Rebirth Brass Band’s tubas-interruptus fest closer.
May 2: I tried to leave Jazz Fest early—the rain thing was getting to me, and I’d already mud-waltzed to D.L. Menard, second-lined to Kermit Ruffins’ Big Band and heard angels at Aaron Neville’s now-traditional set with the Zion Harmonizers. But then Irma Thomas’ voice pulled us back from the exit gate—from there we staggered to the Creole Wild West (they seemed crowded in the Lagniappe Tent, but it was great to hear Chief Howard Miller’s rhymes: “Prettier than a picture on a TV screen”). This Mardi Gras Indian tribe is notable for the amount of kids taking part in the dances. Next door, The Gospel Soul Children shouted the last notes of Jazz Fest 1993.
After Dark: Thursday, Jazz Fest eve featured a show by singer-songwriter and Shreveport-native Victoria Williams, performing songs that Lou Reed, Neil Young and others have recorded for a tribute album due out this month. A double bill of Doc Cheatham and Danny Barker at the Palm Court reunited the old Cab Calloway sidemen for a night of stories and song. But Charlie B’s gets the spirit award for scheduling a Dr. John show at 3 a.m. Doc was finally pulled from the piano around 6 in the morning, his feet still shuffling and fingers still wiggling in the air. Other nights were spent following Paul Cebar and the Milwaukeeans around town—the Wisconsin-based R&B/funk/kitchen-sink band bubbled Jazz Fest vibes wherever they played.
Finally, since no one asked, here are my suggestions for next year: Cebar tops the list of acts due for slot on the Fair Grounds schedule. The Milwaukeeans may pay taxes up North, but they pay their dues in the Crescent City every year. Meanwhile, a number of singers with bona-fide Louisiana connections are way overdue for Jazz Fest appearances, including Victoria Williams, new country singer Lucinda Williams, Cajun songwriter Rusty Kershaw and country singer Sammy Kershaw.
So that’s Jazz Fest, where a friend once said the weather is always perfect, even if it’s raining. So what if the big stars don’t show up where I’m just sure they will. In the end, what is there to complain about—except bring back the Kentwood. I mean it.
My capacity for recall stutter-steps through the wreckage of Jazz Fest ’93, in part due to the program’s relentless ten-day schedule and in part due to the number of shifts for which I was obligated to stand behind a bar and sling frozen drinks. No matter—I burned the candle at all three ends, took a scant few ragged notes and earned an outlandish amount in tips, to boot. And the latter occurrence fully justified a retail spending spree on the Monday post-Fest, as I scarfed up recorded plastic by the performers I’d lamentably missed while working.
Fittingly, I suppose, for the guy who writes the alternative column, my Jazz Fest began at the Fair Grounds with our own rebellious retro-punks the Phantoms. I’ve filibustered for this band’s winning ways on these pages before; suffice it to say that I was heartened to see some recognition for a band with a gyrating, greased-up lead man with a biker chain on his wallet, yelping a Roky Erickson cover in the direction of the visor-and-Iawnchair set.
Not that I’m a hopelessly one-dimensioned consumer of ear candy—I listen to everything. I write about alternative because they pay me to. The Jazz and Heritage Fest blessedly affords me the opportunity to go public as I tiptoe across musical boundaries, whistling absently to divert the attention of other OffBeat writers. Tiptoe, hell—I’m about to second-line woozily right into all manner of observations.
Day One progressed as a feeling-out day, much the way two boxers warily lob half-speed jabs at each other through round one, in preparation for more determined middle rounds and a climatic hail of roundhouses at the finish. Lafayette’s Beausoleil struck me as flat, contained, unable to get a large WWL/Ray-Ban Stage crowd to dive in head-first. I caught the first four Bob Dylan songs before hustling off to work. Despite an intriguing Cajun rendering of “Hard Times” from his latest release, I biked down Esplanade feeling that the oldster was on his way to a characteristically sputtering performance. I later learned from several mouths that he hit a rare and welcome stride just as I hopped on the two-wheeler.
That night, late night, we hit the Howlin’ Wolf for the world’s greatest (only?) amphetamine accordion band, the Bluerunners. With Foster’s oil cans in hand, Monica and I thankfully worked up a phony but passable two-step after agonizing often over that elusive foot diagram.
Saturday’s Rockin’ Dopsie offered a swell soundtrack for Greg’s tale of his hippie dad’s naked commune days with Carlos Santana (photos available). And Robert Lowery’s pacifying front-porch blues nurtured the digestion of an elephantine portion of crawfish bread. A lazy day.
In contrast, Sunday was one of those Fest days where you feel as though two-thirds of it was exhausted bee-lining down the outskirts of pathways to glimpse that next act, always that next act. Peter and I careened from acoustic bluesman Chris Smither’s wholesale reworkings of Chuck Berry and Lowell George to a laryngitis-ridden R&B revue on the WVUE/Polaroid stage to the tail end of the New Orleans Spiritualettes’ Gospel Tent appearance. I was nearly moved to backflips—though not quite to conversion—by that group’s rootin’ tootin’ funky “gospel.”
Rounding out the day, we paid homage to one of the few remaining monsters of the righteous bop era, Sonny Rollins. Resplendently Muppet-like in beanie, Terminator shades and smock, Rollins purred and squawked and led a super-confident band of players through a series of Latin-tinged grooves that, naturally, swung.
We made a mad dash for a chunk of Fats Domino’s set, just to say we did—I’ve been a diehard since I stood slackjawed beneath the ten-foot likeness of the Fat Man’s squash on the wall of the Continental Club in Austin, Texas. Well over 60, Fats is as dependable as a Maytag, but we were jonesin’ for Rollins, so we scampered back for an uplifting finale by the tenor sax master.
Week two—as Archie Bunker might’ve called it, “the big one”—began, and the boarders began to flock to our doorstep. Each morning I woke to various configurations of slumbering bodies flopped throughout our place. Jazz Fest has a way of bringing out the latent innkeeper and tour guide in all of us, doesn’t it?
On their arrival, I took John and Geoff to see the Meters at Tip’s, and two guys who were up to that point chaste to the unique soul-stirrings of N’Awlins lost their virginity quicker than you can wave a hankie. To ensure their initiation, we went to the F&M to play pool til 4:30 or so, and I knew they were good to go.
On Thursday the 29th, following a rash of airport sightings and rendezvous, we took the whole of the converged motley crew to Uglesich’s on Baronne. A dozen silver dollar oysters, two dozen Buds and assorted pan-fried trouts and shrimp etouffees later, the greasy coalition was converted and fully prepped for frolicsome misadventure at the Fair Grounds.
Boozoo Chavis and his Magic Sounds provided the impetus that set my Jazz Fest to quaking, much the same as they did for my own initiation last year. And Daniel Lanois’ live set soared over an already-high set of expectations. New Orleans’ producer to the stars displayed his homespun guitar craft, a fais-do-do here and an eerie wives’ tale there, with each song switching out instruments visibly customized and numbered to match their coordinated effects. Lanois, drummer Brian Blade and bassist Daryl Johnson created such a somber stir that one friend wrong-headedly insisted that the band must have been employing pre-recorded backdrops. In addition to unveiling a host of new material, Lanois rendered a gorgeous “Love Is Blindness,” not coincidentally the crowning jewel of U2’s Achtung Baby, for which our man won a Grammy as co-producer.
Friday night—my one-night reprieve from work. You had to know things were going to get ugly. Mon and I got duded up and met our crowd at Harry’s Place in the Quarter, where I proceeded to throw back quite a few Myer’s and OJs.
We built the night around the War show at the Music Hall. Please don’t ask about their set list—all I can relate is that the band was smokin’, most likely to a set of greatest-type-hits, and if I bumped into you while I whirled and flailed, count this as my apology.
By Saturday evening I was in a virtual state of overdrive. After yet another eight hours of mixology, I cabbed over to Charlie B’s for a wonderfully scheduled 4 a.m.-ish set by the good Dr. John. The highlight for me was a definitive version of “Let the Good Times Roll,” with Señor Rebennack rising from the 88 to show off some lickety-split six-string work. With that, I hustled home to beat the ghastly first rays of the dawn.
And the Mudhens abandoned all illusions of daintiness at the ‘Grounds on the wrap-up day of Jazz Fest ’93. Witnessed in bits and pieces, name acts Santana, the Nevilles, and the Radiators all seemed unable to shake the muck of three days’ downpour. But brother, let me tell you that Sunday’s revelations lay not with the headliners but with two less heralded acts.
First, Michael Ray and his Cosmic Krewe assembled a tribute to Sun Ra that raised all feet in attendance from the rivulets of watery earth that encircled the Congo Square stage. Dubbed “Jazzfunk for the future,” Ray’s shortened but action-packed performance was boundary-erasing. And the day’s last chance to dance took place under the Gospel Tent, where first Voices from the Mount and then the Gospel Soul Children testified to the cleansing powers of the city’s outdoor mudbath. The Soul Children’s stop ‘n’ go barn-burning version of “When the Saints Go Marching In” had the joint absolutely flying, and when the white flags came out it was like a sea of truce flags, as if the Fest-goers were being tickled to death.
Benny’s Bar was the only place to be that night, as the venerable neighborhood shanty threw open its sashes for the last time. Jumpin’ Johnny and the Blues Party did the place justice with a driven set of jump blues. And when the crawfish guy dumped a dozen pounds of the little critters on a tabletop on the sidewalk, it was clear to me that the whole mad treasure hunt we pursue is a bittersweet one, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Monday night, before the travel day for our shacker-uppers, our crowd of misfits stayed at home, burned the appetizer, screwed up the sauce, drank all the beer, listened to 45s and fell asleep on our backs in mid-conversation. All of which was fine by me. I’ve been tickled to death two years running now, and I’ll take that kind of dying over and over again.
The search for the spirit of Jazz Fest ’93: It was there, in a pool of dust and dope and dreadlocks at a corner of the WWL/Ray-Ban Stage, as faux-hippies from all points South swirled with glee when Dickie Betts and Warren Haynes locked into a glorious twin guitar duel on the Allman Brothers Band’s trademark instrumental, “Jessica.”
Or when I stretched out on a patch of grass (this was the first, dry weekend) at the back corner of the WWOZ Jazz Tent, washing down a platter of barbequed pork ribs with fresh-squeezed lemonade as bassist Walter Payton and a ballerina teamed up for the longest version of “Mr. Bojangles” ever.
And, after Beau Jocque’s powerhouse set, when the musicians and stagehands paused to watch the saga of the “Watermelon Ritual” as it unfolded in front of the stage. The High Priest heaved his melon skyward at the culmination of the march; it shattered on the earth and the celebrants fell upon it, devouring the red flesh that wasn’t tainted with dirt.
The spirit was there during Bob Dylan’s set, as the skepticism born of reports that his performances were often a mess gave way to a collective realization, passed on with smiles and nods of approval, that today’s show was something special.
It was in the roar that went up as the heavens opened during one of the strongest Meters sets in eons.
The sight of Earl King making his way out of the Fair Grounds on that second, rainy Friday, a plastic trash bag protecting his famous locks.
Ducks foraging in the puddles outside the Gospel Tent while a couple was married prior to the Kennedy High School Choir’s bold set.
Or in the goosebumps raised on my arms at the finale of the Neville Brothers’ nighttime concert at the Municipal Auditorium: a deep, majestic a capella “Let my people gooooo…” leading into the song of the same name, with Cyril bounding around like a rapper. A pause, then a brilliant encore: the party of “Big Chief,” an audience turned to statues for the blessing of Aaron’s “Amazing Grace,” and finally the feel-good brotherhood of Marley’s “One Love.”
Dylan’s set on the first Friday set the tone. He came on ten minutes early, offered no hello, but immediately went to work, and stayed an extra 20 minutes, annunciating as clearly as Bob Dylan can. The highlights were many: an explosive “All Along the Watchtower,” spiked with plenty of pedal steel. A barely recognizable but glorious “Tangled Up in Blue.” An earnest, acoustic “Jim Jones” from his earnest, acoustic Good As I Been to You, his latest effort. “Everything is Broken” from Oh Mercy, recorded in New Orleans with Daniel Lanois at the helm. The Allmans’ Dickie Betts contributing slide work to a pair of numbers.
Cowboy Mouth lit the WVUE-Polaroid Stage on fire with its brand of country-flecked rock. Guitarist Paul Sanchez lightened the mood with a straight-faced cover of Scarecrow’s “If I Only Had A Brain.”
Eddie LeJeune led a four-piece ensemble of elderly gents through lilting shuffles. It was an accordion of a different color that the Bluerunners employed at the Ray-Ban Stage for a punchy, grungy set that still permitted a manic form of two-stepping.
Drummer David Russell Batiste Jr. hit like a lumberjack chopping a hardwood oak, and Boot Anderson’s guitar flashes provided the musical freedom for George Porter Jr. (decked out in knee-high white socks) to be the cheerleading frontman. He danced out with his infant granddaughter Ciara at one point, and, with the Running Pardners’ horn section blazing the trail, danced throughout the aptly-titled “Happy Song.”
From the joy of Porter it was just a short walk to the darkside of Shreveport native John Campbell’s harrowing National steel slide guitar and devil-in-my-throat crooning. Campbell gave a brief lecture on slide guitar theory (“this is how they do it in Mississippi…”) along the way to enchanting the audience with his dark magic.
Around the corner at the Ray-Ban Stage was the wetter, sloppier six-string work of the Allman Brothers Band. “Nice little party you got here,” drawled Gregg Allman, decked out in a New Orleans Zephyrs jersey, as he survey the vast human expanse spread out in front of his organ. Burned-out bunch of aging redneck hippies? Not by a long shot.
Sunday, I admit, I could not face the Fair Grounds after a late-night stay with Paul McCartney at the Superdome, and thus missed what many said was a tremendous set by Sonny Rollins. I fulfilled my wind instrument quota at the Blues Harmonica Showdown at the Mid-City Lanes that night. Rockin’ Jake nailed Carlos Santana’s lead from “Black Magic Woman,” and invoked a bit of Mardi Gras spirit by inviting listeners to remove clothing and press closer to the stage. The swampland call of Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes was a hit. Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone was a monster, wading into the audience without a mike for a powerhouse reading of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Cross Your Heart.” Mad Dog Merrit, taking it in at the back of the room, remarked that he didn’t relish having to follow Jumpin’ Johnny’s set, but then supplied a fitting theme for the evening with Mose Alison’s “Your Mind Is on Vacation and Your Mouth Is Working Overtime”: no thought was needed to discern the abundance of talent showcased tonight.
Three nights later, the Black Top Blues-A-Rama stretched for seven-plus hours at Jimmy’s. Riding out all of the Blues-A-Rama is a Jazz Fest rite of passage, made easier by the line-up of rediscovered and resuscitated blues and R&B firepower culled from the label’s treasure of a roster.
If James Brown were reincarnated as a slide guitarist, he might come out something like Bobby Parker. The sultry Maria Muldaur offered highlights from her label debut, Louisiana Love Call, released late last year. It was clear that the night was meant partly as a Black Top in-house love-in: emcee and label co-founder Hammond Scott introduced the diminutive Clarence Hollimon and robust Carol Fran by relating how he gives up his own bedroom for them when they come to town. Hollimon demonstrated his taste as a guitarist by interacting perfectly with the Antone’s House Band, which backed all of the evening’s acts. And Carol was alternately playful and somber: dripping with sweat, she quipped, “I came in here a chocolate bar, I’m turnin’ into a cup of cocoa.” Then later, she reminded everyone to enjoy the evening, because “for some of us, tomorrow may not come.”
Guitar Shorty used his butt as a guitar pick, and managed to hold a note while turning a series of three somersaults. Robert Ward, by contrast, remained upright and let his Strat, run through his fabled Magnatone amp, do the talking throughout “Your Love Is Amazing”—as was his set. Finally, Earl King, resplendent in a beautiful turquoise suit, mounted the stage around 3:30 a.m. and closed the proceedings with class.
Under a cloudy sky on Thursday, Daniel Lanois and his band turned in a brutally powerful set of atmospheric rock. The zydeco growl of Beau Jocque, a bear of a man, lived up to the anticipation that preceded his set and his debut on Rounder Records.
That night around 3 a.m., George Porter and his eight-piece Running Pardners again dazzled, this time a capacity crowd at Muddy Water’s. Feeling loose, Porter invited his horn section to the front of the stage, then found a spare trumpet and gamely bleated out a few bursts himself. (Wynton Marsalis has nothing to fear.)
Barely twelve hours later, Porter and Batiste were onstage again, at the Fair Grounds with the Meters, as fresh as ever, for what many observers thought was one of their best sets, intermittent rain be damned. A thunderstorm that rolled up from the Gulf transformed a drizzle into a downpour as the Meters launched “Love the One You’re With”—its message of making the best of the circumstances wholly appropriate, given the weather. “Things will get better, y’all,” offered Art Neville. It was easy to believe that they would.
The ethnicity of Lafayette, East L.A. and New Orleans’ 13th Ward met up at the Municipal Auditorium on Friday night. After Terrance Simien’s head-banging zydeco, Los Lobos tipped its hat to local icon Fats Domino by covering the Fat Man’s “I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Someday.” Then it was the Nevilles, who finished with the aforementioned triumphant encore.
Saturday was guest day: seven female friends from Texas. We hit the Fair Grounds with the rain; they laughed at one another as their make-up ran and clothing sagged, all the while recoiling from the rough-hewn links of my turkey sausage po-boy.
The feel-good rhythms of lrie Vibrations warmed the wet crowd, as did Buddy Guy’s set of raw, undiluted blues rock—especially when he got around to a slamming cover of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and a slinky runthrough of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Cold Shot.”
Only God could have stopped the Rebirth Brass Band’s glorious, exhilarating set at the Jazz Tent; for whatever reason, He did, with a severe thunderstorm that shut down the entire Festival. Those packed inside the tent were unaware of the storm’s fury, and complained loudly when shouts for an encore went unheeded.
As the diehards streamed toward the exits, police cars moved slowly along the pathways, herding them out. The stragglers gleefully mimicked the high-pitch wail of the sirens; inside their cars, the police laughed and waved. Their task was a serious one—evacuate the Fair Grounds before approaching lightning claimed a victim—but the scene was ridiculous.
As was the scene when I deposited seven bedraggled, filthy, soggy, laughing girls in front of the tony Intercontinental Hotel, practically on the toes of a group of shirt-and-tied guests setting out for a formal dinner.
It was not until after midnight that our entourage set out in search of music. There was much of it, but it was all outside of our grasp. Cowboy Mouth at Jimmy’s: sold out. Walter “Wolfman” Washington and the Roadmasters at the Maple Leaf: packed. The Radiators at Tipitina’s: sorry, no room at the inn. A last chance stop by Charlie B’s for Dr. John’s late set: at 3:30 in the morning, a line three abreast stretched halfway up the block. No thanks—we called it a night.
At one point in the evening, we had ducked into the F&M Patio Bar—which was also packed—for refreshments. I wondered, “Why are these people here? It’s Jazz Fest—they should be celebrating with live music like the rest of us.” Maybe they were the smart locals—we can always catch most of these performers next week, when the visitors have gone home and the lines at the bathrooms are down to a reasonable level.
On Sunday, Carlos Santana noodled around pointlessly for a while, getting the crowd—much of which was in ankle deep mud soup—up only for “Black Magic Woman” and “Oye Como Va.” The Nevilles, too, had trouble.
Finally, when “Carlos Santana-Neville,” as he was identified by Cyril, joined the Nevilles for their encore, they redeemed a lukewarm opening when Charles and Carlos traded sax and guitar licks on “Fiyo on the Bayou.”
As the great muddy horseshoe, clogged with embedded cans and broken sandals, emptied, Aaron came back onstage to propose marriage on behalf of a well-connected Fest-goer, a last bit of goodwill.
Streaming out, the lament of a local writer captured the mood: “All I can think about is that Mardi Gras is still eight months away.” True. Meanwhile, I’m going to the clubs. And I’m going to get in.