Contributors: Laura DeFazio (LD); Frank Etheridge (FE); Stephen Maloney (SM); Brett Milano (BM); David Kunian (DK); Jennifer Odell (JO); John Swenson (JS)
Jazz Fest 2015 had the highest attendance since Hurricane Katrina, even with a rainy first weekend. Here’s a look back at what made Jazz Fest 2015 so special, from OffBeat’s krewe of writers, reviewers and photographers.
Granted that it was their first show and a lot of new material was debuted, but Macy Grey didn’t seem to fit into Galactic as comfortably as their last two singers, Erica Falls and Maggie Koerner. She tends to favor a bass-heavy stoner groove, which isn’t what Galactic does best, and for once they sounded like a respectful backup band instead of a true collaboration.
Grey’s sense of stagecraft is also different from theirs.
You could have fit two great Stanton Moore solos into the time she spent trying to get each side of the audience to yell louder than the other. This may well start jelling as the tour goes on, but the highlight of the Fest set came when they called Falls forward for one of the few old favorites, “Dolla Diva.” (BM)
Trumpet Black and GDA
I was having one of those Jazz Fest afternoons where everything was coming at me too fast when I heard the New Birth Brass Band hitting it on all pistons over at Congo Square. I was drawn there like one of those characters in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and the band’s power held me in sway. They were dealing it to Travis “Trumpet Black” Hill, and he was living up to his family name, working some of the same call-and-response routines that his cousin Glen David Andrews has made a living out of. It’s in the tradition, of course, as both men share a bloodline to the great Jessie Hill. New Birth really got the crowd going, touting the party “On Frenchmen Street,” massed trombones rocking call-and-response with Trumpet Black, bringing the spirit of the second line to the big stage.
“Hell Yeah,” swears Trumpet Black. “Lemme hear you say ‘New Orleans!’” He’s rapping, he’s toasting, he’s rolling folk ethos: “Here comes the New Birth!” Then GDA himself took the stage, introduced as “The Prince of Treme,” wearing the same red New Birth Brass Band All Stars t-shirt as the rest of the 13 band members and grinning widely with a white towel over his head. GDA knows what to do with this white hot moments, bringing it down at first, crooning “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,” taking it to church, repeating the line over and over, bringing it back up, then bursting out suddenly with the command “If you love New Orleans like I love New Orleans, SCREAM!” This move works every time, and now GDA is in total control, sprinkling in lines of his own songs, working the line “better than I been to myself” into the flow, killing the crowd with the addicting call and response, from the chant “Get the hump off ya back” and the catalog of smokes to… suddenly GDA runs off the stage and is down front in the crowd with a remote microphone, rolling the chants:
“Say Kerwin James!” “Gimme a dime” (crowd knows to respond “I only got eight”), “Sixth ward in the house!” “Ahddyaddyaddy Oh” (4X). “I got my CD from New Birth on” “I got my t-shirt from Fleurty Girl on” “I got a mother-in-law like Ernie K-Doe.” Somehow GDA manages to hand it off back to Trumpet Black and the band keeps the flow on high burn to the end of the set as the MC shouts his name over and over “Trumpet Black… Trumpet Black.”
It was a stunning example of Jazz Fest ecstasy. It was not Trumpet Black’s last show—he would play Monday night at the Ooo Poo Pah Do before his death a few days later—but it was a great way to remember him. (JS)
By the Numbers
I’ve been witnessing Who concerts since their first visit to the United States, and I’d put the Jazz Fest 15 performance pretty far up the list. Of course losing Keith Moon was a crushing blow, but I’m glad the band continued on, although it was harder to sustain interest after they stopped producing records. They were still great at Shea Stadium with the Clash opening and a new single, “Athena,” that rocked the upper deck. But I was never more discouraged than when I saw them play Giants Stadium in New Jersey with Pete Townshend enclosed in a Plexiglass box to protect his hearing. They went through a period of imitating themselves, I think, which is truly the curse of classic rock bands. But Townshend and lead singer Roger Daltrey never stopped trying. Perhaps bassist John Entwistle’s death lit a fire under the remaining pair, who were going to have to prove there was still a good reason to call themselves The Who, and they have risen to the occasion in more than a few instances, particularly the neo-Quadrophenia tour. But the version of The Who I saw at Jazz Fest made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. This was Townshend and Daltrey both going all out, giving everything they had to recall the spirit of their wild and creative youth. Back then they just reared back and blasted, warts and all, but this version is more nuanced and calculated, although every bit as powerful. The duo let the exquisitely crafted hooks and melodies of the songs and the very prescient lyrics make their points, a wily performance much like the Hall-of-Fame pitcher who no longer has a 98 mph fastball but can still use his guile to pitch a perfect game.
The band began with nine concise singles performed in 35 minutes, a brief history of their original status during a time when bands made hit singles to survive. Townshend was playing all out, his guitar carrying the arrangements like in the old days, and he muttered good-naturedly between songs. At one point I swear he said “What the fuck am I doing up here?” Three songs from the Lifehouse/Who’s Next project followed (“Behind Blue Eyes,” “Bargain,” “Join Together”), then a saucy “You Better You Bet” before a taste of Quadrophenia with Townshend singing “I’m One” and Daltrey roaring out “Love Reign O’er Me.” “Eminence Front” never sounded better or more appropriate than in this context, with the band really pushing on the “people forget” chorus and Townshend hurling a lightning bolt solo. But Townshend was just warming up as an extended section of Tommy featured his most dramatic guitar work of the set.
When he struck the huge chord in “Sparks” and held his arm out to the side in the classic “Birdman” position, Townshend appeared to be suppressing laughter, a wonderful moment. The crowd was ecstatic—many of them had clearly never seen The Who, although they knew the music well, and they were responding to the power of presence no recording can ever capture. Then, as the synthesizer sequencer introduction to “Baba O’Riley” played, the sun finally burst through the clouds for the first time that weekend (who needs stage lighting when you can get an effect like that) and the crowd went nuts, singing the “teenage wasteland” chorus along with the band. A neat “Won’t Get Fooled Again” followed. Daltrey quipped “Not bad for a bunch of old farts,” and a clearly moved Townshend told the audience “May the sunshine stay with you all weekend long.” (JS)
I’m not sure how the Who got the weather to cooperate, but right as they started the synthesizer part to “Baba O’Reily,” the sun dropped beneath the clouds and bathed the Acura stage crowd in the glow of a gorgeous sunset. Later, Roger Daltrey said that that had happened to them once before, at Woodstock. (DK)
Calling local legends such as Fats Domino the best from the first generation of rock ’n’ roll, Quint Davis credited England as producing the best in rock’s second generation while introducing The Who, British purveyors of the genre’s styles from earlier punk to latter-day arena-rock. Closing the first Saturday, The Who were still in full command of harnessing rock’s rebellious energy. They delivered smash after smash to a sing-along crowd suddenly graced by the sun. With his trademark unbuttoned shirt revealing a still-fit physique, frontman Roger Daltrey acknowledged The Who’s living-legend stature, calling their greatest-hits collection “an academic treatise” that should be “required studying for any young rock musician.” (FE)
If you are ever slated to play Jazz Fest on a rainy day, make sure you will appear on a stage inside a tent. Trumpet prodigy John Michael Bradford took full advantage of the crowd packed into the NOCCA Pavilion to deliver a rousing set to a much bigger crowd than he was expecting. (SM)
Robert Randolph has a broken right hand, and yet he still managed to play the “sacred steel” guitar better than anyone else on the planet. I have no idea how he managed to pull that off. To paraphrase Groundhog Day, he may not be the God, but he may be a god. (SM)
Despite having his right hand in a cast, Robert Randolph skillfully worked his pedal-steel guitar to create the soulful, sacred sound that lies at the heart of The Word’s gospel/jazz/jam music during a set on “locals Thursday” at the Acura Stage by the supergroup (which also features John Medeski of Madeski, Martin & Wood and all members of the North Mississippi All-Stars). Randolph’s slow burning solo introduced a set that combined instrumental covers of traditional gospel classics from the band’s debut album in 2001 along with the silky funk of its brand-new release Soul Food (“Come by Here” proved a particular highlight). The Word placed a fine finishing flourish on its set with a rousing guest appearance by Tricia Boutte, who applied her other-worldly vocal powers to “When I See the Blood.” (FE)
Ripping Lead Solos
There are a lot of good things I’d call Paul Sanchez, but “bad-ass lead guitarist” usually isn’t one of them. He was always overshadowed in that department with Cowboy Mouth, and has usually just strummed acoustic since then. His Fais Do Do set found him generous with the spotlight as always, sharing songs with his all-female band Minimum Rage (Sonia Tetlow and Mary Lasseigne especially stood out) and his new collective the Write Brothers. Both were highlighted by Sanchez’s surprisingly ripping lead solos, making this the most rocking set I’ve seen him do. (BM)
Alexis Marceaux had the sort of commanding stage presence to super-charge her already-powerful voice. But what really got me was the huge bass drum. Just when you thought their version of, say, “St. Louis Blues” couldn’t get any more arresting, Marceaux launched the next verse to booming drum beats—sparse, intense, and perfectly spaced—that suddenly made the band sound like they were marching into a primeval battle.
I’ve never heard anything like it from a band tagged as an “indie-pop duo.” (LD)
Cyril Three Times
On a weekend that called attention to the Neville Brothers with a television special tribute to the great uptown family, we were repeatedly reminded of how the members of that family are part of a much, much larger picture. And how much Cyril Neville has become one of the best lead vocalists in the city. Cyril Neville’s Uptown All-Stars rolled the Congo Square stage with their “Uptown Reggae,” plying a really righteous version of the Nevilles classic “My Blood…” This was Cyril at his best, mixing political urgency with killer beats and a lasting, memorable sing-along chorus. Mean Willie Green on drums and Nick Daniels on bass powered the song along. “Whooo” indeed. As lead singer for “the only second line reggae band in the world” Cyril gets to lay it down kinky and demand: “We must have a piece of the pie/right here right now…” then feature another of his Nevilles Civil Rights classics “Sister Rosa.”
Royal Southern Brotherhood originally featured two lead singers, Cyril Neville and Devon Allman. With Allman’s departure along with guitarist Mike Zito, replaced by Bart Walker and Tyrone Vaughan, the band has been reconfigured as more of a contemporary jam band fronted by Cyril. Cyril was superb in this role during Jazz Fest, leading the band through a set of material from the new album, Don’t Look Back.
Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars have become the perfect festival band as their overriding environmental issue becomes more urgent every day and individual members Cyril, Tab Benoit, Johnny Sansone, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and Waylon Thibodeaux become ever more popular on their own. Cyril is central to the band’s conception, able to articulate the cost of wetlands erosion and translate the sentiment into the stirring anthem “Bayou Breeze,” which he co-wrote with Tab Benoit and George Porter Jr. (JS)
Cyril Neville highlighted “the real Uptown Funk” while he was sitting in with the original Meters on the Acura Stage. “I hope Bruno is watching!” (SM)
The Blues Tent reigned supreme on the second Saturday of this year’s Jazz Fest, when a one-two-punch comprised of Aaron Neville followed by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band served as a solid reminder of the fact that New Orleans’ artists will forever control the festival’s heartbeat—no matter which marquee names land at the Acura stage. After warming things up with a tribute to the late Ben E. King, Neville breezed through a reggae medley of Bob Marley tunes followed by soulful takes on “Yellow Moon” and “Louisiana 1927.” He switched gears and grabbed a tambourine for a “Down By the Riverside” sing-along before launching into “Tell It Like It Is,” his gossamer vibrato reverberating rending broken hearts and tear-stained eyes throughout the packed house. (JO)
I honestly don’t know how someone who managed to land some prime real estate in the center of the Acura Stage infield for Elton John managed to make it through the day. A trip to the bathroom, food stand, or beer booth would have been closer in arduousness to Homer’s Odyssey than a 200-yard walk across a field. (SM)
If Big Chief Monk Boudreaux isn’t the last of the best, I don’t know who is. (SM)
It’s hard not to hear about the hype surrounding Sturgill Simpson, the rapidly rising star of outlaw-country hailed by critics and hillbillies alike as savior to a scene long lost amidst over-produced Nashville pop that’s dominated the genre for the last several decades. Unassuming behind his acoustic six-string guitar and evoking a spirit that harkens back with eerie clarity to the glory days of Merle Haggard, Simpson showed in workingman fashion what the fuss is all about, belting out at the Gentilly Stage world-weary, anti-hero anthems such as “Long White Line” (from his magnificent 2014 break-out album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music) backed by a crack band that proved adept at sinister slide-guitar blues, up-tempo bluegrass and ragtime piano. (FE)
There were many reasons to dig the Tedeschi Trucks Band performance before the lightning came on Friday. They covered an obscure New Orleans funk cut (Break in the Road – an Allen Toussaint/Meters/Betty Harris late ’60s funk tune). They added some positive female energy into the jam/blues genre which tends to be very male. But it really hit when they rocked a tight, horn-punctuated version of Bobby Blue Bland’s “I Pity the Fool” that may have been the best thing I heard all Jazz Fest. (DK)
Dr. Michael White’s tribute to Jelly Roll Morton was excellent, especially when he played an obscure Morton cut where, as Dr. White put it, Morton and the band threw away the charts and just jammed. The tune is called “Get The Bucket,” and those were most of the lyrics with an added “Gonna buy some beer.” It occurred to me as I heard this that, given the places that Jelly Roll Morton played and the world he lived in, he probably said something a little more street than “Get The Bucket” when he played this. The show was broadcast on WWOZ, or I’ll bet Dr. White might have used these alternate lyrics. (DK)
I’m usually immune to heartwarming family moments, but there were two quite memorable ones this year. The first happened during Cowboy Mouth’s set, where leader Fred LeBlanc brought his young son Bash onstage to hit some drums during “Jenny Says.” He asked the crowd to “Give this kid a moment he’ll never forget,” but nobody was grinning more broadly than the elder LeBlanc himself. The second was in the Pfister Sisters’ Economy Hall set, when member Debbie Davis recalled a moment, exactly 17 years ago, when she’d just arrived in New Orleans, saw a band at the same stage, and fell immediately in love with the bass player. That was Matt Perrine, to whom she’s now married, and their son Ben made his Acura Stage debut with Bonerama earlier that day. (BM)
Mixing it up
Criminals and fender lizards alike, please note that NOPD chief Michael Harrison spent at least 20 minutes checking out Nicholas Payton’s trio in the Jazz Tent as the band potently mixed tender ballads and almost Miles Davis-esque distorted smears of rock to make a sound much bigger than the three musicians on stage. (DK)
A man of many words offstage but few on stage, drummer Willie Green (known as Mean Willie Greenstein when he plays with this band) felt moved to come forward to the microphone and praise his fellow musicians in the New Orleans Klezmer All Stars. Willie and Stanton Moore doubled up on the drums for a song before the band broke into new material that they called the “Yiddish Meters.” It sounded more like the Meters than anybody currently playing these days does. (DK)
Steve Winwood opened and closed his set with “I’m a Man” and “Gimme Some Lovin’,” the two Spencer Davis Group hits that he recorded a half-century ago—and amazingly, both were sung in their original keys. Of all the British rock veterans who hit town this week, Winwood was arguably the only one with his powers absolutely intact, and he brought a band that harkened back to Traffic. Like Elton and the Who, he stuck mainly with oldies, but he’s got a great catalogue that radio hasn’t flogged to death, and you really can’t hear “Dear Mr. Fantasy” too many times. The set only wandered in the middle with some long solos, which were likely there so Winwood could conserve his voice—a couple of vocal miracles per set was enough. (BM)
Performing just a week before his 67th birthday, Steve Winwood largely avoided the hits that made him an ’80s pop-music icon during his set the final Sunday on the Gentilly Stage. Pulling deep tracks from his psychedelic Spencer Davis Group/Traffic/Blind Faith days, Winwood treated a packed crowd to tunes such as “I’m a Man,” “Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys,” “Pearly Queen” and a thrilling “Dear Mr. Fantasy” before delivering in the encore a double dose of his chart-toppers with “Higher Love” and “Gimme Some Lovin’.” (FE)
Cher Two Times
This has to be the first Jazz Fest where I’ve heard the same Cher song covered twice, namely “Bang Bang” which was done by Lady Gaga (while Tony Bennett was offstage) and Rory Danger (a.k.a. Aurora Nealand, at Instruments A Comin’). Both treated the song pretty much the same way, slyly subverting the gender roles, and both artists have proven good at messing with their own identity. Nealand/Danger’s whole set was a hoot, by the way. Given 30 minutes to play at Tip’s, she promised to do all 20 songs in her regular set, having a guy with a bullhorn cut each one off after 80 seconds. (BM)
To those Jazz Fest historians who keep track of the traditions and to those Jazz Fest stalwarts who bemoan the changes and wish it was a Jazz Fest where you could drive your car right up behind the stage, there is still a watermelon sacrifice by the Fais Do on Thursday. Jack the Tutu Man was there, and it seems to be run by brilliant mental patients who stage the Jazz Fest Triathlon. (DK)
One More Stop
As usual, Anders Osborne debuted a bunch of intense new songs during the Fest, some of which had to do with the underside of New Orleans (“Move Back to Mississippi,” a tough rocker about a naïve kid drawn to gangster life, stood out). The music was also surprising, usually steering clear of the blazing blues-rock he’s known for. He’s been playing with the Dead’s Bill Kreutzmann lately, and some of that influence has definitely rubbed off, as he closed the set with a ten-minute reggae groove on “Sarah Anne.” From anyone else it would seem a strange set, for Osborne it’s just one more stop on the journey. (BM)
Waves of Emotion
Transcending the sweltering, mid-day sun and foot-deep mud traps from the previous days’ storms, husband-and-wife banjo team Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn performed a mix of tunes that ranged from folk to gospel to blues on the first Sunday of Jazz Fest. Washburne’s voice was all purity and light against Fleck’s stripped-down harmonies on the haunting 1938 gospel number “I Got the Keys to the Kingdom,” a highlight of the set. The pair ended with another church-based tune, as Washburne gave a shout out to her grandmother June, who apparently operated a roller skating rink for half a century. “I’ll sing this one for her and for anybody else you love and miss,” she offered, the ruffles of her white dress fluttering in the breeze. As she stretched her voice on a series of climactic and moving lyrics, Fleck could only decorate the ends of her phrases with his banjo, which was only slightly less powerful than the waves of emotion emanating from his wife’s lips. (JO)
Jerry Lee Lewis looked downright scary as he lurched onstage, hunched over and swinging a cane. But his set was surprisingly hot, with more energy than the one he played at his last Fest 10 years ago. His days of kicking the piano stool are long over, but he sounded properly lecherous on “Great Balls of Fire” and wild on “Drinking Wine Spo-Dee O’Dee”—and of course changed lyrics at every turn to remind us he’s the Killer. Just when you thought he was soberly facing mortality on “Don’t Put No Headstone on My Grave,” he delivered the capper: “I’d prefer a monument!” (BM)
I was introduced to Astral Project at some point in the late ’90s with one of the most riveting and joy-inducing performances I’ve ever witnessed in the Jazz Tent. This year’s Astral Project set was another one for the record books, thanks in large part to contributions from special guests Bill Summers on percussion, Michael Pollera on piano, Khari Allen Lee on sax and Jamil Sharif on trumpet. Together with the band’s regular, reliably stellar lineup—saxophonist Tony Dagradi, bassist James Singleton, drummer Johnny Vidacovich and guitarist Steve Masakowski—they brought a blend of breezy Latin rhythms, fiery horn solos and deeply funky bass lines to old favorites like “Cannonball” and “Sidewalk Strut,” and a handful of new tunes. (JO)
Pres Hall made full use of the Blues Tent’s warm acoustics during a set that featured special appearances from their Junior Jazz Band (made up of players from a dozen area high schools) and a pair of gravity-taunting swing dancers. As a New Orleanian used to enjoying the lovely but soft voices of Mark Braud and Charlie Gabriel in the unamplified hall, hearing them in the tent, one of the Fest’s best stages, sound-wise, provided a real treat. A second treat came in the form of the big, brash, blues-soaked and dance move-packed performance by Ronell Johnson, who stole the show, if not the entire day. (JO)
The Tedeschi Trucks Band spread out across the Acura stage for an amazing set filled with Herculean feats of guitar prowess by husband and wife team Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. To say the sprawling 11 member outfit was firing on all cylinders would be an understatement. To close out the first song, which stretched beyond the five minute mark in true jam band style, everyone on stage snapped to a stop at precisely the same time. The look on Tedeschi’s face seemed to say “What? Every band isn’t this dialed in? It’s no big deal for us.” The band’s dual drummers were as locked in as any drummers I have ever seen. They were close enough for the outside cymbals on their respective kits to touch, and you could see them talking often throughout the first few songs before focusing in on a killer dual solo. The Tedeschi Trucks band proved that they are now what the Allman Brothers would have been had they merged with Delaney and Bonnie in the ’70s. (SM)
In his set to close out the Blues Tent on the last Sunday, Buddy Guy gave his audience a tour of blues as only he can. He sang Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy,” John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom,” Cream’s “Strange Brew” (with special guest Tab Benoit), and Isaac Hayes’ “Do Your Thing.” However, when he pulled out the acoustic guitar to do Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar,” he took a fine tune, made it finer, and gave yet another indication of both Buddy and Marvin’s genius as well as showing again how the blues can be applied to all music. (DK)
To Chair or Not to Chair?
On the final day of Jazz Fest 2015, I decided to try something I’ve never done in my previous 29 years attending the festival. I spent the day as a chair person. Ground rules: bring a chair (three chairs with my two companions actually), find an immediate space and stay there for the day. I did cheat, but only after nearly three hours of nonstop sitting. I chose a spot with a lot of room, behind the sound booth at the Gentilly stage. You can’t see the stage from there, but you can hear perfectly and have an unobstructed view of the giant screen to the right of the stage. The day was perfect—high sun, a brisk southeastern breeze, no humidity. Delightful, especially when Deacon John brought his big band onstage for a well-paced set.
Deac was at the top of his game, dapper in a straw fedora, yellow pattern bowtie, turquoise shirt and a suit jacket on this warm day. “This goes out to B.B. King,” he said. “He’s not doing too well. Our prayers are with him.” John proceeded to rip into “You Upset Me Baby,” the big horn section (four saxophones, two trombones, two trumpets) buoying him along. He brought up Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes to play harmonica on “Dust My Broom,” then featured himself as a vocalist on a beautiful rendition of “Many Rivers to Cross.”
The crowd was relaxed, almost desultory. Avoiding my normal penchant for walking from stage to stage, I was getting a very different perspective on the fest. And the Radiators were about to play one of their biannual reunion shows.
“We’ve been saying goodbye to these guys for a long time, but they ain’t gone,” noted Quint Davis in his introduction. “They’re just too damn good a band not to sometimes play together.”
The Rads proceeded to prove his point, opening with a sensational version of what has become their post breakup anthem, “Can’t Take It With You When You Go,” which jumped the rails into other songs. “I dreamed I saw Professor Longhair way up in the clouds,” sang Ed Volker, coaxing the band into “Long Hard Journey Home,” then “Mardi Gras In New Orleans,” then “Land of 1,000 Dances” before returning to “Can’t Take It With You.”
As the band played, a skywriting plane drew an enormous heart in the air, prompting Volker to point up and say “Look at the heart in the sky!” Rads favorites followed: “Fish Head Music,” “Seven Devils,” “Soul On Fire” and “How Far To the Horizon,” which featured an epic guitar exchange between Dave Malone and Camile Baudoin. Volker teased “You Got to Move” into the beginning of “Wild and Free,” then the band closed with the jukebox hit “Like Dreamers Do.”
Steve Winwood followed, and the crowd responded gleefully to classic material such as “Had To Cry Today,” “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys,” “Glad,” “Light Up Or Leave Me Alone” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy.” Dr. John opened strong with the Blind Boys of Alabama singing “What A Wonderful World” and Michael Brecker turning in a great trumpet solo on “Mack the Knife,” but the Radiators had already iced the cake. Not sure if I’ll ever be a chair person again, but for this one afternoon, I have to say the practice has its charms. (JS)
Dave Malone has to have the best hair in the city outside of Rob Ryan. (SM)
“The Legacy of Sydney Byrd” exhibition in the Grand Stand pays tribute to the 70-year-old Mississippi-born photographer, now suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, who for the last 40-plus years documented the culture of her adopted hometown of New Orleans and captured in brilliant color and black-and-white portraiture the essence of local icons such as Professor Longhair and James Booker. A stellar show. (FE)
Leaving Jazz Fest
On the last Sunday at the Lagniappe Stage, Bobby Lounge sang with his usual demented aplomb. There were some new songs including one about his Apalachicola Girl. Now, this girl left him with a note on the table, her glass eye, and, as Lounge sang with extra panache, “her Jazz Fest picture with Deacon John!” (DK)
I can’t leave Jazz Fest without having my perfect moment, much like Spalding Gray espoused in his “Swimming to Cambodia” monologues. This year, after leaving Buddy Guy, my perfect moment came to me as I walked up to the Gentilly Stage to hear Dr. John duet with the Blind Boys of Alabama on “Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams.” It was balanced by Dr. John’s growl and the stately beat of Herlin Riley on drums. I could go home after that, so I did. (DK)
I’m sitting in the shade on the high ground of the Truck Farm back yard tucked up against a rusty metal fence with the poster from Chaz Fest 2008 behind me. It’s a brilliant sunny afternoon, but I’m shaded by the small woodland of tall trees and fern bushes with twisting walking paths cut through them. Most of the people are in the open space in the center of the yard facing the main stage. It’s peaceful where I’m sitting, but when the action shifts to stage two, which is actually a rotting wooden shed in the corner of the yard next to me, the area where I’m sitting will fill up with people. Though most of the crowd is local—you can tell by t-shirts from the previous renditions of the event, which started after Katrina—there are newbies who distinguish themselves with rude behavior such as pushing people aside to get a better view of the tiny “stage.”
The Lonely Lonely Knights opened things up on the big stage with a great set that closed unexpectedly with Dann Penn’s “The Dark End of the Street.” Schatzy, playing piano in a group with Doug Garrison of the Iguanas on drums and Alex McMurray on guitar, plied his tart, good-timey voice to great effect on the ironic tales of dumpster diving transients that populate his songs. After the TBC Brass Band rocked the main stage, Luke Spurr Allen, who sidekick Alex McMurray called “the man who writes the songs that make the whole neighborhood sing,” did a set with McMurray on guitar and Helen Gillet on cello, capped off by his great song “Giant.” The highlight of the afternoon was another small stage event, Helen Gillet’s Other Instruments 2.0, with cello, harp, bagpipes, percussion and Mark Southerland’s eccentric wind instruments (and of course Washboard Chaz, who plays one song with everyone in the lineup). In addition to her own songs, Gillet performed Sun Ra’s “Calling All Demons,” the Velvet Underground’s “Ride Into the Sun” and Lou Reed’s “Pale Blue Eyes.” By the end, the crowd was pushing up against the tiny stage and screaming its approval. (JS)