Caution: Long post--Click for Larger Views
Instead of the multi-volume posts I wrote in prior years, I decided to simply upload some pictures with short commentary on this year's "Jazz Fest". I do want to emphasize for anyone not contemplating attending because "Jazz" is the primary name, rest assured that every type of music from rock to pop, zydeco, old jazz, fusion jazz, gospel, ska, Motown, beach, and reggae are included. If you love music and food, you are missing a great event during the day, in addition to the pleasures of a great town after dark!
Jazz Fest runs two weekends in April-May; part one is a Fri-Sat-Sun event, part two is a Thur-Sun event. We always go the second half since there are more days and the grand finale bands are always on the last Sunday.
In Lafayette Square, a business-residential district just off the French Quarter, there is a Wednesday in the Square every week, sort of like the Friday night events at the waterfront in Norfolk. Big name NOLA locals and semi-locals like Marcia Ball, Kermit Ruffin and others show up. Lots of food and beer! We went this year, and saw Marcia Ball, one of my favorite singers, and Marva Wright, the famed gospel singer.
Next up, was Wednesday night on Bourbon Street. Rose & I made a night of it, eating at Felix's first, where I had raw oysters and a catfish Po'Boy. Then on to a couple of bars--Rock n Roll Bourbon Street and The Front Door, where we closed out at 3AM. The Front Door had a heavier rock band, doing perfect covers of AC-DC, Black Sabbath and others. The house band at Rock n Roll covered 70's to 90's song, with a female lead who was born to sing Janis Joplin tunes. I think we "won" a couples dance "award" at one of the locales.
The service staff, as you can see, were quite homely. I doubt any of them made much in the way of tips.
Of course, under the influence of to-go beverages at all bars and six-shot hurricanes, grown adults who are otherwise quite proper can become very silly...
On to the Fest....Emmylou Harris, showing no signs of slowing down during an hour-long set.
Attire is always a great part of Jazz Fest. Below we have a popular "button" since Katrina: "Make Levees-Not War", a Chicken Hat many wore and one I coveted, but was unable to locate the vendor, and the guy in the robe. Not sure if he was commando underneath or not, but it didn't look all that comfy.
Fuzz guitar, steel pedal, psychedelic, and a sort of Beck-style marked indie-rock band Rotary Downs, a New Orleans favorite. Somewhere in all of that confusion emerges a hint of Louisiana influences.
On a proportional scale, we spend the most time at the Fais Do Do stage, which features Cajun and Zydeco acts exclusively. This year was a new treat for me, Rosie Ledet and the Zydeco Playboys. Her music is zydeco with an infusion of sultry R&B and lyrics which gravitate to the slightly naughty. She's full of energy and her band incredibly talented.
Next up, Higher Heights, a reggae band with some ska influences straight from the Caribbean. On a second listening from their website, a lot of the music sounded the same to me, but at Jazz Fest, it hit the mood for that day perfectly. We sat our chairs down, chowed down on some food, beer, and water, and enjoyed the show.
A famous New Orleans musical family, the Neville's, now bring us the Charmaine Neville Band, a combination of New Orleans style jazz (heavy piano and sax) and funk, put to a toe-tapping, danceable beat. Charmaine was probably one of the most pleasant surprises of the week, and I'd recommend checking out her music.
Marsalis is another famous jazz name. This time it was the younger brother, Delfeayo, and his great trombone. Smooth and brassy jazz, in the indoor tent, where misters provided a respite from the 90 degree heat.
I can't remember the band she sang with, but Ellen Smith came up to the stage and wowed the audience with a strong set. This was the old style Ella Fitzgerald jazz vocals, with the sultry voice and the usual you're-a-no-good-man-but-I-love-you theme. She can shake her hips and belt out a tune, and I'll be searching for her vocals on the Internet somewhere.
Patty Griffin, a native of Maine was up at the Fais Do Do stage, although her style is more of a soulful folksy-blues, with some rock overtones. Think of a more uptemp Emmylou Harris, who is one of her supporters.
If Hank Williams was an early superstar of recorded country music, D.L. Menard (with his band, the Louisiana Aces) would hold the same title for Cajun music. This music is slightly different from zydeco, more country-western in style and use of Cajun lyrics. One really had to pay attention when D.L. spoke, his accent was so heavy. But you could tell he was a true musician; a man who doesn't need sound mixers, recordinig booths, or electronic aids in making his music sound good.
I didn't take pictures of Bon Jovi, because the crowd was huge and I wasn't interested enough to wade through the throng to get a close up picture...
At Congo Square, the Ivorie Spectacle was a group not from the Ivory Coast, but adoptive of their music and dance, replete with "hi-life" style drum beats, stilt dancing, fire-eatng, all of which is choregraphed by Seguenon Kone.
Brass jazz bands, with their white "milkman" uniforms are about as New Orleans as one can get, and many contemporary jazz stars, such as Kermit Ruffin, got their start in such bands. The music is fun, the musicians enjoy playing, and the crowd responds. Below is the Paulin Brothers Brass Band...
And finally, Neil Young. Again, too large a crowd to get a nice picture, so you have to settle for the Jumbotron view. Young same several oldies; Rockin' In the Free World, Old Man, Cinnamon Girl, The Needle and the Damage Down, and smartly avoided Southern Man. He did a great cover of The Beatles "A Day in the Life", and then about 30 minutes of stuff from his newer albums that very few found interesting. I noticed the scent of hemp increased greatly when Neil broke out the new music!
While the food inside is nothing short of divine, the New Orleans government waives the rules, so to speak, and allows the poorer residents who live adjacent to the fair grounds to sell food, souviniers, and even beer without a license. Believe it or not, we were starved after a day of eating, and while waiting for our "ride", a pre-arranged deal that is not exactly illegal but avoids the 1 hour line for cabs and shuttles, I had the best fried catfish sandwich ever at this ad hoc eatery:
Here, the "girls" enjoy Rosemint tea and Cajun food...
And here's a picture of the 2009 gang....