I have been missing New Orleans, so it was actually quite fun for me to write this and reflect on the magic that is Jazz Fest. Hope you enjoy and please feel free to comment below!
Weekend Two, Day One: I unfortunately had to sit one day out, which was a challenge considering how badly I wanted to go run around in the rain during Widespread Panic’s set, which I heard was amazing – of course. Alas, next time! Onto day two!
Weekend Two, Day Two:
Irma Thomas in the Gospel Tent – At the age of 72 with a career spanning over five decades, Irma Thomas is a New Orleans staple. Her first Jazz Fest was in 1974! It’s really a wonder why she isn’t more of a household name. I was thrilled to see her again after her cameo at Dr. John’s shows in Brooklyn last year. Her powerful voice and general spirit enrapture her audience, leaving everyone in awe. Be sure to check out her Grammy-winning album After the Rain, recorded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which completely devastated her home, and you will understand why she is “The Soul Queen of New Orleans”. Also check out her recording of “Time Is On My Side” – she did it before the Stones did.
Jimmy Cliff at the Congo Square Stage – Jimmy killed it. Always an expert performer, the 65 year old seemed reinvigorated by the success of his new album Rebirth and his energy was contagious. He played the classics “Wonderful World, Beautiful People” “Vietnam” (which was turned into “Afghanistan” on this day), his cover of Cat Stevens’ “Wild World”, and of course “The Harder They Come” and “Many Rivers to Cross”. It was hard to leave, but I had never seen Willie Nelson before, so I had to make a run for it over to Gentilly.
Willie Nelson at the Gentilly Stage – I find it annoying when I hear old people referred to as “cute”, but Willie honestly was – he kept scrunching up his face, smiling and waving at his fans, and it was sort of sweet. He seemed a little sleepy in the beginning, but picked up the pace throughout his set and was pretty damn energetic for having just turned 80 years old, honored by his fans holding up Happy Birthday signs. There was a lot of spirit at the show. He played tons of hits: “Funny How Time Slips Away”, “Crazy”, “Nightlife”, “City of New Orleans”, “Jambalaya”, “Hey Good Lookin”, “Move it on Over”, “Georgia on a Fast Train”, “Let’s Face the Music and Dance”, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”, “I Saw The Light”, New Orleans second-line favorite “I’ll Fly Away” and “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die”, which is also the name of his 2012 autobiography. I’m so grateful to have been there.
Little Big Town at the Acura Stage – I don’t think this band is good-looking enough. I mean, it’s ridiculous. And two of them are married – Jimi and Karen – I can only imagine how beautiful and talented their children will be. But, I digress. Since forming in ’98, the Nashville-based Country band has toured with the likes of Eli Young, George Strait, Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood. Their recent single “Pontoon” achieved Double-Platinum status and won a Grammy. I hope their success continues because they put on a super fun show. Oddly enough it was one of the first country shows I’ve been to!
Fleetwood Mac at the Acura Stage – Where do I even begin? I grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac and had always wanted to see them. I sacrificed seeing pretty much anything else that day in order to be at the very front of the all-access area from start to finish. I had seen Stevie Nicks at Dave Grohl’s Sound City Players show this February, but I really wanted to see the whole band together, which unfortunately didn’t happen since Christine McVie has retired from music, but I seem to be one of the only people who notice her absence. A few notes on the show. One, Lindsey Buckingham seems a little show-offy, but I guess that’s justified considering he’s part of one of the biggest bands of the century. Two, John McVie seems reserved. He didn’t say anything the entire time. Three, Mick Fleetwood is hilarious. Four, so is Stevie Nicks. In one of the funnier moments of the show, she announced that a bug had flown into her throat and she needed coffee – is coffee really the best choice when singing? Whatever, she’s Stevie Nicks. So, she ran offstage for a moment and the rest of the band played a classical medley while Mick waltzed around in a velvet jumpsuit. She then returned, and they all made jokes about the well-known romantic dramas within the band throughout the years. They really seemed to be getting along. It was nice. Anyway, the music. They played the hits, which, let’s face it, is all anyone really wants to hear. See the setlist before. My favorite was “Don’t Stop”, but they really did a great job with every single one. I got pretty nostalgic. Hope to see them again.
“Second Hand News”
“Not That Funny”
“Sisters of the Moon”
“Never Going Back Again”
“Eyes of the World”
“Gold Dust Woman”
“I’m So Afraid”
“Go Your Own Way”
Weekend Two, Day Four:
Brushy One-String in the Blues Tent – The Jamaican musician, also known as Andrew Chin, literally plays a guitar with one string yet manages to create a strong, creative, genuine and surprisingly versatile sound. The truly impressive Brushy One-String gained recognition after appearing in the award-winning 2009 documentary RiseUp about musicians trying to break out of the underground music scene in Jamaica. Check out the above link.
Taj Mahal in the Blues Tent – I saw Taj Mahal last month as well at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival, where he played with Keb Mo. Having been around for decades and having played with the likes of Howlin’ Wolf and John Lee Hooker, the guy is a musical legend. He’s also an authoritative and charismatic speaker though, which is something I noticed at Crossroads. Some highlights from his set included “You’re Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond,” his famous “She Caught the Katy (And Left Me a Mule to Ride)”, and last, but not least on my list, he covered Fats Domino’s “Hello Josephine,” while backed by 10 tubas, which he described as a “tuba attack”. Pretty damn cool.
The Black Keys at the Acura Stage – The massive worldwide success of the Black Keys proves that with enough talent and the right songs, it’s entirely possible to pull off a powerful sound with just a two-man band (in this case, Dan Auerbach on guitar and vocals and Patrick Carney on drums). I had been dying to see them, so I was really pumped for this. Some of the highlights from their set included “Gold on the Ceiling” “Howlin’ For You,” “Dead and Gone,” “Little Black Submarines,” and “Lonely Boy”. I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed that Dr. John didn’t come out with them. Dan Auerbach produced his last record Locked Down, so I kind of expected it. It was still a rockin’ good time though.
Trombone Shorty at the Acura Stage – The end of Jazz Fest… There’s a bittersweet feeling in the air on the last day. No one likes knowing that something so momentous is about to end, but luckily Troy Trombone Shorty knew how to handle this and managed to get the crowd fired up for one last hurrah. And it ended up being one of my happiest moments of the entire festival. It’s essential to note that this was the New Orleans’ native’s first time closing out the festival on the main stage, having been passed the torch by Aaron Neville. Neville said, “Trombone Slim, as I call him, will do a great job… I remember when it was Professor Longhair out there and then we did it for a long time. It’s time. Slim is a big musician and I’m proud of the way he’s handled himself.” And Trombone Shorty proved to be deserving of the endorsement. His 90 minute set of Blues, Funk, and Rock was one of the best I’ve seen him do. He came out into the crowd, got us dancing, getting low, then jumping, then getting low again, cheers’ing each other and singing along. Everyone was in a good mood. There couldn’t have been a better ending to this magical trip. Thank you Jazz Fest!