Friday/Saturday/Sunday – April 25th to 27th
‘Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!’ – Prof. Dumbledore
I have decided to put three days of Jazz Fest into one blog. Reason being that after getting back from the festival each night I am too pooped to do anything apart from shower and sleep. The weather for the three days has been hot but thankfully there has been some cloud cover with an occasional breeze. For those that do not have knowledge of the festival it goes like this. Gates open at 10:30 with music starting around 11:15 and running through until 7P.M. The Jazz Fest site is at the New Orleans Fair Grounds which is also the home of the local race track. The site is a 10 minute bus ride from the Quarter at a cost of a dollar and a quarter. My WWOZ Brass Pass allows me to enter through a gate way that moves much quicker that the general admission lines. There are 12 music stages, some large, some small, some outdoors, some in very large tents including stage dedicated to kid’s entertainment. By far the largest stage is the outdoor Acura where the headliners such as Springsteen, Clapton and Santana will perform. I hang out a lot at the Blues Stage which is housed in a very large tent and has the added bonus of seating. Other tents include the Gospel and Jazz tents which are dedicated to those particular genres.
So who did I see and how did I rate them. Where the artists I went to see on your top five lists for the first week. What did I eat? The food at the festival is plentiful and diverse. I have a big surprise as well in store for ya’ll.
Now Mr. Smith will undoubtedly attest to the fact that I am always early to nearly everything I attend. I left the apartment at around 10 each morning and walked to the bus stop at the top of Toulouse St. There are two closer bus stops to me than this particular stop. However as a veteran of 4 Jazz Fests I know that the bus’ can fill up very quickly. The bus arrived at 10:30 and three of us managed to squeeze on. I had a little smirk as we sped past the two closer bus stops I mentioned and I saw the waiting crowds frustratingly wave their annoyance at the driver. Ah local knowledge is a good thing.
Day one at Jazz fest I got to see first up,Tommy Singleton with Ernie Vincent on guitar. The security people in the Blues tent are the same as for the last 3 years and they waved to greet me back. I caught Geno Delafose and his French Rockin’ Boogie at the Fais Do Do Stage. Merci Beaucoup, Geno. Back to the Blues stage for Little Freddie King resplendent in a purple suit, big sunglasses, trademark fedora atop a black bandana… ‘You gotta walk with Freddie’. Watched another bluesman in Chris Thomas King.
Over to the second largest outdoor stage (Samsung Galaxy) for some Honey Island Swamp Band. Back to the Blues tent for the last 4 songs from Lil’ Buck Sinegal. Stayed for the change- over of bands and managed to get a front set for a favourite of mine, Eric Lindell and his band with special guest guitarist Anson Funderburgh. I got to chat to Eric after his set and he took one of my Way Out West business cards. He dearly wants to get back to Australia for a tour. The tent started to empty out as Eric’s set came to a close. Many people are heading over to the Acura to try and get a spot for the closing act, Santana. Me I want to see some of Joe Louis Walker. A superb singer and guitarist. He does not disappoint. The news for any WOW people reading this blog is that we have been asked to hold a Sunday in November for a possible tour of the said Joe Louis Walker. Get excited folks if this gig comes to fruition. Cross everything you got as he is a powerful performer and it will be a cup for our club.
I did go over to the Acura and catch some of Santana. I have never before seen this legend and I could not afford to not cross him off my have seen list. He was good, damn good. I never wait until the end of the day’s music before I make a move to get a bus back home. The crowd to get on the bus can be very long if you leave at the very end. I read in the paper the next day that Santana played for a 30 minutes past the close time of 7P.M.
What else did I get up to that day? Well I ate a spicy Natchitoes meat pie and a crawfish pie. Now before you say ‘what a pig’ they are not the same sort of pies we get back home. I also called into the WWOZ tent for a sit down, some fresh fruit salad and iced coffee which is free with my Brass Pass. I had plenty of water throughout the day and also a big cup of homemade strawberry lemonade which was very tasty if a little sweet for my liking. I wandered around the fest site more than I normally do to try and see as many different acts as possible. When the sun was out it was very hot. I had to buy a bandana to cover up my new tatt as I could feel it burning. When the heat became to oppressive outside I headed to the indoor tents where the sun did not burn but the humidity went up ten- fold.
Started with Guitar Slim Jnr. who is the son of the late legendary bluesman Guitar Slim. Stew called to tell me that he and Carol where in their usual picnic spot under a tree about 80 metres back from the the Fais Do Do stage. I went over there and sat on one of their chairs and listened to Jeffrey Broussard & the Creole Cowboys. It was good to be able to sit and feel a breeze.
Over to the Samsung Galaxy stage for some of the super group the Royal Southern Brotherhood. I ran into Bryce who is an Aussie I met some ten years ago on a train that I had caught to get to the Queenscliff Music Festival. Small world, heh!
I tried to get back to the Blues tent for Sonny Landreth but it was packed out.
I was feeling a little faint from the heat and so headed to the Jazz Tent for a sit down and dare I say a little snooze.
Feeling a little refreshed I headed back to Fais Do Do where Wendy’s boyfriend was about to start. If I do not get a good photo of Keb’ Mo I might not as well go back home. I think I did well.
I got back to the Blues tent for the last three songs of Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentleman and then decided to hang in for Boz Scaggs. I was tempted, very tempted to try and get to see Robert Plant who was on at the same time but the thought of having to stand again turned me off. You may well ask why don’t I sit down on the grass. Well I just can’t get back up without considerable help. The joy of approaching 60 (not)
Food for the day was Ya Ka Mein, a New Orleans style beef noodle soup. The girl said I could add my own hot sauce although it had some hotness already, she said. Glad I didn’t add any sauce as it was spicy enough for me already. Of course I again availed myself to the hospitality of WWOZ. I also had a slice of Jalapeno and Sausage Bread.
Now I am telling my story warts and all. Not sure why but my tummy has been a bit on the queasy side for a few days. The porta loos at the festival site should be avoided as much as possible for obvious reasons but when you gotta go you gotta go. It is not a good idea to spend ten minutes in one of these things. It is hotter than a sauna but you are in there fully clothed. Any longer and I may have well passed out.
Started the day with Henry Gray in the Blues tent. Who is that I spot, why it is Wendy’s other boyfriend Kenny Neal. Now Kenny is not on the bill so I wonder why he is here. He sits just behind me. We talked and he told me he has just signed Henry to his record label. Real nice guy and he has a lot of good things to say about Australia.
Listened to a couple of songs of Chris Smither and then I head out to see Meschiya Lake & the Little Big Horns.
Back to the Blues tent for the last few songs from Bombino and then I stayed for a full set of Rockin’ Dopsie Jnr. & the Zydeco Twisters. What a show, energy abounds, Dopsie is dancing and jumpin and doing the splits. He came off stage and is dancing while playing his rub-board right in front of me. I can reach out and touch him. Alas I have a long lens on my camera and can’t get a shot.
I headed out again to hear John Hiatt and the Combo. I left it too late to get near the stage and have to stand well back, alas no photos.
I like nearly everyone else at the fairgrounds starts to move about 4:30 to see if we can get anywhere close to Eric Clapton who will be closing out the Acura Stage. You can’t even get close enough to see the big screens that adorn either side of the stage.
Oh well let’s head back to the Blues tent to see Sixto Rodriguez. His is an interesting story. He released a couple of albums back in the 70’s and they sold hardly a copy in his native U.S.A. They did however sell reasonably well in Australia and South Africa. I like many fans though he had passed away however I have since learned that he just went back to being a recluse. A year or so back an award winning documentary was released about his life called ‘Looking for Sugarman’. Sugarman being the title of one of his brilliant songs. A bit like the Rolling Stones exporting Blues music back to the white college kids of America back in the 60’s.The film started his career in his own country where he was long overdue recognition. It was very sad to see that so late in his life he was getting that recognition. His songs are up there with Dylan’s best in my opinion. He cut a very sorry figure as he is so frail, he had to be helped with walking and his eyesight is near on non-existent. His voice I am afraid is shot although still very recognizable. His band of New Orleans session men got him through and I was glad I got to hear some of the songs that I so much enjoyed some 40 years ago. I did not stay until the end of the set as it was just too sad but to the crowds’ credit that clapped just as loud as if he was 50 years younger and at the peak of his form. That is what appreciative and knowledgeable music fans do, they will on performers and pay respect to those who deserve it. If only the American’s had latched onto him as those of us on the other side of the world did way back then.
Food for the day? Another serve of Ya Ka Mein. I am gunna get a recipe for this noodle dish so as I can make it back home. It will be a very good feed on a cold night. Also three Boudin balls with hot sauce. Sorta the size of a meat ball and made with pork and rice and spices and then deep-fried. Very tasty
So who did I dig the most? Rockin’ Dopsie followed by Eric Lindell and then John Hiatt
My big surprise for those three days? I did not have one alcoholic drink. This fact may very well jeopardize my status (if I have one) with my music buddies back home but please have sympathy for me when I say ‘it was too damned hot to drink booze’.