John Mayall – Blues Tent

Day 21 – April 29th

No cloud cover today and it will be a little hotter than the first two days of the festival. I am anticipating that the crowd will be bigger today as Jimmy Buffet’s Parrot Heads will be swarming.

We waited for the bus at our usual spot but ‘no appearance your worship’. Brian Wise, his son (Rob) and his partner are waiting with us. We decided to get an Uber instead.

Today’s late breakfast is Crawfish Monica. I headed to the Gentilly Stage for a band called ‘Imagination Movers’, I soon worked out that they were a kids-band. Much better than the Wiggles.

Went and purchased ‘The Last Bandoleros’ extended CD and then we went for some fresh fruit at WWOZ. The girls headed to the Blues Tent and I decided to sit in the outdoor Grandstand seats for a rest and do some people watching. I saw Bernie and called him over and we talked music for half an hour.

We got to the Blues Tent in time for Kenny Neal and his extended family band members. In fact, an old lady sitting next to me proudly told that she was Kenny’s Aunt. Kenny also had a few legendary guest performers. He called up the 94-year-old Henry Grey to sit in on the piano. Henry was the piano player for Howlin’ Wolf band for many years. He was great, and his smile told everyone how much he still loves to perform. Next guest was the much younger (84) Lazy Lester who was a major Excello recording artist. Lazy Lester had a major hit with the classic ‘Sugar Coated Love’, which is still played and recorded by today’s Blues artists. It was just so good to watch both these legends on stage

Sitting next to me is a lady who started gesturing to me in sign language. I soon figured that she was French and could not speak English. She got the message across that she would like me to type into her phone the name of the old piano player (Henry Gray) and the harmonica player (Lazy Lester). Music the international language!

I wandered over to Gentilly to catch Jon Batiste and the Dap Kings. Jon was one of the guests at the Fats Domino tribute. He impressed me then and I wanted to see him with a band. Pretty sure that the Dap-Kings are the band that backed the sadly deceased Sharon Jones. Jon is a younger guy who can play the piano exquisitely and also sing like a bird. Amazing performance. I learned that he is the band leader for the ‘Tonight Show’. The Batiste family have a long music legacy in Louisiana.

Went over to have a look at Doug Kershaw and friends. Sat down with a beer and a packet of Glazed Pecans. Doug also is in the legend category. He has a young band of excellent musicians who warmed up the crowd with two swamp classics. Doug bounded on stage and launched into the classic ‘Diggy Liggy Lo’. I might be wrong, but Doug seemed a little the worst for wear. I hung in for about 5 songs. I was talking to Johnny Sansone and said that I thought Doug had been a little out of it. Johnny said, ‘Hell no, I saw him in the 70’s and he was just the same’!

My must go to gig for the day was David Byrne on the Gentilly Stage. From the first song to the last I was enthralled. The highlight of the Festival so far from me. Man, what a show.

Here is the review from the Times-Picayune –

Ask anyone: Former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne’s show on the first Sunday (April 29) of Jazz Fest was a trip.

Byrne became the focus of popular attention in the early 1980s besides Peter Gabriel, Laurie Anderson, Sting and a few other artists/musicians who blended unemotional personas with poetic lyrics to help wrestle the world out of the clutches of disco.

Byrne could seem utterly cool or, like his contemporary Elvis Costello, a nerd who somehow accidentally stumbled into rock stardom. People who listened to Byrne dabbled in sushi, drank Stolichnaya with cranberry juice and loved the movie “Dune.” Lots of them went to art school.

Older versions of those same people were thrilled Sunday when Byrne appeared onstage, took a seat at a small table and began calmly pointing out the regions of the human brain on a pink plastic facsimile as he sang a song titled, “Here.” He was, as always, a weird, hip, cunning version of Mr Rogers.

Byrne fans were also thrilled when he was joined by 10 musicians, who were rigged with portable instruments and wireless mics, so they could travel freely and join him in stiff, robotic choreography.

Naturally, everyone in the ensemble wore identical pale grey suits (imagine something in the austerity continuum between Pierre Cardin and Devo). All wore pale brown shoes, except for Byrne, who was inexplicably barefoot. (He should be careful appearing without shoes and socks. When Paul McCartney did that, a generation of Beatle freaks thought he’d mysteriously died).

Byrne calculatedly added a few compelling new compositions and collaborations to his setlist amidst the crowd-pleasing Talking Heads tunes his fans pined to hear, such as “Slippery People,” “This Must Be the Place” (my personal fave, not that you asked) and “Burning Down the House.” All songs were executed with surgical precision, crystalline clarity and controlled verve (we’re talking about David Byrne after all).

He closed the show politically with a rendition of Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout,” which included the recital of the names of victims of police violence.

Considering the snappy new songs, the radical free-range band, Byrne’s obvious fitness and the overt activism at the end, the show didn’t have the nostalgic feel of some of the Jazz Fest headline acts this year, despite the fact that Byrne is a silver-haired 65-year-old.

The WOW crew met at the Blues Tent to plan for that night. We decided to have a couple of beers near the Festival site to allow the crowd to thin out. We were sitting on the footpath out front of a restaurant having a cold one. Suddenly, we heard (sirens blaring) then saw two motor bike cops escorting a black limousine. Hanging out the window giving a royal queen salute to the cheering crowd was Jimmy Buffet.

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