April 25th through 28th
A fool and his money are soon elected. Will Rogers
First day of of the 50th anniversary of Jazz Fest and ANZAC Day back home.
Well, well, well, the weather people are spot on. It is hissing down today including thunder and lightning. A check of the web and the opening of Jazz Fest has been delayed until further notice. That is sad on many(weather) fronts, not least for the opening acts who now miss out on their gig at the major milestone of Jazz Fest. I am determined to go out to the Fest and await a break in the weather.
I got out to the Fairgrounds at 1 PM, two hours after the scheduled opening. There are not a lot of people about. Mainly due to another major weather front due at 3 pm. I am a little nervous as I make my way through security. This is the first year that I have not purchased a Brass Pass, due to the fact they sold out so quickly. I purchased my tickets online and downloaded them to my phone. I am thinking, what if my phone conks out, what if I can’t find them on the phone. I am pleased to say that I have mastered the technology and got in quickly. No lines at all, the sky is black as.
As is my first day tradition, I headed to Miss Linda’s food concession and got a Yaka Mein. I had just slurped the last of this wonderful soup and the heavems opened. I made a dash (slowly) to the closest music tent. The Economy Hall Tent is the place to listen to the more traditional type of old style Jazz. It is 1:45 and I am going to be here for a considerable time as the rain is now torrential. I am prepared with my rain jacket and waterproof booties.
I am doubly disappointed in the weather as I wanted to be at the Gentilly Stage to see Amy Helm perform, Amy is the daughter of the legendary Levon. It is just to damn wet.
Not to matter, as the *New Orleans Swamp Donkeys are playing some great Dixieland Jazz. Locals always make the best of any weather situation in NOLA. If you live here it is a fact of life that you are going to get wet on a regular basis. James Williams, the Louis Armstrong sounding front-man, sang ‘Up A Lazy River adding that flows through Jazz Fest.’
*A Swamp Donkey is a member of a New-Orleans based traditional jazz band that plays old style jazz from the 1900s – 1930s. Founded in October 2012, they’ve already sold out major venues and rocked stages for thousands, in the United States and abroad.
The rain had dropped down to a ‘light shower’ as I headed over to the blues tent. Water lays heavily on the ground.
I got there in time to see the last few songs of Meschiya Lake and The Little Big Horns. Meschiya always puts on a great show. As could be expected the tent is packed with people.
My main aim today has been to see the Doobie Brothers. A band I last saw perform at Festival Hall back in the seventies. The rain has stopped. The Dobbies are on the main Acura Stage and because of the rain and mud the usually full viewing area is sparsely populated. It looks like a lot of punters have totally abandoned the day.
I got myself a good spot and listened to some great music. I even got to hear the Doobie Brothers sing the classic Little Feat song ‘Dixie Chicken.’ I then realized that the keyboard player is Bill Payne who played with Little Feat. Strange indeed, Little Feat will be performing next weekend, I wonder what Doobie song they will sing!
The band broke into ‘Jesus is Just Alright,’ just as the sun broke-out for the first time today. The crowd gave a huge cheer as they looked and bowed to the sun. The Times-Picayune were not glowing in the review of the set but I myself thought it excellent. The last half-hour certainly rocked with hit after hit.
I then made my way back to see the final few songs from *Toronzo Cannon. I saw Geoff Proctor and got a seat next to him to catch up on the gossip. I have a couple of Toronzo’s albums, he sure can play. *‘Singer songwriter and blues guitarist Toronzo Cannon grew up on the South side of Chicago. His influences include B.B.King, Albert Collins, Buddy Guy and Jimi Hendrix.’ – Offbeat Jazz Fest Bible
The last act for today is Taj Mahal and the Phantom Blues Band. The last time I saw Taj (here at Jazz Fest), he looked tired, and his voice was a little thin. Not today however, he was rockin’ like a twenty year old and his band were right behind him in enthusiasm and talent. Jon Cleary and Ivan Neville were both on keyboards. A great set of classic blues as only Taj can deliver.
Despite the inclement weather it was a fantastic start to the 50th Jazz Fest.
Weather for day two could not be more different than yesterday. Bright and sunny.
There was a short wait for the bus, which in itself is different for New Orleans Public Transport.
I know the saying ‘it’s a small world,’ gets bandied around a lot. However I seem to run into so many people I know, when in New Orleans. When I got off the bus, I heard someone say. ‘is that Rob Rowe?’ I was able to answer in the affirmative. Bugger me, it is ‘Big Boy Lemonade,’ aka Andy Ogden. A fantastic keyboard player from Melbourne who has been to Way Out West many times. I asked Andy what he was up to as I had not seen him around our music scene for sometime. He told me that he has been living in Rhode Island for theses last 3 years and is married to an American lady.
For the first time ever, I thought I would try and get a wrist band, that would allow me to take advantage of the special seating arrangements at the different stages. I showed them my MS card and got a wristband for the weekend. I went over to the Gentilly stage to catch *Bonerama. A New Orleans favourite. They were excellent. The singers sixteen year old son came out and played the trombone and sang liked a seasoned veteran.
* A multi trombone band playing jazz, funk and classic rock. – Offbeat Jazz Fest Bible
I then went over to the Fais Do Do stage to see my friends Stew and Carol who always set up their deck-chairs under a shady tree at Fais Do Do. Tomorrow, I have the honor of being invited to Stew’s 80th Birthday Party.
Back to the Gentilly Stage for another New Orleans staple, ‘*the Subdudes.’ I sat with Brian Wise, he also has a wrist band for special seating. He is limping as bad as I am and he told me he is having a knee operation as soon as he returns home. I know most of the Subdudes tunes as they have been a favourite of mine for years.
*Tommy Malone – fronted roots rock outfit draws on a mix of New Orleans music styles along with plenty of groove. – Offbeat Jazz Fest Bible
By 3 pm I am at the Lagniappe stage for *Luke Winslow King. A young blues slide guitarist with a real good voice. I love his style and the way he treats his audience. Better than some people who are near me and just want to talk among themselves. I HATE THAT.
*A Michigan native who studied music at UNO, Winslow-King is both a performer and musicologist combining the sound of early 20th century New Orleans with the smarts of a modern songwriter. – Off Beat Jazz Fest Bible
Back to the Gentilly stage for a band that I know nothing about. The Heads and The Hearts. Not bad and a band that Kate and Cara may like.
My mission today has always been to go and see Santana. I trekked the outside race tack to the Acura Stage. I went in at entry seventeen. Another ‘small world’ moment. The Fess Security guy for that area
said ‘hey, I was wondering if you were over this year?’ He is an African American who normally works the Abita stage at FQF. Told me that he did work FQF but at a different stage this year. I said,’good to see you again.’ as he gave me one of those cool fist pumps. ‘Boy it is crowded in here,’ ‘I may have to try somewhere else to get a viewing spot. ‘No man,’ he said, ‘you put your seat right there in front of me!’
Just before Santana was due on stage the big screens started showing the Santana performance at Woodstock with the famous ‘rain chant’ blaring from the huge bank of speakers. All of a sudden the band (Santana) started playing the chant live. It was pure magic. Lots of hits including a masterful playing of my favourite instrumental ‘Europa.’ I can also state categorically that to hear ‘Black Magic Woman.’ being played in New Orleans is nothing short of surreal.
I decided to finish off the day at the Blues tent with the Robert Cray band. I know Mr Smith is not a fan, he just wants Cray to cut loose on the guitar. I like what he plays, cool funky blues with the most soulful of voices. I guess we all have slightly different tastes as Blues fans.
Another perfect weather day. It is back to normal with the bus frequency, that is no bus for half an hour. I got shitty and hailed a cab.
I got a hot-tamale from a Mexican street vendor and a home made lemonade.
I am comfortably settled in the Blues tent for Johnny Sansone at 11.15. Killer set with some extraordinary guitar work from John Fohl. Johnny introduced his set with,’ good morning you morning people.’
By 12: I was at the Lagniappe stage for *Marshland. Really enjoyed the show. They had a special guest come on (Robyn Barnes), who sang ‘Amazing Grace’ seguing into ‘I’ll Fly Away,’ spine tingling. *Formally called Nola Country, Marshland performs self-described ‘Louisiana Americana,’ blending American roots music with Louisiana culture and New Orleans improvisation.’ – Offbeat Jazz Fest Bible
Back to the Blues tent at 1:40 for ‘the New Orleans Piano Professors: Celebrating Professor Longhair, James Booker, Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Domino Allen Toussaint and Dr. John featuring the current Piano Professors – John Cleary, Davell Crawford, Tom McDermott, Al ‘Lil Fats’ Jackson, David Torkanowsky and John ‘Papa’ Gros. Standing room only in the Blues Tent for an incredible rendition of fabulous music. Each artist performed a couple of songs from each legend. A note regrading Dr. John who is the only surviving older Professor. The good Doctor has not performed for over a year now. He must truly be very sick to not even make it to the 50th anniversary. Someone told me, and don’t take this as gospel, that he may have dementia?
At 2:55 *Mr Sipp (the Mississippi Blues Child) has the place jumping and dancing from the first song. I know that Wendy saw him perform last year and was very impressed. So am I now. Great energetic show.
* Singer songwriter and guitarist Castro Coleman, a.k.a. Mr Sipp, is from McComb, Mississippi. He started playing the guitar at age six. He has won several awards for his Malaco recordings and was featured in the James Brown movie ‘Get On Up’. – Offbeat Jazz Fest Bible
One show that I had earmarked before leaving home was Maria Muldaur’s (Midnight at the Oasis) tribute to the bawdy Blu Lu Barker. I still have visions of the 70’s self-titled album cover. I know we have all aged but gee my fantasy is now destroyed. I hung in for a few songs before heading back to my crib. I have to shower and shave and generally pretty myself up for Stew’s birthday bash which starts at 6:30 at Woodies @ MRB.
As is my want I got the early and had an Abita at the bar. The guests started arriving and we were direected to a hidden court-yard out back. It was very special to be invited to what is a family and close friends celebration. About thirty people all up. I was made to fell very welcome and many of the guests came over to introduce themselves and have a chat. I even got mentioned in Stew’s speech as his good cobber from down-under. Lots of New Orleans food including a Crawfish Boil. The spiciest Boil I have ever eaten in all my trips to New Orleans. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
I got back home around 10;30. Cheryl and her crew were sitting out on the balcony enjoying some night-caps and I was asked to join them. I did. Gunna be tired tomorrow. Cheryl told me that just before I got back, a couple of Aussies stopped after seeing the flag. Cheryl explained why it was flying and that she had been told to watch out for undesirables, apparently the Aussies thought that very funny.
Very slow out of the block today. Another gorgeous day, as I headed to the bus-stop. Saw a cool t-shirt, ‘I am not arguing, I am just proving I am right.’ I ran into Brian and his wife Karen and we waited some ten minutes for the Number 91 that takes us to the Fairgrounds.
Today’s breakfast was a new taste sensation, Brazilian Cheese Bread with a fiery Chili Sauce.
By 12:30 I wasz settled at the Acura Stage for another tribute. The music of Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew. I have been abbreviating the name of the festival to Jazz Fest as everyone does. It is, however, ‘The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.’ The history of New Orleans music is very important to the festival, as it should be. The artists performing are Bonnie Raitt, Irma Thomas, Davell Crawford, Jon Cleary (he is everywhere), Al ‘Lil Fats’ Jackson and featuring the Fats Domino Orchestra. Great stuff.
Back to the Lagniappe stage for the *Driskill Mountain Boys. Think the Soggy Bottom Boys from the movie “Brother Where Ought Thou,’ and you have the picture. Loved it.
*The highest point in Louisiana isn’t much of a mountain, but the Boys can pick Bluegrass as well as any in Appalachia Classics, original and real country humor to boot. – Offbeat Jazz Fest Bible
Over to the Fais Do Do stage for *Roddie Romero and the Hub City Allstars. I found me a little shaded spot and listened to the music with my eyes closed. I may, if truth be told, have nodded off. Nothing to do with the music as it was first rate. Just tired.
*’Eclectic Cajun, zydeco, swamp pop and rock ‘n’ roll.’ – Offbeat Jazz Bible
Van ‘the Man’ Morrison is due on at the Acura stage at 5:35. I wonder if we are going to get ‘good Van or bad Van?’. As I made my way around the track I stopped at the Congo Square stage for a couple of songs for the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Famers, the O’Jays. A big mostly black crowd are jammed into the viewing area. The are very good, just not my style of listening music. Old school, smooth as silk R’n’B love songs.
I got to the Acura stage and caught the last 30 minutes of Bonnie Raitt, including the song ‘Angel of Montgomery.’ She then brought out Boz Scaggs to sing a tribute song to Allen Toussaint. Guess what, Jon Cleary has bobbed up again, the hardest working man at the festival
I got settled in for Van, as I said he is due on at 5:35. To my great surprise he started 5 minutes early. I think we got good Van, you never really know as he never talks. I very much enjoyed the show.
Come 6:20 and I walked around to hear a few songs from Louisiana legend Johnny Rivers on the Blues Stage. Johnny was added to the bill at late notice due to the illness of Jerry Lee Lewis. Johnny had many a hit song in the early 60’s. He is not a young man but looks fit and healthy and his voice is very strong. I got to hear his version of ‘The House Of The Rising Sun’, as well as the classic ‘Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu.
Next weekend I will take the camera with me to get some artists shots for y’all. It is time to go home and rest. So much great music and still another four days to go.
4 thoughts on “Jazz Fest”
Fantastic diary Rob. I can visualise so much of what your doing and I wish I was fit enough to be with you. Keep up the good work brother. MN
Thanks Mick, would love you to be with me
I you tubed luke winslow smith – he is nice!! and the subdudes. good soundtracks to your blog! I will try the iceman special next!
I found the 2019 jazz fest you tube stuff – santana and trombone shorty! john cleary! you should put some up! carlos was wearing trakky daks!!!!