The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is a magical time for audiophiles and experience seekers who live to please all 5 of the body’s senses. The following is an account of one man’s experience with the music of the 2nd weekend of The JazzFest; the majority of which takes place after dark.
The Megalomaniacs Ball began Wednesday evening with Marco Benevento and his piano rig. The crowd started small but grew with his 60 minute set. The music was relaxed and Marco wore his tiger mask, which is always sign of good times to come. Skerik, Mike Dillon, and George Porter Jr. took the stage and delivered an hour of abstract hits and grooves. When it came time for soloing, each player deferred the spotlight for the other and after a few times around of nobody stepping out, Skerik blew Howlin’ Wolf’s tin roof right off. Mike Dillon Band was spastic, beautiful, frightening, and invigorating. Carly Meyers accents MDB with her trombone and antics that are only rivaled by Mike D himself (who inevitably ended up shirtless and freestyling into the mic: channeling spirit with word). Garage a Trois, of the original flavor variety, was an absolute treat. Stanton Moore flanked by Skerik and Charlie Hunter and his 8-string guitar brought back to life tracks from Stanton Moore’s 1998 album All Kooked Out.
Deep into the French Quarter, at around 3:30am inside of a sold-out One Eyed Jacks, the Bear Creek All-Stars injected the Spirit of The Suwannee’s November spirit into the mainline of New Orleans. Outside, a stingy doorman does his job while those denied entry hang tough on the sidewalk just to hear things like Alecia Chakour belt out “Take another little piece of my heart” and Eric Krasno’s guitar bleed through the open door.
After a fierce (and wet) set from Widespread Panic at the fairgrounds in the afternoon, Thursday night unfolded again at One Eyed Jacks for FIYA POWA featuring Ivan Neville, Tony Hall, Skerik, Andrew Block, and “The Doctor” Roosevelt Collier. While most of the music takes place after dark, this year FIYAWERX Productions put on FIYA FEST, a crawfish boil & benefit for The Roots of Music Marching Crusaders, Friday afternoon at Mardi Gras World. While it may be bold to go head to head with the actual JazzFest, most of the musicians performing don’t play at the fairgrounds and, as previously stated, it was for a great cause. After fun sets from New Orleans’ The Revivalists and The New Orleans Suspects more and more people kept showing up. While there was free food and free booze included with admission, the lines got long and food began running out – however this upped the energy and was a great problem to have (“too much” support for the cause). Dragonsmoke served great justice to covers like George Jackson’s “Aretha, Sing One For Me”, Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”, and in tribute to the late great George Jones, a laid back funked out version of “She Thinks I Still Care”. Flanked by the likes of Natalie Cressman, Dirty Dozen Brass Band Horns, Karl Denson, Robert Walter, Nikki Glaspie, and Eddie Roberts; Jennifer Hartswick became a conduit for Spirit and brought a combination of smiles and tears to the faces in the crowd with her vocal performance of Henry Butler’s “Drown In My Own Tears” which was made most famous by Ray Charles.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s Midnight Preserves series had them performing at the legendary Preservation Hall each night at midnight for the duration of the weekend. Preservation Hall is old and small. About the size of a living room and packed wall to wall with benches in front and pillows for sitting on the floor of the first row; the room was transformed while the band played. First impulse is to say it brings you back in time but a better explanation would be to say it manifests an air of timelessness. Young people from around the world throughout the last 100+ years in new orleans have been going deep into the night in search of good times and music to heal the soul. Today the music is louder, has more layers, light shows, etc. But the principle is the same and Preservation Hall brings the inner child back up to the surface for air to inhale joyous wonder and adventure with songs of eternal notions like “Sunshine in My Back Door Someday”, “Rattlin’ Bones”, and accented by 83 year old Charlie Gabriel’s transcendent clarinet playing. Naturally, “When The Saints Go Marching In” closed out the show.
The Fantastic Four set, which consisted of Cochemea Gastelum, Eric Krasno, Robert Walter, and Nikki Glaspie, held it down, literally. Glaspie’s drumming all weekend was enough to make any drum lover proud. Her approach, style, and fierce grace behind the drums is powerfully sacred; no flash or gimmicks, never over playing, always listening, and only pulling from the bag of tricks when appropriate. This show’s energy grew and grew and grew and welcomed members of The Shady Horns. Covers of The Beatles’ “Get Back” and Bob James’ “Nautilus” closed out what was an explosive late night at the House of Blues – Parish. In the House of Blues’ main room, The New Mastersounds would pay tribute to the funk of 1973 until 6am.
While top notch shows such as Page McConnell & The Metermen and The Black Crowes are taking place, Frenchman Street was booming with excitement, locals, and good old fashioned debauchery. Blue Nile played host for the Royal Potato Family Allstars. The usual faces: Skerik, Marco Benevento, Mike Dillon, Reed Mathis, and John Speice took to the stage. The vibe became tribal quickly. The air grew hot and thick. Tribute to SLAYER was paid. Meanwhile, at Snug Harbor, Allen Toussaint was wrapping up his jazzity project while wearing the flyest teal sparkly jacket in New Orleans.
A nice ride uptown at Tipitina’s, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe stormed the stage for what would be a massive one set throw down. The band was joined by Zach Deputy who took lead vocals on several Ray Charles songs and even wielded a guitar to go toe-to-toe with Tiny Universe guitarist DJ Williams. “I’ve Got A Woman” was spliced with Kanye West/Jaime Fox Banger’s half-time groove behind it.
Sunday at the fairgrounds was filled with world class music every minute of the day. JazzFest workhorse, Stanton Moore, admitted to those present at d.b.a. “I don’t know how I’m still alive”. After an opening set from Stanton Moore Trio, Robert Walter, Will Bernard, Robert Mercurio, and Big Chief Donald Harrison joined Stanton to play as FREQUINOX. Two sets of phenomenal interplay between Walter and Harrison while Moore’s thunderous drums dictated musical direction with openness and subtlety. Maurice “Mo Betta” Brown would later join in with his spastic, piercing, and murderous trumpet playing. As the sun rose over Frenchman Street, a picture perfect crescent moon hung still on high, trading illumination duties with the sun. From here folks are budgeting hours of sleep before needing to be at the airport or on the road driving, stopping by IGOR’s Bar/Grill/Laundromat for a bloody mary on the way to the airport, or passing out having to awake to rescheduling fees with their airline.
Kevin McCaffrey once wrote, “If you’re a novice, watch the professionals and do what they do. Getting the optimal experience at the Jazz Fest is a high art form in itself and very gratifying when perfected.”. Dropping the fear of missing something, having more efficient travel plans, checking the hotel for bedbugs before you fall asleep, waiting out the taxi line and ignoring Mr. Defiyo’s ride offering, and uncountable other things are all lessons learned that can be used to enhance and elevate the experience for future JazzFests.
-Scott T. Horowitz
Megalomaniac’s Ball “Carley Hates the DubStep” – Mike Dillon is out of his mind, and we LOVE IT!!!:
Royal Potato Family Allstars at Blue Nile:
Dragonsmoke (ft. Ivan Neville, Rob Mercurio, Stanton Moore, Eric Lindell) at Fiya Fest: