Saturday was Jazz Fest day for us. The sky was clear, a little humid, the temperature was warm, and the sun was HOT! We got our tickets at the gate and started walking around the grounds. The initial impressions were all huge ones – long rows of porta-potties (and equally long lines of people waiting to use them), huge sound waves thumping through the entire fairgrounds, tens of thousands of fellow festival-goers, half-mile-long lines at food courts.
First stop was at the Jazz & Heritage stage and heard a little bit of Brice Miller and Mahogany Brass Band. Having already burned through our breakfast, we were hungry and decided to find food, so we made our way over to the Mona’s Cafe food booth and got some falafel sandwiches. On our way to the food court, we heard a little bit of The Dixie Cups on the Acura stage and saw a beautiful Mardi Gras parade. What beautiful costumes! Big Freedia and Sissy Nobby were on the Congo Square stage and we caught a little bit of a Cajun jam on the Fais Do Do stage. Finally we got over to the Gentilly stage where Rotary Downs was playing – and where we met up with Tina’s sister Kathy and her grandson Tory. It was really great to see them again after a whole year – wow, has Tory grown! We visited with them for a bit until the end of the set and then moved on to other stages and other great bands.
Next, we made our way over to the Economy tent and heard the sweet Dixieland-ish sounds of Don Vappie and the Creole Jazz Serenaders. The music was so great and the rhythms so infectious that at one point I couldn’t contain myself any longer and I had to get up and join the long procession of dancers that were weaving their way around the tent. Women with ornately decorated parasols, one man with a tambourine, and others who, like me, absolutely had to get up and move.
After all that excitement, we still had quite a bit of the fairgrounds to see. We headed over to the Gospel tent and heard the beginning of The Johnson Extension‘s set. Like I said in my Facebook photo album comments – I may not believe what they are singing about but I sure do love to hear those gospel singers belt out those amazing harmonies!
Next was the Blues tent, where we heard a little bit of Alvin Youngblood Hart’s Muscle Theory. They were… OK. We only heard the last of their set and then we moved to the WWOZ Jazz tent where we heard Jeremy Davenport belt out some great jazz at the end of his set.
By now we had worked up our appetite again, so we found some vegetarian red beans and rice and a shady spot on the grass to take a load off of our feet and to fuel up. After we ate we headed back to the Fais Do Do stage to hear the legendary Ricky Skaggs and his Kentucky Thunder. Wow, man, can bluegrass players play! So sweet and smooth and precise. Amazing! Ricky got knocked down a peg in my book, though. In a retelling of a childhood memory, he recalled making fun of his sister for liking The Beatles and for telling her that they weren’t nearly as good as The Stanley Brothers. Hey, buddy – I don’t care who you are, but them’s fightin’ words. You don’t dis The Beatles, dude. Still and all, he and his band were fantastic.
Next, we went back to the Economy tent to hear the Young Tuxedo Brass Band. This tent was quickly becoming my favorite. Their set was already in progress when we got there, and as we were sitting down, the band leader stood at the mic and talked us all through a typical New Orleans-style funeral. The band then struck up the happy tones of the typical funeral marches, and there were even some ladies from the Lady Jetsetters Marching Club leading folks in the funeral procession steps. They (the steppers and the band) were fantastic!
It was hard to believe that the end of the day was almost upon us, and we looked at the schedule and made our end-of-day choice. We headed back over to the WWOZ tent to hear the living piano legend Ahmad Jamal. We were there for the entire 90 minute set and it was absolutely nothing less than mind-blowing. From our seats under the tent, we could hear the dull thud of Bon Jovi’s set behind us on the Acura stage. Why anyone would opt to hear those dime-a-dozen sell-outs over the amazing gifted quartet we were watching was completely beyond our comprehension. (I guess that makes us jazz snobs, huh?)
Wow, the day went by so quickly! It was finally time to head back to the hotel and chill out. But just because Jazz Fest was over for the day didn’t mean that the party was too! The party continued in the streets, with throngs of people making their way into buses, shuttles, cabs and other assorted vehicles while dozens of street musicians lined the corners and sidewalks with open instrument cases and joyful tunes. There were lots of backyard keg parties and tailgate gatherings all along every street surrounding the fairgrounds. After getting a little turned around making our way back to where were parked, we stopped at Winn Dixie for some munchies and then came back to the hotel to bathe, snack, upload pictures (which you can check out by clicking here) and then crash.
This morning, as I type this, it’s looking like another glorious day out there. We’re headed back to Jazz Fest to hear more great music from lots more amazing performers – including one of my heroes, Dr. John!! Oh I can’t wait. Let’s go let’s go let’s go!