The second day of our time at the festival was full of new discoveries – and where better than New Orleans to discover something outside of your usual musical experiences? And today as Jazz Fest went live on YouTube, we hope a fair few of you were able to enjoy the festival and discover a few new artists along the way, too!
But before we get there, it’s worth mentioning that we’ve met piles of Aussies here. And it’s no wonder why. Especially with the dollar the way it is at the moment, doing this festival on a budget is pretty easy. Entry is only $45 a day if you pre-book, or $65 on the door per day, and food starts from about $3. The phenomenal Steak Pita I had today was just $5, and the famous Crawfish Monica - a pasta dish - at $7 – and is highly recommended. I’m told it’s the biggest seller of the festival – and there are a LOT of choices.
Beers start from $5 and cocktails from $7 - the frozen margaritas coming highly recommended. Taxis to and from the festival from the city are about $5 a head and though a nice hotel will rack up a big bill, there are plenty of cheaper and hostel options. Flying here, as long as you book early, isn't much extra than a return flight to Dallas. I say all this because given the amount of travelling I've been doing, this is one week I definitely had to do on a budget. But enough about me…
As I headed in, I managed to briefly catch Sweden’s Theresa Andersson performing tracks off her new record Street Parade on the Gentility Stage. The festival veteran easily had the crowd singing along. Keeping the day moving under the hot sun, I caught a Native American dance performance next and stumbled across the phenomenal saxophone stylings of local talent Donald Harrison.
“Long, Tall, Marcia Ball” was one of the aforementioned artists I hadn’t heard about before today, however it felt like I was the only one – a festival favourite, the audience had come out in their droves to catch the Blues performer. Her music brought a little bit of everything into the fold: there was a bit of swing and rockabilly, plenty of Cajun Louisiana fair, and she shined on the keys, with a fantastic backing band behind her. Highlights included “Look Before You Leap” and “That’s Enough Of That Stuff”.
I headed over to the Gospel Tent next to escape the sun and caught St. Joseph, The Worker Choir - a Catholic Church Gospel choir from the west bank of New Orleans. It was just about everything you’d expect, with the festival atmosphere giving it extra power. The tent had plenty of seats for you to enjoy the performance – though most were rising to their feet in praise of the soulful talents on the stage.
One artist I’d certainly heard of before today was Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers. Bruce was performing on the accordion when I arrived at the stage, and he had the crowd in the palm of his hand. But I couldn’t stay long as my attention turned quickly to the highly regarded Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, who won over the massive crowd on the main stage in her stride. They were getting the crowd hyped up for their new record The Lion The Beast The Beat, which they worked on with Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys (what isn’t he doing these days?).
When I arrived, Grace was rocking out on the keys, and it wasn’t long before she hit the guitar. She did an amazing tribute for MCA of the Beastie Boys, whose death had only been announced a few hours before, noting that the band was “such a huge part of our childhood”. She performed a medley which included “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn” and “Fight For Your Right To Party”. Other than the brief hip-hop interlude, the set was primarily folk rock, with a lean towards the more country end of the stick. It was a wonderful articulation of the genre, with “Ah Mary” being a particular highlight. The set ended with everyone bashing away on the drums, leaving yours truly in particular awe. An early highlight of the festival.
Running between stages, I managed to briefly catch Mystikal, complete with a funky brass section and a frontman who brought the crunk. Mystikal was also here to reassure crowds he's not in jail (although apparently he is?) and dance to "Thriller". Good times. Speaking of which, Bonerama, nearby, had the crowd groovin’ and movin’ with a whole lot of their own brass...
Keeping true to the festival’s ongoing promise to deliver the legends, the one and only Mavis Staples brought her soulful music to the Gospel Tent, which packed it out as far as you could see. With Levon Helm enlisted to perform at the festival in a special set with Mavis, his recent passing gave way to Mavis paying tribute to The Band’s drummer, and performed “The Weight” with Glen Hansard. A very special moment.
After running past the Reggae stylings of The Revealers, Friday headliners Zac Brown Band sounded great as they pumped out their popular country rock tunes to an adoring New Orleans crowd. Insert plenty of fiddle, violin, bass, guitar (complete with American flag artwork) and drums. Also beards. "Knee Deep" was a popular moment, seeing plenty of singing and dancing around me, while “Free” had many jumping up and down, saying it was their favourite song.
Recent visitor to Australian shores, Ziggy Marley was closing out the Congo Stage nearby, with the crowd enjoying all the Reggae grooves. Tracks included “True To Yourself” and “Be Free”. But having seen him so recently, I decided ended my day with Rodrigo y Gabriela and C.U.B.A., who were performing tracks off their recent LP Area 51 as well as select songs from their back catalogue, which were (naturally) performed as a duo. However, the backing band were a nice live touch to their already phenomenal instrumental sound for their newer material, and I can’t help but wish they had enhanced the classic tracks. But if you have the record you already know that! Now in addition to being mesmerized you can't help but dance your pants off... and I mean that in a non-figurative way. I actually saw this happen. Kudos to you sir, kudos.