The 2010 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival:
An “Easy D” Perspective: Saturday, May 1, 2010
Moving slow this morning. Quick check of the weather forecast reveals no change. Total cloud cover, breezy, chance of rain. This is great. No need to continuously apply SPF 30! Time to get on the school bus! Unfortunately, we missed the first period of classes. However, we arrive in time to catch the end of the Henry Butler & the Game Band set at the Gentilly stage. This band had much more of a gospel feel than New Orleans Social Club showcasing Henry Butler’s great voice as well as his piano playing prowess.
We were focused. It was time to hoof it over quickly to the Acura stage for Anders Osborne. During the trek,we loved listening to snippets of Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band at the Fais Do Do stage and Rebirth Brass Band at Congo Square.
Saturday at Jazz Fest gets extremely crowded. It’s good to have a strategy so that you can enjoy viewing the performers without having to battle the crowds. This is especially true as one gets older and perhaps less slim (like me). Over the last couple of years, our Krewe has adopted the following strategy for the Acura stage once the crowds build: position ourselves in front of the big screen to the left of the stage near the Grand Marshall entrance. This is where we went next.
Anders Osborne – Guitar and Vocals
Stanton Moore – Drums
Robert Walter – Organ
Will Bernard – Guitar
It has been a year since I have seen Anders Osborne live, but I have been following his career closely and could not help but notice that his appearance has taken a turn to say the least. When viewed on the big screen, Anders’ appearance is, how can I say this tactfully, even more disconcerting.
However, there was nothing disconcerting about the performance or the great songs from Anders’ brand new album American Patchwork. Most notable was the killer tune ‘On the Road to Charlie Parker’ as well as another gem ‘Acapulco’. During the set, Anders thanked the Stanton Moore Trio for helping to ‘get my shit together.’ It’s easy to see why with such great collaborators providing the right mood for Anders’ introspective lyrics.
Later in the set, Anders brought another collaborator, guitarist Pepper Keenan (Corrosion of Conformity, Down) for a couple of tunes, including the haunting dual lead guitar laced ‘Darkness at the Bottom’.
Afterwards, Anders quipped about starting a ZZ Top cover band with Pepper. I found Anders set to be quite powerful and emotional, certainly destined to be one of my highlights of Jazzfest 2010. Anders is currently touring with the Trio on the west coast promoting the new album. Go see them if you can!
After that set, I was spent. Seems like just the right time to head to the Blues tent and grab a seat for Chris Thomas King. You may remember Chris from his co-starring role in the Coen Brothers film O Brother Where Art Thou. I learned several years ago that Chris is a great singer and delta blues guitarist when I caught him at a blues festival in Wheeling, WV. His Jazz Fest set featured Chris playing mostly acoustic instruments with a couple of tunes on electric. My guitar playing buddy was impressed.
Time for some food! I was ‘beered out’ by Saturday, decided I should look for a different beverage. I selected the Rosemint Iced Tea (unsweetened). Delicious. At this point I was looking for something I had not tried for and saw a sign for something called a Crawfish Strudel. Hmmm. Better check that out. What I saw was a small rectangular flaky bread loaf with a slit through the top stuffed with a soupy concoction with chunks of crawfish. Kinda like a small bread bowl, if you will, but very delicate. A very nice surprise! While I was working through the food lines, I could see the big Acura screen between the booths. I noticed that Irma Thomas was sitting in with Galactic! I guess I picked the wrong time to get hungry!
By this time, our dogs were barking (it’s hell growing old), so we worked our way over to the Fais Do Do stage. Got there in time to see BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet finish their set. Excellent. Most of my Krewe ended up randomly gathering as the Honey Island Swamp Band set up for their set. One brought a chair and set it up toward the back of the crowd. Some friends and I parked on the bleachers to the left of the stage. Some were in the standing area in front of the stage. It’s great to have a group split during a day at the fest then randomly meet near the end of the day. Some of my group reported that the Band of Horses set at Gentilly was killer. Others reported that Galactic had many special guests throughout their set, not just Irma.
Then the Honey Island Swamp Band tore into their set. The Honey Island Swamp Band is:
Chris Mulé – guitar, vocals
Aaron Wilkinson – mandolin, guitar,harmonica, vocals
Sam Price – bass, vocals
Garland Paul – drums, vocals
I have been following Chris Mulé and Aaron Wilkinson for years, since their days as part of Eric Lindell’s band. Both are great players and singers. In addition to the band, the stage was filled with a keyboard player, backing vocalists, and a horn section, quite a departure from the spare traveling band I saw just a few weeks ago at a small club in my hometown. But what a dancin’ party it was at Fais Do Do!
I knew that the crowds for Pearl Jam at Acura would be impossible. I made the decision long before coming to New Orleans that I would end Saturday at the Gentilly stage for guitar god Jeff Beck. It has been about a decade since I last saw Mr. Beck. I am happy to report that he is getting better with age if that is possible. His very tight band consisted of a phenomenal female bass player and singer, drummer, and a keyboardist. Most tunes were instrumentals, but hey, that’s OK, Jeff makes the guitar sing like no one can. Also, gotta love a guy that is comfortable in his wardrobe. Great ending to yet another great day. Heavy clouds, no rain! I like this trend!
Saturday Night, 5/1
Some of our Krewe were talking about going to see Anders Osborne and the Stanton Moore Trio again at The Rock ‘N’ Bowl on Saturday night. I wasn’t wild about going to the same venue two nights in a row and I wasn’t wild about seeing Anders again on the same day after that draining (in a good way) set at the fairgrounds. Last year, I did not make it to the Frenchman Street area in Marigny, an area just east of the French Quarter. Frenchman Street is a street lined with music clubs and restaurants that is more of a scene, hip, vibrant, bohemian, you name it area than the much more touristy Bourbon Street.
We decided to go see Soulive at The Blue Nile. Upon arriving on the scene, the streets and sidewalks are literally jammed with people. Most I have ever seen on Frenchman Street. When we approach The Blue Nile, we land in a block long admission line. We finally make it in to the club just before the show starts. There was a large deep crowd of people in front of the stage. We positioned ourselves just to the right of the stage. While not the best vantage point, at least we can clearly see the keys.
Soulive is Eric Krasno (guitar), Alan Evans (drums) and his brother Neal Evans (keyboards). What a pleasure to see this band in such a small venue! I have always loved Kras’ guitar playing, but from our vantage point, we had a bird’s eye view of Neal’s thumping left hand bass line playing coupled with his right hand organ playing. How does he do that?
As the set progressed, the crowd got much larger and our bird’s eye view became less ideal. There was nowhere to move or breathe for that matter, so we moved a little further back. By this time, Nigel Hall joined the band to sing a few tunes, some of which were James Brown-like. At least we had a little more space to shake our bones! Several minutes later, the long set ended. Terrific performance! We decided to get some air and check out the street scene.
Across the street in front of the now closed Café Brasil, there was a blues band (electric) playing. What fun! Not 30 feet from the blues band, a brass band was holding court in the middle of the intersection. All the while, people were stopping to listen, dancing, and strolling by. We continued walking up the street taking in all of the sights and sounds. Most of us decided that we weren’t going to fight the crowds and return to the Blue Nile for the 2nd set. The one guy that did stay behind later reported that the second set was all Beatles tunes. RUBBER SOULIVE! Darn!
There were no cabs to be had on Frenchman Street, so we decided a stroll through the neighborhoods was in order. It was a very pleasant evening and the walk did us good. Once we were back in the French Quarter, we happened to stroll by the Co Co Club on Bourbon Street and saw the most excellent blind blues guitarist, Bryan Lee, playing. What a bonus! Even though there was no cover and we could have gone inside, we had a great view of Bryan and the sound was great out on the street. We paused for about 10 minutes enjoying the band.
What a great night! And back to the hotel just before 2:00? I love it!