Saturday morning was stormy: it was darker at 8Am then it was a 6AM when I woke up but by 11AM the rainy storm had passed and a beautiful sunny day greeted the crowds passing our stoop on their way to the Sauvage St entrance to the Fairgrounds. And the days music matched the weather. Some of the early acts included Charmaine Neville (Charlies daughter), The Dixie Cups, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Henry Butler and by mid-day the crowd was in full Fest fever, dancing and singing in front of every stage.
The emotional highlight of the day for me was the first post Katrina performeance in New Orleans by Aaron Neville. Appearing in the Gospel Tent (overflowing with a crowd mindful of the historic event and so hot the misters had to be turned on several times) with a band led by brother Charles on sax, Aaron did a heartfelt set of spiritual favorites that concluded with a sung version of the The Lords Prayer and his standard encore of Amazing Grace. But then in a surprise move he took the microphone for a second encore, a rarity at JazzFest which prides itself on keeping all the acts on schedule. But the stage manager wasn’t going to try to wrestle the mic away from the former dock worker with the angels voice and stevedores arms so Aaron broke into a version of Randy Newmans Louisia that brought down the house..when he sang “they’re trying to wash us away” all the anguish and torment of that day that saw homes, lives and families destroyed brought the crowd to tears and the slight alteration of one verse to say only “the President came down..” brought nods and cries of “that’s right” from the largely local crowd. A great return to town by a great artist.
From the Gospel Tent I ran to the Gentilly Stage to catch the end of Marcia Balls act. OK, actually I strolled … for me one of the great pleasures of JazzFest is walking the grounds and hearing the variety of music as you pass past the different stages…zydeco, reggae, jazz, blues and the occassional Second Line winding through the crowd with brass band balring and Indians swaying. Not to mention stopping for the odd po boy or bowl of crawfish Monica.
The days end brought some hard choices. Diana Krall, Steel Pulse and the NO Jazz Orchestra with Irvin Mayfield ( and believe me jazz fans, the Fest doesn’t ignore you…the WWOZ Jazz Tent Saturday featured an all star tribute to Max Roach, Chick Corea and Bobby McFerrin..all to packed crowds) competing with Jimmy Buffet. But I’m a closet Parrot Head and Gayle always asks me to keep an eye out for Jimmys bodygaurd Charlston who she met at Mothers years ago so I was off to Margaritaville once again.
Having a long time local history and a real love for JazzFest (last year I ran into him strolling the grounds..no entourage, no security and just as casual and laid back as he seems on stage) Buffet always seems to be having just as much fun as his audience. And he didn’t dissapoint this trip .. when he saw an audience member wearing a T-shirt that read, “Helping Rebuild New Orleans one margarita at a time.” he traded his flip-flops for the shirt. To my personal delight he invited old friend Sonny Landreth on stage for a version of Landreth’s own “U.S.S. Zydecoldsmobile” and closed the show accompanied only by Allen Toussaint on the electric piano doing “Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans”.
A great close to a great day. Today more sun and Santana, Sonny Landreth, The Radiators and The Neville Brothers. Film at 11. And as always for more photos and updates go to www.nola.com.