With more reasonable crowds and lots of favorite local musicians playing, Jazz Fest’s final Sunday was a balmy-weathered blast. Big Chief Kevin Goodman & the Flaming Arrows were on the Jazz Fest Heritage Stage and I spotted Alphonse “DooWee” Robair, my favorite Mardi Gras Indian artist, dancing among them. We started the day with a delicious Cochon de Lait ($9) from Love at First Bite and a Nectar Creme from Plum Street Snoballs ($4). When I worried I wasn’t going to get a “local” pour of the sticky, sweet syrup, the woman next to me in line laughed, “If you ordered Nectar Creme, they already know you’re a local.” True Dat.
Anders Osborne started the day on the Acura Stage with John Gros on keys and Cyril Neville stopping in for a few songs. It was a more mellow show for rocker Anders, a nice way to ease into our day. We spent the sunniest hour of the day inside the Gospel Tent enjoying Glen David Andrews. Cyril Neville joined in for a song as did his soulful wife, Gaynielle Neville. Despite the security guy who singled me out for harassment and chased me around the stage yelling at me (no idea what it was all about except to say I was the only woman taking photos), I did manage to get a couple good shots and had an amazing time at the show.
Then it was back to the Acura Stage for a reunion of The Meters – Art Neville, George Porter Jr., Leo Nocentelli, Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste with Cyril Neville (the busiest musician of the day). Known for ushering in the dawn of funk music and for introducing the world to our local second line sound, the band formed in 1965 but rarely play together since disbanding in the late 70’s. The group opened with their hit, Fire on the Bayou, and followed it with the ultra-funky Cissy Strut. I was in heaven. The crowd of mostly out-of-towners may not have known the words to songs like Hey Pocky Way or have understood the joke the band made about being the “real Uptown Funk,” but good music moves everyone and exposing people to our local music is the point of Jazz Fest.
The skywriter was at it again with hope-filled messages like Glory, Chill, a heart and a smiley face. Milo, a nearby tot, pointed out each word for me so I’ll admit we all had a short panic wondering whether someone had hijacked the plane when he started his first word S..H..I.. before finishing “Shine.”
Mardi Gras Indians passed as we headed into the NOCCA Stage. Decorated by young artists from the school, the tent featured photos of students and papier mache sea creatures hanging from the ceiling. We got some Corn Maque Choux with Shrimp ($7) from the United Houma Nation in the Native American section and another second line parade crossed our path on the way to the Kajun Kettle Foods, Inc. booth for our annual Crawfish Monica ($7). We also had a beautifully presented Fish Taco ($5) from Taqueria Corona.
Then it was back to the Jazz Fest Heritage Stage for Bo Dollis, Jr. and the Wild Magnolias. Bo Dollis, Sr. was not only this year’s featured musician on the Jazz Fest poster (he passed days before the unveiling), he’s also the man responsible for Mardi Gras Indians recording music. Though not all tribes appreciated the Big Chief’s efforts to bring their music to the world at the time, Handa Wanda became a jukebox favorite so I was thrilled we arrived just in time to hear the local hit from 1970.
May 3rd is my personal “memorial day,” the day I remember my dead. So, when Bo, Jr. released doves that day in honor of his father and other loved ones who passed, I relished watching the birds fly past the icon of Bo, Sr. topping the stage and up toward the skywriting of Flow, Vibe and Wish. Shamarr Allen helped close the act and we left feeling pretty satisfied we’d just seen the best show of the day.
But then Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue took the Acura Stage and closed the festival with a show so good I had to ask, “Is he getting even better?” The band has continued to improve on it’s own mastery with every year and we enjoyed “new guy, ” BK Jackson on tenor sax. Michael “Bass” Ballard pimped his bass with red glowing strings that made me wish I was seeing them at night. Ivan Neville joined on keys and The Meters’ Leo Nocentelli sat in for a song or two.
But the highlight was probably when Saints quarterback Drew Brees came onstage with his 3 boys. It became VERY obvious who was local as part of the crowd went nuts screaming, “Who Dat!?!” while the rest of the people asked each other, “Who’s that?”
After Saturday’s dangerous overcrowding, I wasn’t sure I’d ever go to Jazz Fest again. After a Sunday of local music from some of our very finest, I remembered all the reasons Jazz Fest matters.