Day 3 / Friday, May 4


Friday morning was a lot easier. The drill was reduced to get up, get ready, slather on the sunblock, get our stuff together, hit P.J.'s for coffee and the spinach and feta croissant (Jeff) and egg and cheese on wheat bagel (Laurie) (announced loudly), get in line for the shuttle bus (as you can see above, there were always plenty of them), listen to the bus host talk about the city, arrive at Jazz Fest, get off the bus, take the long walk to the entrance, and get to the chosen stage before the music starts around 11 a.m. Mission accomplished.

IMG 2176

Above is a closeup of one of the Canal Street streetcars, taken from the bus.

Day 3-1Day 3-2

The Friday cubes led us to the Blues Tent to get started. The Blues Tent is conveniently located next to a small food area that has Café du Monde’s booth, so I enjoyed an iced café au lait during the show. However, and call us what you will, we both stayed away from beignets our entire stay in the Crescent City.

Day 3-3

At the Blues Tent, Bryan Lee, with his Blues Power Band, was making his 26th appearance at Jazz Fest. Although a native of Wisconsin, he has become a New Orleans institution. Yet another old-school bluesman who’s unfortunately getting up there in years. At one point when he was introducing a James Brown tune, he said he didn’t do it like James Brown did because he was too old, too blind, too fat, and that’s that! But Bryan sure can play the blues. Brent Johnson played second guitar, John Perkins the drums, Jim Mitchell the bass, and Bruce Katz was fantastic on piano and organ. We stayed for the entire set. Check out Bryan Lee here.

IMG 2179

Day 3-4Since we were in the neighborhood, we stepped into the Gospel Tent to hear a bit of Pastor Tyrone Jefferson of the New Orleans Abundant Life Tabernacle. When you are in the Gospel Tent, you pretty much know what you are going to get. But what amazes you is the quality of the voices and the musicianship. Religion aside, the music in this tent is uniformly great, and it gives a lot of hard working young musicians a big stage to be seen on. If you ever go to Jazz Fest, stop by the Gospel Tent for a few minutes any time you walk by. 

Day 3-5

Next we headed over to the Congo Square stage to hear some R&B from Erica Falls, another New Orleans native. The local artists seem to "get" Jazz Fest as opposed to some of the big national touring acts, for whom it is just another stop on the tour. There are exceptions to this to be sure on the national level, but the locals really have a good time of it and seem to do that little something extra. Never heard of Erica Falls? Bryan Lee? Neither had we. But both did really good shows. P.S.: There are no decent videos of Erica Falls at Jazz Fest by herself as far as I can tell. Wish I’d known. The video posted has Erica at the beginning, then you’ll see Grace Potter and Zac Brown (see below for more info on them).

Day 3-6By this time we needed a snack, so we checked out the Congo Square food area and found the booth of Gambian Foods, serving pitas with a spicy peanut sauce. I had Dibbi (steak) and Laurie had grilled veggie. Spicy and then some. She also had the couscous with yogurt sauce, which turned out to be chilled couscous topped with a vanilla yogurt sauce and plump golden raisins, I guess because she didn’t have a Café du Monde café au lait when she arrived at Jazz Fest.

Day 3-8Day 3-9

Then we hustled over to the Fais Do Do stage to hear some of Feufollet’s show. Fais Do Do (pronounced FAY-doe-doe) is Cajun for doings after the children have gone to sleep. Cajun kids say "do do" for bedtime, a take on the French "dormier." Anyway, Feufollet (FOO-fillay) put a modern spin on the traditional Cajun music, and it turns into quite the party. This stage was well on its way to being one of our favorite places at Jazz Fest. 

IMG 2192

Day 3-10Parades pass through the infield several times each day, adding to the festive atmosphere. We encountered one as we were heading over to check out the Acura Stage. For the next couple of hours we would end up doing quite a lot of musical sampling, walking from one end of the Fair Grounds to the other, not once but twice.

Day 3-11

At this time our real objective was the Gospel Tent. There was a singer there that knocked me for a loop when I was doing research on the cubes. On the way, as we passed by Acura, Louisiana natives Wayne Toups and ZyDeCajun were on the stage. As always we stopped to listen for a few minutes. Check them out doing Fish Out of Water. If you watch, be sure to notice the drummer!

Day 3-12At the Gospel Tent, we were just in time. Donnie Bolden, Jr. and the Spirit of Elijah from Abbeville, Louisiana, were being introduced. He did not disappoint. The video is Nobody Greater.

Day 3-13

Bruce Hornsby was playing at the Gentilly Stage, but we took the long way over there so we could pass by the Acura Stage again and this time hear some of Marcia Ball’s set. Marcia is another one of those New Orleans icons that people like us "discover" at Jazz Fest. Her music is described as coming from a place where Texas stomp-rock and Louisiana blues-swamp meet. In the video she’s doing the great Bobby Charles’ tune Party Town

Day 3-14

Once we reached the Gentilly stage, we stood in the back, behind the crowd to listen to Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers. The video is ... The Way It Is (and it features the NOLA's three-trombone rock band, Bonerama). This was really nice music for a hot afternoon. A chair and a couple of beers and I might never have left this stage. Fortunately we kept moving. Here’s another video, though, of Bruce doing The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, a tribute to Levon Helm, who passed on a couple of weeks before Jazz Fest. Levon was scheduled to appear tomorrow in the Blues Tent, with Mavis Staples as part of his group. Even though we had seen him at Wolf Trap the last two summers, he was one of the reasons that we decided to finally go to Jazz Fest. Darn. When Bruce was introducing the song at Jazz Fest, he said that Levon woke up every morning funky. Amen.

Day 3-15

Mavis Staples performed in the Gospel Tent later this afternoon, and we thought we would just walk in after another show and catch part of hers. This was when we learned our first hard lesson of the tents at Jazz Fest. You want to see someone really good, you need to get there early. Anyway, we did hear some of Mavis, as the music can be heard outside the tents, but we missed her singing The Weight in tribute to her good friend Levon. So it's here, for all of us. That’s Glen Hansard doing one of the verses. A wonderful sendoff for one of the greatest. Rest in peace, Levon. Rest in peace.

Day 3-16

From Hornsby at Gentilly we were heading to the Jazz Tent, again walking the length of the Festival and again passing by the Acura Stage. On this trip, New England rockers Grace Potter and the Nocturnals were playing as the crowd at the big stage was growing ever larger toward the Zac Brown Band’s show to close the day. Grace has always been a dynamic performer, and she was at the top of her game here, perhaps preparing for her big stadium tour with country icons Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw this summer.

Day 3-17

We got to the Jazz Tent in plenty of time for Terri Lyne Carrington’s Mosaic. The performers were on the stage tuning and perfecting the sound. Carrington’s Mosaic Project is a celebration of women, both players and singers. In her words: "It is a beautiful gathering of great female artists, yet the beauty is also in the fact that you don't hear gender. You hear many strong musical ideas based in jazz, and there is magic in every piece because of the incredible lineup of players and guest artists. The personalities, the lives, and the talent of all of these women make this project special, a unique statement we made together based on common, yet diverse, points of view. This is a mosaic of colors, shapes and textures, making a picture that I hope is informative and enjoyable to our fans."

Day 3-19

Day 3-18

It was. Instantly recognizable players were Helen Sung on piano, Regina Carter, who was a special guest this day, on violin, and Ingrid Jensen on trumpet. Mimi Jones was on bass, Tia Fuller on alto, and a lone guy, Nir Felder, was on guitar to round out the band. The music was of the highest quality, very complex and very tight, and Carrington orchestrated it from the drums with tremendous skill. The video linked above is from Tokyo in 2010, so some of the players are different because the group changes a lot. However, Carrington, Sung, and Jensen are there, and Esperanza Spalding is on bass and vocal and Tineke Postma on alto. You’ll get the idea. The song is Mosaic Triad Part One.

Day 3-20Day 3-21Day 3-24Day 3-23Day 3-25Day 3-22

After some pieces featuring each of the musicians, Niki Harris, who is the daughter of jazz great Gene Harris and back in the day was a singer on Madonna’s 1990 Blonde Ambition tour (which is depicted in the Truth or Dare movie), was introduced on vocals, and among other songs performed Al Green's Something Beautiful beautifully.

Then came a great treat: Nona Hendryx, a favorite of ours from back in the 80’s, took the stage and among other songs did a rendition of Strange Fruit, the anti-lynching ballad made famous by Billie Holiday in the 1930's. After each verse she radiated pain, rage, and sorrow with a wail that played off of Felder’s slashing chords. It was spine-chilling. 

The two singers also did a couple of songs together. 

This wonderful performance by nine amazingly talented musicians was absolutely one of the highlights of the entire weekend. 

And what an unexpected thrill to be able to see Nona Hendryx! 

But wait ... there’s more.

The first order of business was more food, an early dinner if you will. I had the Cuban Sandwich from Canseco’s Markets in New Orleans. 

For the uninitiated, a Cuban is real roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard between two slices of Cuban bread, which is similar to Italian bread except it has a small amount of fat in the form of lard or something akin to Crisco (vegetable shortening). It is then toasted in a sandwich press called a plancha, which is a panini press but without the grooved surfaces. The plancha both heats and compresses the sandwich, which remains in the press until the bread surface is slightly crispy and the cheese is melted. It’s delicious ... and it packs a real wallop in the fill-you-up department.

Laurie had the Trout Baquet and crawfish bisque from Li’l Dizzy’s Cafe in New Orleans. Trout Baquet is a trout filet topped with lump crabmeat and lemon-butter garlic sauce. It’s named after its creator, and owner of Li'l Dizzy's, Wayne Baquet Sr. The crawfish bisque has the crawfish in a spicy broth with spinach and zucchini. Laurie found them both to be excellent.

So how do you work off a hugely filling meal? Zydeco, of course!

Day 3-29

So off we went to the Fais Do Do stage. First, though, on the way, we passed through the Acura Stage area so we could hear a bit of the Zac Brown Band. What we heard for a few minutes was pretty good, but it was really crowded, a little too much for my taste. The song in the clip is Colder Weather. Wishful thinking?


We arrived at Fais Do Do just in time for the start of the performance by Lil’ Nathan and the Zydeco Big Timers from Lafayette, Louisiana. Lil’ Nathan (Nathan Williams Jr.) is the son of Nathan Williams, who leads Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas. (This video shows father and son together.) 

Lil’ Nathan began playing the scrub board in his father’s band at age five. He moved on to the drums and then the accordion, finding in his father an excellent teacher and role model. 

At age 14 he recorded his first CD. By then he had mastered all three types of accordions: diatonic, triple-row, and piano (he posed with his accordions on the CD cover). As we found out, he also developed a great stage presence and an ability to keep a crowd moving.

Today, Nathan Jr. is throwing hip-hop at zydeco standards to create a sound all his own. We danced for the whole show, more than an hour, and the music hardly ever stopped the entire time. It was a really fun way to finish the day. In the video linked above they are doing All Eyes On Me and Bring Your Lovin' Back To Me. And here’s another one, with Nathan and the Big Timers doing Epidemic.

And that ended another spectacular day at Jazz Fest.

IMG 2212

Riding the bus back downtown we marveled at the diversity of music that comes at you at Jazz Fest. No matter where you are, there is music, on a stage or in a parade. There are a few places where you can hear the music from several stages at once, blending together into a happy jumble that says it’s New Orleans. I didn't mention that we passed by Ziggy Marley’s show and that we caught a few minutes of Donald Harrison Jr., both at Congo Square, as we went from one place to another. And the people who were performing but who we never came close to ... I’ll save that for another time.

After some recovery time at the hotel we decided to head out to Bourbon Street. It had to be done. We didn’t expect much and our expectations were met. We made it through a few blocks of noise, crowds, drinks, street hucksters, and come-ons, but soon turned down toward the river and ended up at the relative serenity of Jackson Square, next to the real Café du Monde. It was getting late and we were a little hungry, but not wanting a meal (the staying power of that Cuban sandwich I can’t describe). Café du Monde has coffee and beignets, nothing else (the menu is on the side of the napkin holder) and we weren’t interested in that. However, we found Huey’s 24/7 Diner on the other side of the square. Desert seemed appropriate, and they had seating outdoors on a patio, which was perfect. Laurie had bread pudding and I had pecan pie.

Day 3-32

From there it was back to the hotel, done for the day. But one last thing. As we walked along Decatur Street, heading toward Canal Street, we heard just an awful racket, and it seemed to be coming toward us. It was music, and it was live ... and it was on a tricked-out school bus with lights and lounge furniture and refreshments. With young women hanging out the door enticing young men to get on board and end up at some bar somewhere. It was one of the strangest things I have ever seen, looking back after it passed and seeing the back door removed and the back of a drummer wailing on the drums as the bus headed on down the street. Only in New Orleans!

Day 3 End

© Jeff Mangold 2012