Day 4 / Sunday, April 30


How SHOULD a Jazz Fest day start? With the drill, of course. Unfortunately, we awoke this morning to weather alerts all over the place, to include tornado watches and warnings northwest of the city and a severe thunderstorm watch for the city that would soon turn into a warning. Local news outlets were covering this line of storms very seriously, but you didn't need to be a weather genius to see what was headed for New Orleans. Around 9:30, Jazz Fest announced that they would not be opening at the usual 11 a.m.

At least that gave us an opportunity to get to the Staybridge breakfast buffet before it closed at 10 a.m. It wasn't exactly what we'd be having if we were at Jazz Fest. In fact a scrambled eggs and ham slices and a bagel with peanut butter for me and oatmeal with wheat toast and scrambled eggs for Laurie weren't even close. However, they did provide some nourishment and some coffee. Around 11:30 the storm blasted through New Orleans. It didn't last all that long, but it dropped a ton of rain. And the wind and the lightning were ferocious. 

Apparently that wind and/or lightning caused a power failure either in or near the Grandstand at Jazz Fest (check out this video to see it in real time), and this caused them to extend the delayed opening. That of course was unknown to anybody down in the part of the city where we were, because the promised updates were non-existent. 

Disheartened, we decided to dodge the raindrops for a couple of blocks (the worst was over) and go to Lucy's for some better food and a Bloody Mary (or two) to drown our sorrows. We were greeted by Rachel, who was the same server who took care of us last night, and we all had a good laugh about that. 

The drinks were perfect, right down to the plastic mermaid hanging from the glass. Some other Jazz Fest refugees were hanging out there as well, and we passed time scouring social media for any encouraging news.

For brunch, Laurie had Lucy's Cabo shrimp and grits (head-on jumbo shrimp on pepper jack cheesy grits with honey jalapeño butter sauce). I had an incredibly filling BBQ pulled pork hash (BBQ pork with sauteed red potatoes, peppers, onions, and jalapeños topped with two fried eggs and chipotle ranch). If Jazz Fest ever did open, it was clear I wouldn't be spending a lot of time eating!

Around 2:45, we got the word: Jazz Fest was open and the music would begin ... in 15 minutes! We scrambled to drink up and settle up, and rushed back to the Staybridge to grab our Brass Passes, shuttle tickets, camera, etc., etc. and race over to the Sheraton on Canal Street where the good folks from Gray Line had shuttle buses waiting for us. They didn't even wait for a bus to fill; as soon as there was a lull in people boarding they sent the bus on its way. We arrived a bit before 4, looking forward to more than three hours of music. Hey, you take what you can get, you know?

One good thing about today's weather was that despite the rain, it was fairly warm, with a high temperature around 80 degrees. It was in the mid-70's while we were at Jazz Fest, with the wind a bit schizo, sometimes blowing strong, sometimes not at all. However, nothing like the 40-mph gusts of earlier today. All totaled, about 2.75 inches of rain fell during this storm, but the Fair Grounds held up remarkably well. There was some standing water here and there, but most any place that we went was reasonably dry.

So ... what happened to the schedule today? Here are today's original cubes, and here are the cubes that actually took place. Not that it matters, but the show by Pitbull at the Congo Square stage had to be canceled because the storm prevented him from flying into the city from Florida. We never did find out why George Benson canceled his show in the Jazz Tent, but he was replaced by Maceo Parker, and there wasn't a thing wrong with that!

Among the washed-out early performances were a lot of our New Orleans favorites, including Flow Tribe, Mia Borders, the Preservation Hall Brass, Bruce Daigrepont's Cajun Band, Mark Braud's Jazz Giants, Little Freddie King, the Tin Men, and Nathan Williams Jr. and the Zydeco Big-Timers. Also some old-school funk from Chocolate Milk. But that's the risk you take with an outdoor festival.  

When we arrived, Elle King was performing on the Gentilly stage. It was to be a big day for the younger women at the Gentilly stage today, with Mia Borders, Boyfriend, and a group of women from Cuba, Telmary y Habana Sanabut it turned out only Elle King and Lorde actually appeared.

Ms. King certainly had quite a crowd gathered, and what we heard of her performance as we entered the Fair Grounds and got oriented was really pretty good. Her musical style encompasses country, soul, rock and blues. She counts among her influences Otis Redding, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Al GreenJohnny Cash, and ... AC/DC. Then, her interest in the country and bluegrass of Hank Williams and Earl Scruggs inspired her to learn the banjo. How can you go wrong with that?

We got off the sloppy race track as soon as we could, walking on the pavement in front of the Grandstand and on to the Blues Tent to see someone who’s been on my list for awhile now, the great guitarist Joe Louis Walker.

Having been making music for more than 50 years and recording more than 20 albums, this outstanding artist continues to churn out powerful, gritty, heavy blues rock. His musical influences course through his songs. He grew up listening to blues greats, including T-Bone Walker, B.B. King, and Pete Johnson (listen here). By age 8, he had picked up his first guitar and begun to imitate their work. By 16, he was the house guitarist at The Matrix club in San Francisco, opening shows for Jimi Hendrix, Thelonious Monk, and Lightnin' Hopkins, to name a few. He became an in-demand musician on the local club scene, regularly backing touring blues artists rolling through town. He continues to channel the sound of each of his heroes yet maintain a profoundly distinct sound.

The Chicago Tribune says, "His playing is ferocious. His solos spin wilder and wilder with the kind of fierce embellishments that Jimi Hendrix might have conjured." 

Joe Louis Walker was born in San Francisco on Christmas Day, 1949. He was raised and schooled in the famed and dangerous Fillmore District. His parents were both from the South, and they brought their love of blues with them when they headed west: his father played blues piano, and his mother played B.B. King and other blues records. 

In addition to his work at The Matrix, Walker was a regular at Bill Graham's famed Fillmore West. San Francisco's music scene was quickly becoming a melting pot of blues, jazz, and psychedelic rock, and Walker was right in the center of it. These ear-opening surroundings explain the ease with which he blends blues, rock, gospel, jazz, and country, making it seem as if the walls between the genres never existed in the first place.

The blues legends Walker accompanied shared not only musical knowledge but also their personal wisdom with the teenage up-and-comer. Fred McDowell, Ike Turner, Albert King, Freddie King, Robert Jr. Lockwood, and many others taught, fed, and chastised the youngster. Willie Dixon told him to set his sights high. "What's your style? You need your own sound," Dixon preached. Walker took the advice to heart and developed his own fiery, melodic, and always unpredictable guitar attack.

Walker met the great guitarist Michael Bloomfield in 1968, and the two became fast friends. Bloomfield introduced Walker to many of the day's top rockers, including Sly Stone, Carlos Santana, Steve Miller, Bob Weir, Jorma Kaukonen, and even jazz legend Wayne Shorter. Bloomfield helped push Walker's blues in a more rock-fueled direction, and he became the single biggest influence on Walker's sound. The two shared an apartment for years and remained close friends until Bloomfield's death in 1981. Walker is quick to acknowledge Bloomfield's impact, saying, "I can sometimes feel him in my playing."

From 1975 to 1985 Walker performed nothing but gospel music, playing and singing as a member of the Spiritual Corinthians. During this period he attended San Francisco State University and earned two degrees, one in English and one in Music. While performing with the Spiritual Corinthians at Jazz Fest in 1985, Walker was inspired by the R&B, blues, and rock music swirling around him. He decided he could no longer limit himself to gospel music and returned to playing the blues. On the strength of a demo tape sent to Hightone Records, he was signed to his first recording contract. In 1986, the label released Walker's debut CD, "Cold Is the Night" (listen here). Firmly rooted in blues, gospel, R&B, and rock, the album caught the attention of music fans around the country. The San Francisco Chronicle said, "He expertly updates the timeless urban blues sound." Since then he has released more than 20 recordings and toured the world virtually non-stop.

"Blues is a big tent," he says, "Morphing into a bigger tent. Young folks like good blues when they hear it, and I'm here to make sure they want to listen."

Listen I did. Walker's band today included Lenny Bradford on bass, Eric Finland on keyboards, and Byron Cage on drums. You can get a feel for the Blues tent today in my crummy video, and for something with quality, check out this full concert from last year at the Soper Reese Theatre in Lakeport, California.

After a couple of tunes, Laurie headed over to the Acura stage, where she was hoping to catch the end of Dr. John's set. She got that and more, as Jazz Fest somehow arranged for the Doctor to play much longer than scheduled. Her text messages to that effect finally got me over there as well!

I've seen Dr. John here and there at Jazz Fest, but never as a headliner. I arrived at the Acura stage pretty much at the end, but I did get to hear the Doctor and his band finish up with an extended version of Such a Night with quite a few false endings. Then, a trio of scantily clad dancers who had appeared earlier came out to lead him off the stage. The grin on his face as he followed these three dancers was priceless. 

I have always loved Dr. John, going back to the early 1970's when Mac Rebennack gained fame as a solo artist after adopting the persona of "Dr. John, The Night Tripper". Dr. John's act combined New Orleans-style rhythm and blues with psychedelic rock and elaborate stage shows that bordered on voodoo religious ceremonies, including elaborate costumes and headdress. I think it was on Don Kirshner's Friday night Rock Concert show that I saw him walking down the aisle to the stage while throwing glitter all over the place. The music was a revelation, too.

Today, a green suit-clad Dr. John shared the Acura stage with his new, star-stuffed band of New Orleans musicians. With Herlin Riley on drums and Roland Guerin (see Day 9 in 2015) on bass, the grooves on classics like I Walk on Guilded Splinters, Right Place, Wrong Time and Big Chief were loose and funky, giving the Doctor plenty of room to stretch out on piano and keyboards beneath his husky growls and incantations. Singers Regina and Ann McCrary’s soaring R&B vocals, which also appeared on Locked Down, provided a nice contrast.

Dr. John recently rebuilt his ensemble after discharging the overly clipped, sterile-sounding Nite Trippers outfit he'd been with for the last couple of years to mixed reviews. The new band also features saxophonist Charles Neville, guitarist Eric Struthers, and Leon “Kid Chocolate” Brown on trumpet. Though Rebennack, 76, moved from piano to keyboard with the help of two carved wooden canes, he sounded strong.

What a treat to have this unexpected encounter with Dr. John, one of the most original of the New Orleans originals!

From the Acura stage, we went over to the Jazz and Heritage stage for what's turned into our annual appointment with the all-star brass band known as the Midnite Disturbers. You can read about them on Day 4 in 2013, Day 10 in 2014, Day 10 in 2015, and Day 10 last year as well. 

These guys just blast you with brass: three trombones, three trumpets, two sousaphones, four tenor saxophones, and two baritone saxophones. Honestly, when that's coming at you, you feel the music. Add a rhythm section of drum kit, snare drum, percussion, and guitar, and you have a rich sound that just can't be topped, anywhere.

As always, the rhythmic backbone of the Midnite Disturbers was in the form of founders and drummers Kevin O'Day and Stanton Moore. The other members of the band that I could identify today were Big Sam Williams and Corey Henry on trombones; Shamarr Allen, Julian Gosin, and Chadrick Honore on trumpet; Edward Lee and Matt Perrine on sousaphones; Ben Ellman, Nick Ellman, Erion Williams, Skerik, and  Roger Lewis on the saxophones. Shamarr Allen's son on snare drum and guitarist Jonathan Freilich also were in the group today. No doubt there were others that I missed.

Despite the Disturbers' marquee names, they have managed to maintain the kind of raw, stripped-down sound and feel that gives parading brass bands so much of their power in the streets. As they trade on and off between drum kit and percussion, O'Day and Moore feed off of one another's fire, matching licks and sparking elaborate improvisations within the rhythm. O'Day’s hip-hop feel shines through, contrasting with Moore's street-ready marching band sensibility. It's borderline frenetic energy, yet somehow their impeccable control reins in the whole affair.

It also helps that the players feel trust is built into the collaboration. Ben Ellman says, "I always feel like I'm just along for the ride and I'm just enjoying it, like, 'Wow, I cannot believe this trombone section of Big Sam and Corey Henry, are all up here trading. And once we pick the songs, it always just kind of takes off and works. With those kinds of musicians on stage you just don't have to worry about it.

While some aspects of the Disturbers' sound revolve around an organic parade-band feel, there's also a certain energy that comes from putting that many virtuosos onstage together. "It's always hard to be the next soloist because it's a whole band of amazing soloists," adds Ellman, joking (maybe) that he takes the first solo on most tunes because "there's nobody I want to follow."

My video doesn't do it justice, no video can, but give it a listen anyway! And here's the famous Buck It Like a Horse from a bit closer in.

After a half hour of the Disturbers, Laurie headed back to the Acura stage. She was all in on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers today, and spent most of the rest of the afternoon there. Here's a video of today's weather and the scene at Jazz Fest taken by Petty's crew.

Petty was celebrating his band's 40th anniversary with a set that started with the first song from his first album, Rockin' Around (With You), but he didn't skip the hits. One reviewer thought he went light on "Damn the Torpedos," Petty's 1979 breakthrough album, but really, Petty has enough albums that he goes light on almost all of them except "Full Moon Fever," which he returned to four times for his biggest songs.

Petty bracketed the set with fastballs, ending with the Led Zeppelin-esque blues rock of I Should Have Known It, Refugee, and Runnin' Down a Dream. After the encore of American Girl, it’s hard to imagine a fan who walked away unhappy. I know Laurie did not. She was thrilled with the whole thing.

I took a quick break from the Midnite Disturbers to catch a couple of songs by the Mavericks at the Fais Do Do stage. Now this is a band that I have heard a lot about but never actually experienced in any way. I was very happy to see what I did today; since then I've discovered a lot of great music from them.

This country-steeped garage band with a Cuban-American lead singer emerged from Miami in 1989 with a sultry debut that was equal parts innocence, intensity, and vintage influences. They reunited in 2012 after an eight-year hiatus. It's a band that defies definitions, blurs genres, and makes you feel real good when you are listening to them. 

On their latest recording, "In Time," songs like Dance In The Moonlight, the Orbison-esque Born To Be Blue, the horn-punctuated retro noir Back In Your Arms Again, and the Tejano-esque All Over Again show that the Mavericks have once again found the way to make genre-defying soul music. 

For Raul Malo, the lead singer with the rich voice that's second to only Roy Orbison in its ability to convey lonesomeness, desire, and vivre, drummer Paul Deakin, multi-instrumentalist Robert Reynolds, longtime collaborator Jerry Dale McFadden on keyboards, and seasoned guitarist Eddie Perez, life has become richer in terms of experience, playing acumen, and a sense of their own musicality. It has also deepened the connection between them in a way that heightens the chemistry that made them one of the most exciting live acts in any musical genre. 

Says Deakin, "Just being there, and experiencing it, you don't think about it. But there is definitely something when you get Raul, Robert, Eddie, Jerry Dale, and I in a room together that’s magical." 

Through happenstance, serendipity, and a collective convergence of the cosmos, they say, the Mavericks found themselves entertaining the notion of some live shows for major festivals. The idea of a new recording emerged from that. Eight years had passed. They'd barely spoken, hadn't been in the same room, hadn't given the band more than a passing thought. But with the passage of time, their legend had grown, and wherever the individual members went, the question of reuniting seemed to grow exponentially. 

"I'd always dismissed the people who asked about it as just holding on to the past," says Malo. "A moment in their lives, some notion that was more fantasy than fact. But the years passed, I kept making music, and they never died -- those questions." Malo, the man who feared retreading what had once been began to rethink whether there was more music to be made. 

"It's funny," says Perez. "It was 'maybe' to some touring dates, and then what was a few shows turned into, 'Hey, maybe let's make a record.' It just snow-balled, because I think everyone of us lives to make music, and together, we all know it's like nothing else." 

The time apart also strengthened everyone's musicality. "I expected everybody to play their asses off," Malo confesses. "And they did." What Malo doesn't say is that the band did zero pre-production. He was on tour in Europe. Other band members had commitments. Everybody simply showed up and allowed things to happen. 

Harvesting a sea of influences, from Dean Martin to the Sir Douglas Quintet, from Hank Williams and Ray Price to tangos, polkas, and Ravel's Bolero, the album is as bold as it was exciting to record. Or, as Perez laughs, "It's so many genres. If you had to call it something, I guess it would have to be 'inclusive.'" 

"I think it took 30 seconds," Malo says of the band's inherent chemistry. "We started playing, and it just happened. It was that explosion of sounds! There's this beautiful simplicity to this, because when we play together, we know each other so well." 

Deakin outlines the band’s album history: "'What a Crying Shame' was our first real recording session, in Nashville with major producers, but it remained the 'raw us.' 'Music for All Occasions' was recorded in the basement of Sony Publishing. 'Trampoline' was a massive live production. 'In Time' feels really, really good. Like when we were making music in the warehouse back in Hialeah. In the end, we went all the way back; we're like a garage band again." 

For all the polish and sophistication, the Mavericks are, indeed, a post-punk band with deep retro-fittings from Miami’s indie scene. That must be why the lush 1950's stroll of That’s Not My Name is as comfortable as the jukin' As Long As There's Lovin' Tonight, the stoic tenderness of In Another's Arms, or the epic build-and-recede Call Me When You Get To Heaven (featuring the legendary McCrary Sisters, and which went down in one take). 

"I see this as a record everyone’s invited to," Malo says. "It's a mix of different rhythms, different places and times. It's taking people to new places, but knowing it's all one world."

"We constantly struggle with the definition of mainstream," says Reynolds. "There were moments obviously when we were 'in' it, but it's more the mainstream embracing us from where we exist on the musical fringes. But rather than being something we're not, we've always stayed true – and by being square pegs, we also probably reflect America, because America's roots are a melting pot. Listen to Raul's writing, that strength and passion! He paints a larger universe. Big love, big loss, big joy. It's exciting musically, but it's tricky because it can feel joyous, but sometimes it's actually this really big pain. 

"Raul's ability to write a simple lyric," Deakin says, "reflects the mass of humanity, even though it's one man. When you add his voice, and that sense of melody, it moves people.” 

McFadden, who started with the band in 1993, says, "The new music results in a magic that happens when we play together. You don't recognize that our work was labored over. No, instead, we make it look like it's music that we just started playing. We made a great record."

Getting back to being what they are underscores everything about the Mavericks' return to form -- the ferocity of their playing, the singularity of their intent, and the exuberance that infuses every note of the album. 

"Our relentless pursuit of fun and our selfish notion of pleasing ourselves has always driven us," Deakin says. "It always has worked for us, creating an immediacy that makes us true to the songs. We don't create for a niche or a genre, but to capture a spirit -- and that's always been our strong point." 

"When we were the new kids, there was this excitement," Reynolds continues. "Maybe even a naiveté that came off as brash, but we were always sincere. We were never trendy, because we weren't chasing anything. Maybe we were rebels because we were different. But I think people realize now, this is who we are, what we do. It's not hipster, it's who we are."

"The fans have always understood us," says Malo. "We made them feel good, and that was something then, as now I think, people wanted. Life is so serious; even for a moment, let's forget and enjoy!"

So here's what I saw at the Fais Do Do stage today. I think you can see why I was instantly attracted to this band and their sound. For some more here is a complete set recorded at the Strawberry Music Festival in Grass Valley, California, in 2015. Here's hoping there will be more opportunities to see the Mavericks!

I returned to the Jazz and Heritage stage for the last moments of the Midnite Disturbers, including the obligatory finale Buck It Like a Horse, then headed to the Jazz Tent to have another longstanding musical wish fulfilled courtesy of Jazz Fest, that being a set by one of the founding fathers of funk, the great Maceo Parker.

The name Maceo Parker is synonymous with funky music. His pedigree is impeccable, and his band is the tightest little funk orchestra on earth, augmented today by drummer Nikki Glaspie, who used to play with Dumstaphunk.

Maceo played with every funk icon. He got his start with James Brown, which Maceo describes as "like being at University." He then jumped aboard the mothership with George Clinton and P-Funk and stretched that out Bootsy's Rubber Band. Then he linked up with Prince. Maceo is the living, breathing pulse that connects the history of funk in one golden thread, the cipher that unravels dance music down to its core. 

What a thrill to see Maceo stroll onto the stage and lead his super-tight band in this funky show. At one point he wondered what they were doing in the Jazz Tent, and then did what he called a jazz number, but it really wasn't. Everybody in the band got a chance to do a solo in their stretched-out jams, so the show had a feel of a James Brown type review.

As a frontman, Parker, now 74, is a man of great energy, moving constantly, showing the occasional Brown-style dance move, cracking jokes between songs, and singing his heart out during them. His voice, which seems to improve with time, has elements of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, as well as his hero, Ray Charles. His saxophone playing remains the biggest reason to go see his show. Whether in tandem shouts with trombonist Greg Boyer or soloing on his own, he retains the style and substance that made him a founder of funk.

Parker was born in Kinston, North Carolina. His father played piano and drums in addition to singing in church with Parker's mother; his brother Melvin played drums and his brother Kellis played the trombone. Maceo's uncle, the front man for a local band, the Blue Notes, was Maceo's first real musical mentor. He recognized the talent of the three Parker brothers (Maceo, Melvin, and trombonist Kellis, who would later become Professor of Entertainment Law at Columbia University) and dubbed them the "Junior Blue Notes" and had them perform between sets at Blue Notes shows. This was when Maceo was in the sixth grade, and it started his love affair with performing. The Parker brothers were seasoned professionals by the time they enrolled at North Carolina A&T, where they studied music. 

Maceo grew up admiring saxophonists such as David "Fathead" Newman, Hank Crawford, Cannonball Adderley, and King Curtis. "I was crazy about Ray Charles and all his band, and of course particularly the horn players, he said. By the age of 15, Maceo had forged his own style on the tenor sax. "I thought about 'Maceo Parker plays Charlie Parker,' and then I thought, how about 'Maceo Parker plays Maceo Parker?' What would it be like to have young sax players listening to me and emulating my style of playing?" Thus the "Maceo sound" was born.

Maceo, at age 21, and his brother Melvin joined James Brown in 1964. His signature style helped define James Brown's brand of funk, and the phrase, "Maceo, I want you to blow!" passed into the language. He's still the most sampled musician around simply because of the unique quality of his sound.

In 1970, Maceo and Melvin and a few of Brown's band members left to establish the band Maceo and All the King's Men, which toured for two years.

In January 1973, Parker rejoined James Brown. In 1975, Parker and some of Brown's band members, including trombonist Fred Wesley, left to join George Clinton's band Parliament-Funkadelic. Parker once again re-joined James Brown from 1984 to 1988.

In the 1990s, Parker began a solo career. His first album of this period, "Roots Revisited," spent 10 weeks at the top of the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Charts. To date he has released 11 solo albums, and his 1992 live album "Life on Planet Groove" is considered to be a classic.

In the late 1990's, Parker began contributing semi-regularly to recordings by Prince and the New Power Generation and accompanying the band on tour. He also played on the Jane's Addiction track My Cat's Name Is Maceo for their 1997 album "Kettle Whistle." He also performed as a guest on What Would You Say at a Dave Matthews Band concert, which can be heard on "Live in Chicago 12.19.98."

In 2007, Parker performed as part of Prince's band in London for the 21 Nights at the O2 Arena shows. He then played as part of the band for Prince's 21-night stay at the Forum in Los Angeles in 2011.

Maceo Parker has been such an integral part of so much of my favorite music that it hardly felt like this was the first time I was actually seeing him in person. Here is my video, and here's another one I could find from today's show. For some more, and who wouldn't want some more of Maceo, here's a full concert recorded this year at the Teatro Nescafé de las Artes in Chile. For one more, here's Maceo with Soulive last year at the Fiya Fest in New Orleans.

After Maceo, I headed back to the Jazz and Heritage stage to get some funk in the Mardi Gras Indian style from Big Chief Monk Boudreax and the Golden Eagles, because every day at Jazz Fest, no matter how short, needs some Mardi Gras Indian funk. And if you are going to do it, why not do it with one of the all-time greats?

I finally saw Big Chief Monk last year on Day 4, and you can read about him there. In short, he is, along with the late Big Chief Bo Dollis, responsible for founding the modern Mardi Gras Indian way, eschewing violence and embracing music and turning the Mardi Gras Indians into the funk-laden phenomenon they are today. The story of these two rivals turned close friends is fascinating and inspiring.

Like last year, Big Chief Monk's grandson J'Wan, who also sings in the great funk band Cha Wa, sang lead on a number of songs at today's performance, more than last year it seemed, and the Big Chief continues to point out the importance of family to the legacy of Golden Eagles. 

This performance, like last year, was one of great emotion. Any time one sees a legendary performer at Jazz Fest, and there are plenty of opportunities for that, it just gives you chills. Here's my video of the Big Chief today and here is one more. For a bit more, here's a set of 1, 2, 3 from Jazz Fest in 2011.

Could I cram a little more music into this abbreviated day? Of course. Over at the Fais Do Do stage, Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers were bringing the crowd there to a fever pitch.

Touted by Rolling Stone as the "Jimi Hendrix of the Accordion," Dwayne (Dopsie) Rubin plays a unique, high-energy style of zydeco. He hails from one of the most influential zydeco families. His father was the famous Rockin' Dopsie (Alton Rubin), and his brother David is Rockin' Dopsie Jr., who we've seen a couple of times (at the Rock 'n' Bowl on Day 3 in 2013, in a cameo (with Dwayne) with John Fogerty on Day 11 in 2014, and at the Fais Do Do stage on Day 9 in 2015). Although inspired by the family's tradition, Dwayne has developed his own style, one that defies stereotypes and blazes a refreshingly distinct path for 21st century zydeco music. 

Dwayne Dopsie, now 37, was raised in Lafayette, the youngest of Rockin' Dopsie's eight children. At age 6, he got his start on the scrubboard. The following year, he advanced to a small, lightweight accordion, a cast-off his father rarely played. He learned to play the accordion at his father's knee. "He always taught me," Dwayne said, "'I want you to play it the right way.' One thing he always showed me is zydeco is not what you hear, it's what you feel."

This set him up on his future course. "This is what I wanted to do. I wanted to follow my father's footsteps because I always heard it." But he doesn't replicate his father's music. "I probably have a little more aggressive style," he says. That could be an understatement.

The young Dopsie had the advantage of hearing not just his father's music, but that of Clifton Chenier as well as the sounds his own contemporaries. The elder Dopsie had his own father's traditional style to build on. Dwayne says, "I incorporate that love and passion for the music."

His first official gig was at Mardi Gras. The 7-year-old took center stage, his accordion resting on the edge of its case so he could hold it, and hammered out Lucille at a club in downtown Lafayette. His father's Zydeco Twisters backed him. "After the song, dad threw a couple of dollars into the case, which caused a chain reaction," Dwayne says. By night's end, he had netted $50 and a roomful of fans. 

Dwayne and his brother David (now Dopsie Jr.) advanced to TV two years later, both playing washboard with Dopsie's band during an appearance on Dolly Parton’s TV show. At age 10, he performed with Dopsie and the band during a Super Bowl halftime show, as well as on a TV commercial for Louisiana Community Coffee.

"I was too young to go in bars, so we were limited to performing at non-club gigs," Dwayne recalled.

Everything changed when Rockin' Dopsie died. Dwayne was a freshman in high school. His focus shifted from school to music and, by his senior year, he’d traded book learning for writing and performing zydeco music.

Dwayne formed the Zydeco Hellraisers when he was 19. The band pumps out incredible zydeco music and add a bit of R&B, funk, rock and roll, reggae, and pop to their performances. His performances have been described as muscular ... expert musicians swinging hard ... Saturday night zydeco at its best. The sound is relentless, pulsating and funky, easily appealing to fans of all genres.

In a nod to his father, his musical hero, Dwayne plays Rockin' Dopsie's pearl red accordion. The instrument has 80 basses and 37 treble buttons.

"This is my calling. Zydeco music is in my blood and it is my heart and soul," he says. Showmanship, he says, is "engaging with the crowd and making them feel like they're part of the show, making them feel like this is where they need to be." Putting on the kind of show they do demands energy of the performers. Dopsie said they imbibe in "no evil substances, no alcohol. We take nothing to enhance our energy, just the love of the music and seeing people's reaction to the artistry they’re hearing. That’s what creates our energy."


This show was just incredible, a great way to end the day. Even though it was abbreviated for me, it was filled with incredible music. The Hellraisers are Paul Lefleur on scrubboard, Kevin Minor on drums, Dion Pierre, on bass, Klpori Woods (who we saw perform in the Blues Tent on Day 2 way back in 2012) on guitar, and Reggie Smith Jr. on saxophone. Here is my video from today, and for some more, here's a full 2 hours from last year's Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Music Festival in California.

As predicted, there was no time and actually no need for any food today. On the way out, Laurie grabbed a bourbon pecan gelato from the La Divina Gelateria's booth, and I waded through a massive puddle to get a sweet potato cookie from Loretta's Authentic Pralines. Before entering the puddle I gave a shout to make sure they were still open!

Those snacks would have to last us into the evening, for while the shuttles were plentiful and boarding was efficient, everything went a bit later than usual today, which was a good thing, but we barely had time to get back to the Staybridge and get the mud off before we had to head over to the House of Blues.

Tonight we were upstairs in the intimate Parish Room for an outstanding evening featuring one of our local favorites, Colin Lake, and the legendary British singer-songwriter Richard Thompson. 

You can read about Colin Lake, who came to New Orleans via Seattle, at Day 8 in 2014 and Day 9 in 2015. He's just great, whether performing solo acoustic as he did tonight or with his band, as we've seen him at Jazz Fest. Here's his video page so you can enjoy a bunch of great songs.

Seeing Richard Thompson in such an intimate setting was a great thrill. The Parish Room is not without its challenges. It is standing room only, and the stage is quite low, so short people like us have a bit of difficulty seeing. We make the best of it though. Then there are the people who crowd in just before the headliner takes the stage, as this very strange guy and his date did tonight. He was really into the music, and had an odd way of expressing it -- by groping his date. It was somewhat distracting, but again we managed to make the best of it. It was so off the charts that looking back on it all you can do is laugh!

Richard Thompson was named by Rolling Stone as one of their Top 100 Guitarists. He is also one of the world's most critically acclaimed and prolific songwriters. He has received lifetime achievement awards for songwriting on both sides of the Atlantic. 

As a teenager in the 1960's, he co-founded the groundbreaking group Fairport Convention (listen here) who virtually invented British folk rock. By the age of 21 he had left that band to pursue his own career, followed by a decade-long musical partnership with his wife Linda Thompson (listen here) After their separation, he launched 30 years as a highly successful solo artist. He tours both solo acoustic and with his electric trio. Thompson's massive body of work includes more than 40 albums.

Thompson’s genre-defying mastery of both acoustic and electric guitar along with dizzying energy and onstage wit continue to earn him new fans and have solidified his place as one of the most distinctive virtuosos in rock history. We've been fortunate to see him a couple of times previously, both times at Wolf Trap, once with Bonnie Raitt in what was a fabulous evening of music.

Tonight, in the black beret, T-shirt, black denim vest, black jeans that he almost always wears Thompson, blazed through an energetic and intense set of songs that spanned his illustrious career. With a single acoustic guitar and a vocal microphone, he delivered a polished, self-assured set of idiosyncratic tunes steeped in the history and mystery of British and Celtic folk music filtered through American R&B, soul, rock, and even the early days of (real) punk rock.

Thompson's guitar skills were on display from the very first notes, and at times he incorporated subtle sonic effects on his acoustic instrument that enhanced his percussive attack. In the hands of an artist like Thompson, an acoustic guitar can shift seemingly effortlessly from a wind chime to a machine gun and back again in the course of a single song. 

There is only one Richard Thompson. He is a contemporary musical treasure with an almost regal air of plucky insouciance about him. How wonderful to be able to spend an hour or so in his presence and be charmed by his skills in the midst of such a tumultuous and dispiriting time in history.

Here is the complete setlist from this evening's show, with links to the individual songs so you can piece it together if you like. Again, when the artist specifically requests no video, I will oblige. Frankly, the music was so spellbinding I probably wouldn't have done it ayway. Here are three examples that somebody else recorded elsewhere: Who Knows Where The Time Goes, Walking on a Wire, and Beeswing.

After the show we were pretty hungry, so late at night when in the French Quarter, for us that means only one thing, and that's omelettes at Daisy Dukes, seafood for Laurie and alligator sausage for me.

And that's it for the first weekend of Jazz Fest. Let the Daze Between begin!

© Jeff Mangold 2012