Day 5 / Sunday, April 29


Day 3 of the 2018 Jazz Fest drill was as expected executed flawlessly: We got up ... got ready ... slathered on sunblock ... got Brass Passes, shuttle tickets, camera, hats, and phones ... took a look to decide if rain gear was going to be needed ... and headed down to the lobby to grab some coffee and maybe a bit of food, but only enough to tide us over to get to Jazz Fest, where real good food awaited. 

Today's weather was, again, flawless, and raingear wasn't even close to being needed. The sun was abundant, the humidity low all day, and there wasn't much breeze at all. So it felt very warm. The temperature was 73 when we left the hotel this morning. In the heat of the afternoon it was 83, and later in the evening it was 72.

The wait for a shuttle bus was minimal, the ride to the Fair Grounds was quick, and entry through the new security checkpoint was easier than yesterday and much easier than Friday. In short, we were at Jazz Fest and ready to go in no time at all. We are getting way too good at this.

There was plenty of time for food. Today we perused the offerings in Food Area I. Laurie chose the shrimp and grits from Fireman Mike's Kitchen out of New Orleans. This is the third time for her with this great dish, and you can read a little bit more about it at Day 8 in 2013 and Day 3 in 2015. Mike Gowland, now a retired fireman after 21 years, was a champion on the "All-American" series of the Food TV show "Chopped." Gowland describes his cooking as "comfort food with a New Orleans flair."

Vaucresson 1Vaucresson

I went with a sausage po'boy from Vaucresson's. Today I chose the new alligator sausage, but it wouldn't matter which one I chose, they are all good. I've had one on Day 11 in 2013 (read more about this family business there), Day 3 and Day 9 in 2014, Day 11 in 2015, Day 10 in 2016, and Day 10 last year. You can read the story of Vaucresson's at those links. They are the only food vendor that has been at Jazz Fest since the beginning, and you know there must be a reason for that.

Check out today's cubes and you'll have no trouble figuring out where we went first.

D.L. Menard, the fun-loving Cajun singer who channeled Hank Williams and wrote and performed the most popular Cajun song of all time, passed away last summer. After first seeing him on Day 11 in 2013, I never missed his performances with the Jambalaya Cajun Band on Day 4 in 2014, Day 9 in 2015, Day 3 in 2016, and Day 11 last year. You can read a lot more about him at those links, and there's a remembrance in last year's writeup.

Today's opener at the Fais Do Do stage was billed as a tribute to Menard, with the Jambalaya Cajun Band and D.L.'s son Larry Menard. Terry Huval (fiddle and pedal steel guitar) and Reggie Matte (accordion) of the Jambalaya band were good friends to Menard and, along with Bobby Dumatrait (guitar), Ken David (bass), and Tom David (drums) were a great backing band for him. They played a number of Menard's songs before introducing Larry Menard, who, to be honest, I was never aware of as a performer. He led the band on one of his father's songs, a waltz, then they did D.L.'s signature tune, La Porte d'en Arrière (The Back Door).

Jambalaya 2 Jambalaya 1 Jambalaya 4

It was emotional to hear The Back Door without the nasal twang of D.L. Menard, to be sure, but the whole tribute left me feeling like it could have been so much more, especially given the number of musicians at the Fais Do Do stage who were wearing D.L. Menard memorial buttons every day this weekend (and next). That's the chance one takes with tributes at events like Jazz Fest. The Fats Domino tribute yesterday worked, this one not so much. However, the great memories of D.L. Menard over the last five years at Jazz Fest will remain, and it was still Huval and Matte and the band, who are always good. Huval even went into the crowd at the end of the performance for some up close and personal fiddling!

Here's my video of the Menard tribute at the Fais Do Do stage this morning. Here's an off-the-charts tribute to D.L. Menard, as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's  awesome Pride of Acadiana Marching Band plays The Back Door!  

At this point we split up for just a bit. Laurie went off to the Gentilly stage to see the indie pop band Royal Teeth, while I headed to the Lagniappe stage by way of the Gospel Tent.

Royal Teeth 3

Royal Teeth has been around since 2010. At that time they had a folk-driven sound that has since incorporated electronic elements. The band's current members include vocalist and guitarist Gary Larsen, vocalist Nora Patterson, guitarist Thomas Onebane, and drummer Josh Hefner. All are from Louisiana. During the last few years, they all found careers outside of the music industry, and some thought that the days of Royal Teeth were over.

"There were days where I just expected that this was probably going to be over soon," Larsen said. But after a sudden spark of inspiration and some musical restructuring, Royal Teeth came back together to create a new album and share their new mantra with the song Never Gonna Quit.

Royal Teeth 1

Since then they've caught the attention of the indie music world with a breakout single, Wild, and their debut album, "Glow." They cultivated a strong following online as well as through their electric live shows. Their euphoric combination of warm synths and guitars, sugary melodies, and massive beats resulted in an energizing dance party wherever they went.  

What Royal Teeth does is a dense sonic confectionery of irrepressible hooks and undeniable effervescence. 

Royal Teeth 2They have been drawing on music they grew up with in the 1980's and 1990's for a sound that, at times, feels nostalgic, Larsen said. By the same token, he added, they're seeking ways to craft those sounds through a Royal Teeth paradigm so that they sound timeless and not dated.

"We're always going to be looking to experiment and see where that can take us, but if we’re being true to ourselves, it's always going to lean in a pop direction," Larsen said. "That's just one of those things in the band's DNA. It's kind of who we are, and I think that's where our music is most honest."

Here's a half hour of Royal Teeth live on Audiotree and here are 1, 2, 3 from the awesome Jam in the Van people.

Crown Seekers

The Electrifying Crown Seekers were at the Gospel Tent. While the large gospel choirs at Jazz Fest make a joyful noise, many of the smaller groups can really get things going. That includes the Electrifying Crown Seekers. Led by James Williams, who plays a wicked guitar, the group often brings a bit of country flavor to their sound. Everybody waits for the moment in their set when Gregory Sanders takes center stage to sing Walk Around Heaven All Day in his falsetto.

Originally from Liberty, Mississippi, and trained in Jimmy Reed-style blues guitar, James Williams, 67, is now the only original member of this group, which has been around for 47 years. He is now backed by members of his large musical family and their community. 

He has his eye on your soul, for sure. But the energetic front man on stage shredding a Gibson Flying-V guitar is not trying to lead you to the devil. Actually, when you see him these days he'll be playing his Gibson SG "because my Flying V is kind of awkward if I want to play it in back of my head and all. They really go for that!" says Williams, who will do anything within his musical powers to bring you to Christ.

"It is about trying to get people saved," he says. "I want them to tell me, 'I heard your music and I went to y'all's church and now I'm a Christian.' And that happens quite often."

Gospel quartets are rare, Williams explains. "Most gospel groups have so many members because not everyone who plays an instrument can sing," he says. "We all play and harmonize, so we don't need more than the four." When asked why the Crown Seekers can be seen performing with up to nine people in its quartet, Williams laughs. "Somebody always wants to join our group. They always trying to get in. And I been trying to get more younger people in the group in case anything happens to me."

Crown Seekers 2

As detailed in the upcoming documentary film By and By: NOLA Gospel at the Crossroads by Joe Compton and Matthew Bowden, New Orleans gospel quartets are recently even rarer, thanks to Hurricane Katrina. "There were 45 groups before, and now there are only 12 to 15," says Compton, an ex-civil servant and NPR music reviewer.

"There aren't many gospel groups of any kind in New Orleans anymore," James Williams says. "The Crown Seekers came back fast after Katrina because we live in Marrero on the West Bank, which didn't get a lot of damage. But also, gospel's just not as popular as before Katrina for some reason. The scene is not what it used to be."

For all his flashy fretwork, James Williams says that "the trick, in the end, is to figure out how to be humble and still create a sound that will get to the people." Though behind a Gibson rather than a pulpit, Williams refuses to use his musical gift for financial gain. He recently retired after several decades at BellSouth, and the rest of the Crown Seekers all have day jobs. "We don't play in clubs, but if they wanted gospel we would do it there! We will play anywhere they need the gospel. We can sing high, we can sing low, we can sing in between. We can sing country western—we do it all, so that wherever we go, from the nursing homes to the Jazz Fest, we'll be able to do whatever is needed."

The Crown Seekers were really cool. Here is my video of the time I spent in the Gospel Tent with them, and are 1 and 2 rocking couple of minutes from way back in 2010.

I was really on my way to the Lagniappe stage in the Grandstand to see what Kim Carson and her band the Real Deal were up to. I've seen this country honky-tonk band a couple of times, on Day 11 in 2015 at the Fais Do Do stage (there you can read more detail about her) and last year on Day 2 here at the Lagniappe stage. During today's performance, Kim noted that they drove all night from a gig in Texas in order to make their 12:30 show at Jazz Fest. The life of a musician.

The band is Will Darvill (fiddle), Jason Bishop (guitar), Dwight Breland (pedal steel guitar), and Matt Keegan (drums). Kim plays the bass. It was Jazz Fest appearance number 23 for her.

It's interesting to note that Carson and her band spend three months every summer in Europe. "The Europeans don't care for that Nashville stuff that they play on the radio over here, they love American music and especially the more rootsy things. So I spend a lot of time on the road, and that keeps you young. I feel like a 29-year-old with really bad knees."

Carson had her own run-in with Nashville years ago. "The problem with them was that I didn't start playing music until I was 32 years old. They thought I was younger and when I told them the truth, they'd say, 'I was interested in working with you, and that changes how I feel.' And I'd say, 'Well, that's kind of shallow.' There have been people who’ve said they could turn me into Shania Twain, and that's not what I'm all about. There was one guy who asked me what I really wanted to be doing and I realized I'd be completely happy being like Bonnie Raitt or Emmylou Harris, playing venues the size of the House of Blues, if I could do the music I wanted."


She manages to keep her honky-tonk sense of humor, and that readily seen in much of her music. "I find that the funny songs are the easiest ones to write. The ones that leave you a little vulnerable, and express what's really going on in your life, those are the hard ones."

Here's my video of Kim Carson today at the Lagniappe stage, a quirky little space that always has some intersting music going on.

Carson 1

When I met Laurie at the Fais Do Do stage to see the Savoy Family Cajun Band, she was holding a Mango Freeze. Created as a fundraiser for WWOZ, this delectable mango sorbet has been consumed by one or the other of us so many times, usually on a whim, that it is no longer possible to keep track of. 

Neither one of us, though, has yet tried the ulitimate repurposing of the Mango Freeze, and that is to buy one of the little bottles of sparkling brut sold at the wine stands around the grounds (or Prosecco from the Rhythmporium CD store) and pour it over the Mango Freeze. For a mere $9 you can turn the $5 sorbet into a real (expensive) treat! 

Savoy 1

The Savoy Family Cajun Band is always a great treat to see on the Fais Do Do stage. You can read a whole lot about this talented family at Day 10 in 2014, Day 4 in 2015, and Day 10 last year

Marc and Ann Savoy and their sons Joel and Wilson are strong individual musicians working together to create a tight, intense sound that represents all that Cajun music has been and can be. Their traditional Cajun melodies have a bit of a bluesy touch thanks to the two younger members of the family.

Marc Savoy (they use the French pronunciation, as in sa-vwah) plays the Cajun button accordion, and he's one of the best. In addition to being a chemical engineer, he runs the Savoy Music Center, where he handcrafts Cajun accordions and hosts a legendary Saturday morning jam session. Here's an interesting video where he explains how he came to love the accordion and lead a revival of Cajun music and culture.

Ann Allen Savoy is a native of Virginia. After she married Marc Savoy, she began documenting the Cajun culture, taking photographs, interviewing important musicians, and transcribing Cajun French songs. Her documentation ultimately became a book, Cajun Music: A Reflection of a People, considered the definitive work on the subject. She plays in a number of groups and has recorded an album with Linda Ronstadt (listen here).

Wilson Savoy is a founding member of the Pine Leaf Boys and has made films of many of the finest bands in Southwest Louisiana for his production company. Joel (pronounced Jo-el) Savoy was a founding member of the Red Stick Ramblers and today has his own record company, Valcour Records. Wilson plays keyboards and fiddle and Joel is an accomplished fiddler. 

Steve Riley was playing the drums today. We've seen him with his band the Mamou Playboys, and this band was at the 2011 Louisiana Swamp Romp at Wolf Trap, the afternoon that started us on our road to seven years of Jazz Fest and counting. We are forever in their debt! Aside from the 2011 Swamp Romp, we've seen Steve and the band at the Swamp Romp in 2013 and at Jazz Fest on Day 4 in 2013, Day 8 in 2015, Day 2 in 2016, and Day 3 last year, and you can get all the background you need about them on those pages. Today, for some reason, the Savoys were lightheartedly giving him a hard time.

Here's my video of the Savoy Family Cajun band on the Fais Do Do stage today, and here are 1, 2, 3 more from today. Ans since we're into D.L. Menard memories today, here they are doing La Porte d'en Arrière at the Ozark Folk Center Craft Village, located inside the Ozark Folk Center State Park in Mountain View, Arkansas.

After a bit, Laurie headed over to the Congo Square stage to see a favorite singer, the fantastic Erica Falls. We saw her on the Congo Square stage way back on Day 3 in 2012 and knew at that time tha New Orleans was harboring some tremendous talent. The next year we saw her on the Congo Square stage on Day 9 with Corey Henry and his Treme Funktet. On Day 8 in 2014, we saw her in the Jazz Tent with Larry Sieberth and his jazz combo. In the meantime, she became associated with Galactic, and we saw her with them on the Acura stage on Day 9 in 2015 (along with Macy Gray) and Day 11 last year.

Erica 1

A goddess of R&B and soul, Falls walks in the footsteps of legendary New Orleans vocalists like Irma Thomas. She grew up in the Ninth Ward, the youngest of eight in a family that sang in church, where she discovered her musical talents. 

Erica's family also introduced her to Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, and Sarah Vaughan, who inform her music today. "Five boys, three girls. We all sing," Erica says. "I am the only one that does it for a living. Even my parents sing. My mother sings and plays the organ and the piano. She was my first teacher."

"My mother was a schoolteacher. But she was also a musician and she just loved to sing, but she only sang in church. My older sister sang in groups in high school and also in church, and so I would sit and listen to them rehearse. That's why I always love to sing in groups because I came up underneath that.

Erica 2

"I played in the youth symphony. That was a plus for me because it helped to develop my ears. So when I finally realized that I could sing, it gave me an advantage over most singers because I could differentiate the parts. What I learned from playing instruments helped me to teach a class. So I was over a choir at a creative arts school. A lot of them thought I had degrees, but I didn't. What I was taught from my teachers I carry with me to this day.

"I started singing on Bourbon Street when I was six months pregnant with my daughter. I was in the Old Opera House, and that's when I really decided to start doing this thing. I always sang in groups and sang in church and in talent shows, but that's when I was like, 'Maybe I can do this for a living.'

"Bourbon Street is a tough place, but it's great for you to hone your skills. You can learn a lot. You know it's a different house every 45 minutes. You have to learn to engage people, to become an entertainer. But it's a rough place. It really helped to groom me. You don't want to stay there, but it really can help groom you as an artist and an entertainer. Because you know you can quickly become the jukebox if you don't know how to engage your audience. It taught me about that."

Erica 3

When asked who her top five influences would be, Erica says, "Allen Toussaint, Joe Sample. I’ve worked with both of them. Phenomenal. Irma Thomas. John Fogerty. I worked with him in the studio. Jennifer Hudson did a remake of Proud Mary, and I was there for that session. Simply amazing. I'd have to say my fifth person would be Cyril Neville. Cyril sings from the bottom of his feet. I love all of the Nevilles, but there's something about when he delivers that song; he is truly telling a story, and you feel it. And so I've always connected to him out of all of the singers in that family. I was like, 'Oh my God. That's the one I like!'"

As a lifelong resident of New Orleans, taking the stage at Jazz Fest for the first time "was like a dream. Congo Square is one of my favorite stages, and I was always the audience looking at that and saying, 'that's got to be an amazing feeling.' So when I did it for the first time, and I stepped out, I really had to compose myself, because it was bittersweet for me, because my dad was an avid Jazz Fest lover. And the fact that he wasn't there to share in it was bittersweet. But it was just amazing at the same time. My mom was there and I had all of my brothers and sisters and everybody. And you know, just to have that support, and everybody was so happy and excited; it was a beautiful experience. And now to keep doing it, it gets better every time."

Here's some Erica Falls on video with Galactic in concert and here on the Jam in the Van, and here she is with Corey Henry's Treme Funktet. And here's a whole half hour from the Louisiana Music Factory last year. She's one of our favorites and I think you'll see why!

Meanwhile, asfter the Savoys set ended, I was headed to Economy Hall by way of the WWOZ tent, where I was to met Laurie. On the way, the Gospel Tent once again pulled me in. It was the Music Ministry of the St. Joseph the Worker parish in Marrero, Louisiana. The approximately 25 men and women who made up the choir sang their well-arranged tunes with a lot of conviction. I just love the large choirs rocking out on gospel tunes. There is nothing else quite like it. 

Here's my video. If you watch, check out the sign interpreter in front. Jazz Fest has a number of them, and when present they are as much a part of the performances there as the musicians! 

After the refresh stop at the WWOZ tent, Laurie accompanied me to Economy Hall, where the Treme Brass Band was getting started. She left for the Acura stage after a bit, but I stayed for all of this, working my way into the crowded tent for as good a view at the back of the tent as could be hoped for. It helps to be nice to the ushers. The woman who was there today was a tough one, but I find that if you respect their need to keep people out of the path of travel, and if you ask if the spot you are at is OK, they will (mostly) leave you alone. It paid off. As you'll see at the end of my video, the band's traditional second line at the end of the show practically walked right into my camera lens.

This was my third encounter with this esteemed group, and you can read more about them and experience more of their music in the reports from Day 3 in 2014 and Day 3 last year.

This year, the Treme Brass Band, founded in 1990 but spiritually born much earlier in New Orleans' funeral-march and street-parade traditions, was all about Fats Domino, honoring the widespread force and joy his legacy. They covered Professor Longhair's song Go to the Mardi Gras with a Domino-like beat and the horns mimicking Domino's piano. Then they did My Blue Heaven in the swinging way Fats covered it and his 1961 take on Hank Williams' Cajun anthem Jambalaya. When they preceded the second line with The Saints Go Marching In, you felt like they were marching back from his funeral. The second line was a rousing I'm Walkin'.

Current members of the Treme Brass Band are founder, leader, and drummer Benny Jones Sr., drummers Vernon Severin and Aron Lambert, Jon Gross on tuba, Terrance Taplin and Corey Henry on trombone, Cedric Wiley, Roger Lewis, and John Prince Gilbert on saxophone, and Shamarr Allen, James Williams, and Mario Abney on trumpet. You never really know who is going to be there, though. There was no Shamarr today, but there was Freddie Lonzo on trombone. 

This band just does it right, and it's always a good time to see them in Economy Hall at Jazz Fest, especially doing the second line to end the show. Here's another video, taken earlier this year at the d.b.a. club on Frenchmen Street, a bit more casual setting.

Laurie texted me that I needed to get over to the Acura stage, so I hurried off in that direction. On my way I grabbed a strawberry smoothie from the stand of Joey Gallo and Terry Marks of Metairie. They also serve milk- or dark-chocolate dipped strawberries. You can read more about them, and how they also run a sign-painting business that does a lot of the signage at Jazz Fest, in the Day 4 report from 2015. The smoothie is delicious. Fresh strawberries are the key.

Did you know that Louisiana is a major producer of strawberries? "Louisiana has the best berries," Anna Mae Mixon proudly boasts. "They’re the sweetest." She should know. The 82-year-old Ponchatoula native grew up in the shadow of the strawberry farming industry. Mixon and the other Ponchatoula children used to attend school from July to March, enduring sweltering Louisiana summers in a classroom so that they would be let out in time to help the town's farmers pick, stem, and package that year's strawberry harvest.

Mixon's small clapboard house sits directly alongside the famed Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival, held once a year to pay homage not only to those sweet strawberries at the height of the harvest, but also to the history of strawberry farming in Louisiana. 

In the early 20th century, Ponchatoula was one strawberry field after another. As new technology allowed for refrigerated railcars to transport strawberry harvests farther away by train, there was a boom of strawberry farmers in Louisiana. By 1931, which some locals say was the peak of strawberry farming in Ponchatoula, Louisiana had 23,500 acres of strawberry farms.

However, the end of World War II also brought the beginning of the end of farming as a way of life for many of Ponchatoula's young men who had become enticed by better-paying industrial jobs. The lure of a steady income without the backbreaking work of farm life led to dwindling acres of strawberry plants, a trend that would sweep the entire state. By 2014 there were only 81 Louisiana strawberry growers producing strawberries on 367 acres. Tangipahoa Parish, where Ponchatoula is located, was the state's lead strawberry producing parish with $19.3 million in sales.

Ponchatoula farmer William Fletcher has seen the changes to his town's pride and joy, both good and bad, since he was a little boy out on his grandfather's strawberry farm. "We still have strawberry farmers in Ponchatoula farming the same ground their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents did," he said. "We're still bringing the same quality product they did."

"Some of my favorite memories as a kid was hanging out in the strawberry fields," he said. "This is not steady, this is not guaranteed, but this is where my heart always was."

The strawberry industry Fletcher once knew as a kid is long gone. "A lot of the farms that were in the area 100 years ago, even 30 years ago are now places like Something-Something shopping center," he said. But there is a renewed interesting in buying fresh and buying local. The pride of Ponchatoula can now be seen in everything from the town sign with a strawberry design to the small strawberry logos that decorate each of the town's street signs.

And while strawberry production has dwindled in Louisiana over the years, the appetite for them has not. "The strawberries for some reason are better here," said Doris Starnes. "They're meatier."

Starnes and her friend Susan McMillan made the hour-long drive from New Orleans to the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival, where, in addition to flats upon flats of strawberries, festivalgoers noshed on all things strawberry: strawberry shortcake, strawberry kabobs, deep fried strawberries, and strawberry daiquiris.

Though Ponchatoula residents and visitors remain fiercely loyal to their homegrown berries, they have a hard time putting a finger on what exactly makes them so special. Mixon said she spent so many years harvesting Ponchatoula strawberries that she simply knows she's right about her berries. "It might have something to do with the soil, possibly nutrients that have been carried down south by the Mississippi River." And maybe something else too, she said. "Good vibes." Trust me, it's a New Orleans thing. When you're here, you either get it or you don't.

Laurie called me to the Acura stage to see a supergroup called the Magnificent 7, who were about halfway into their set when I arrived. I found her easily considering the crowd that was there to see Jimmy Buffett later in the day.

New Orleans, as we all know, is the birthplace of funk and a preferred stomping grounds of jam bands and their fans, especially at Jazz Fest time. But it has a history of legendary jam sessions that goes back more than a century. The influx of national touring bands amid the anything goes nature of Jazz Fest has only added star power to many of these one-off lineups. But some of the best of these consiste primarily of local artists, including the newly formed Magnificent 7, which was put together by keyboardist John "Papa" Gros using members of several top local bands.

Here's the lineup: Gros (Papa Grows Funk), Dave Malone (the Radiators), Tommy Malone (the Subdudes), Robert Mercurio (Galactic), Raymond Weber (Dumpstaphunk and others), Mark Mullins (Bonerama), and Michael Skinkus (Trio Mollusc).

Mag 7 1

According to Gros, this eclectic collection of New Orleans All-Stars was assembled with the purpose of "seeing what happens when you put all the gumbo ingredients in the pot and see how the flavors infuse. It's the swamp rock of the Malone Bothers mixed with the Galactic funk of Robert, with Mark riding the waves and Raymond and Michael stoking the fire. My job is to stir the pot!"

One thing is for sure, the band is not at a loss for material. Not surprisingly, Elmer Bernstein's Western film classic Theme from the Magnificent Seven, a longtime staple of Radiators shows, was in the set list. All of these players have a history with one another, built over the years at jam sessions with their own bands and one-offs with other special lineups. On stage today they showed familial camaraderie, casual virtuosity, and infectious joy. 

Mag 7 4

Mullins got right into the middle of the jams with a trombone solos loaded up from the start. Gros had strong, percolating funk solos and sang lead. Mullins did some vocal work as well. And, like any New Orleans band, the rhythm section was the secret weapon. Mercurio barely moves while he plays, but his bass work meshed perfectly with the wild cymbal technique of Weber while Skinkus got a chance to really show off his chops in a high-energy, rock environment. Dave and Tommy Malone have joined forces numerous times over decades of playing music, and they are quite different. Dave brings soaring leads and patiently worked out patterns. Tommy has more of a jazz touch. 

This was New Orleans music at its best. Thank heaven for texting! Here's some video I shot through the crowd at the Acura stage, and here they are doing Up on Cripple Creek last year at Tipitina's.

Mag 7 2

We were heading off to take a break, but as we apparached the Jazz and Heritage stage, we found it occupied by Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and the Golden Eagles. This is one of the top two Mardi Gras Indian funk bands going, and they are always woth taking the time to hear for awhile.

Big Chief Monk Boudreaux (Joseph Pierre Boudreaux) was born in New Orleans in 1941. He is widely known for his long-time collaboration with Big Chief Bo Dollis Sr. in the Wild Magnolias. He and Dollis are considered to be the originators of Mardi Gras Indian funk music and perhaps more importantly brought Mardi Gras Indian culture from one of shadowy gangs into the mainstream. And everyone is grateful for that. 

Unlike almost all the other tribes (except maybe the Wild Magnolias), the Golden Eagles, the people who are the real members of the group sewing suits and such, are all kin to Monk. It really is a tribe. As has been the case lately, Big Chief Monk's grandson J'Wan, who also sings in the great funk band Cha Wa, sang lead on a couple of tunes at today's performance.

Monk 1

I didn't get to experience Big Chief Monk for real until Day 4 in 2016 and also Day 4 last year, but had seen him before with the Midnite Disturbers (Day 4 in 2013). Plus he's been onstage with the Voice of the Wetlands Allstars any time Laurie has seen that group. Whenever you can see a legend, you should, and Monk Boudreaux truly is a legend. Here's the video I took today, and here's one more that I could find from today's show.

We both reluctantly left this performance early. Laurie headed for some food and the WWOZ tent before going to the Blues Tent.

As for me, it was time for my annual audience with the Soul Queen of New Orleans, the great Irma Thomas, looking and sounding better than ever at 76. She and her band, which she calls the Professionals, have a blast performing at Jazz Fest and, as I say every year, if she is there I will be there. 

Irma 2

Irma has been singing at Jazz Fest since 1974. As someone who has graced the stages of Jazz Fest for more than four decades, she has a unique appreciation for what the seven days at the Fair Grounds offers to both locals and the world.

"It's a big festival that really gives the local and when I say local, I mean not just New Orleans, but the state of Louisiana, musicians, an opportunity to be seen by people from other countries, not just other cities and states, but other countries," she said. "They're eager to soak up the talent that we have here."

Irma focused today on themes of love and lost loves while digging in to her early catalog, including Don't Mess With My Man, It's Raining, and Two Winters Long. One of her early recordings, Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand) (interview with Dick Clark at the end of this video is great) from 1964 has been featured several times on "Black Mirrors," a British science fiction TV series caught up in technology and paranoia. Irma was happy to remind the audience of what her version sounds like.

Irma 1

She also sang All I Know is the Way I Feel, True Believer, Love Don't Change, and There Must Be a Better World Somewhere. To honor a birthday request from a fan backstage, she sang the Etta James song I Would Rather Go Blind. 

Here's the cross-referencing on Irma, where you can see more videos and get more information on this outstanding woman: Day 4 in 2012, Day 11 in 2013, Day 4 in 2014, Day 4 in 2015, Day 9 in 2016, and Day 10 last year. I’ve also seen Irma in the Gospel Tent on Day 11 last year and in the BB King tribute on Day 11 in 2016

Rumor has it that Laurie snuck in to see some of this show on the opposite side of the Acura stage from where I was, as she was leaving the infield for the Blues Tent after eating and heard Irma singing Heart of Steel, which she recorded with Galactic.

Here's my video of Irma Thomas and the Professionals on the Acura stage today. 

My next stop was to meet Laurie at the Blues Tent, but (as usual) I got waylaid by another venue. This time it was the Jazz Tent, where Nicholas Payton was with a new group that he calls Too Black.

Payton 1

I saw Payton with his Afro-Caribbean Mixtape project on Day 9 in 2016 and Day 11 last year, and with completely different bands on Day 9 in 2013 and on Day 2 in 2015. You can read and hear a lot more from him at all of those places. He was also with the Trumpet Mafia on Day 11 in 2016 (and this year in the Daze Between to come). To me Payton represents the best in modern jazz. He is brilliant. He understands the roots of his music, and he is fearless in presenting it in unbelievably innovative ways.

Payton has talked a lot about Black American Music in recent years and for this show it looked like he was channeling Miles Davis and his bands from the late 1960's "Bitches Brew" era to the mid-1970's. It was also the coolest looking band at JazzFest this year, and I have absolutely no problem in anyone emulating Miles from that era, as long as they are as good as Payton!

Payton 2

Once known only for his trumpet playing, Payton also plays keyboards and here, as he has done other times that I have seen him, he alternated, and sometime played both at the same time. The opening funky tune in this show, however, involved backing singers chanting 'Nicholas Payton' to introduce him. 

Payton then introduced a tribute to Bobby Hutcherson, titled the same, and a touch of humor with ABC – Anything But Chardonnay, inspired, he explained, by sitting in airport lounges. A tribute to George Duke, The Duke of George followed, by which point Payton had displayed that he has some formidable talent behind his ideas.

I did not see nearly enough of what looked like a fantastic performance. I was outside the tent in the back again, where the sound was good if not the view. Here is the video I took today.

I grabbed some food as I continued on to the Blues Tent. I had the Goi Cuon (Spring Roll) from Ba Mien Vietnamese Cuisine, which is located in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans East, home to a fairly large Vietnamese population. 

Shrimp, crisp vegetables, and cool vermicelli noodles are wrapped inside rice paper with a touch of mint and served with peanut sauce. It's perfect on a warm afternoon. You can find references to our experience with this great food at Day 2 in 2013, Day 3 and Day 10 in 2015, and Day 9 in 2016. There were probably other time not documented. 

Incidentally, Laurie's food during this time apart was Crawfish Bread from Panorama Foods. We've had one of their breads more than a dozen times over the years, so the cross-referencing is officially over for this one. There's not much more to say about crawfish tails (or shrimp or hot sausage) and cheese baked in a tasty bread.

Tab 1

Laurie and I met at the Blues Tent to see the last part of Tab Benoit’s performance there. You can read more about Tab and get links to a lot more of his music at Day 9 in 2013, Day 11 in 2015, Day 3 in 2016, and Day 11 last year. 

Tab 2

Not only that, Laurie saw Tab's Voice of the Wetlands All Stars band yesterday and on Day 8 last year, and we both saw bits of this group on Day 3 in 2013 and Day 9 in 2015. We also saw him at the Rock 'n' Bowl in 2014 on Day 4. And we saw him at the State Theater in Falls Church in May 2015, where we actually spent some time talking with him after the show. I guess you could say we are fans.

It wasn't nearly enough time with Tab, but as you can see we have seen him plenty, and to be honest I prefer his music on an outdoor stage. The Blues Tent is good for some acts, but not zydeco like they sometimes put in there and definitely not swamp rock like Tab.

At this time Laurie had no other purpose than to see David Byrne over at the Gentilly stage. When the headliners are on at that stage, we generally hang out toward the back. The sound there is excellent, and there is always a good view of at least one of the video boards. For this performance I have never seen the Gentilly crowd as large, but find a spot we did, shortly after the 5 p.m. show began. I didn't stay very long. I love David Byrne, but just needed to roam. I probably should have stayed. By all accounts, including Laurie's (the only one that really matters), it was one of the best Jazz Fest shows ... ever.

Byrne 2

When Byrne appeared on the stage, he took a seat at a small table and began calmly pointing out the regions of the human brain on a pink plastic facsimile as he sang a song entitled Here. He was, as always, a weird, hip, cunning version of Mr. Rogers. "Here too many sounds for your brain to comprehend / Here the sound gets organized into things that make some sense / Here is something we call elucidation / Is it the truth? Or merely a description?" From there on, the show took off from a visual standpoint, which was exactly what you'd expect from Byrne. He was joined by 12 musicians who were rigged with portable instruments and wireless mics so they could travel freely and join him in continuous Byrne-like robotic choreography. No amplifiers, mic stands, monitors, banks of instruments, or drums were visible on the stage. It was an innovative, shape-shifting presentation.

Byrne 1

Everyone in the group wore identical pale gray suits. All wore pale brown shoes, except for Byrne, who was barefoot. He did a few new compositions along with the Talking Heads tunes most of the crowd came to hear. These included Once in a Lifetime, Slippery People (which borrowed some of its arrangement from Mavis Staples, who covered the song with the Staple Singers and played up the song's soul underpinnings and praise elements), This Must Be the Place (Naive Meody), I ZimbraBorn Under Punches (The Heat Goes On), and Burning Down the House. All songs were executed virtually nonstop with surgical precision, crystalline clarity and controlled verve (we're talking about David Byrne after all).

Byrne 6

It was a remarkably innovative presentation, especially in a festival setting. Making it even more impressive was how it all sounded. Byrne's unique voice made use of subtle changes in inflection and tone; he is so precise that any slight shift makes for high drama. And the musicians built one churning, danceable groove after another. The whole show was done with a playfulness in keeping with the spirit of much of Byrne's music, which considers our world with detached bemusement. The question, "Well, how did I get here?" in Once in a Lifetime boils his artistic self down to a single line. 

Byrne 7

He closed the show politically with a rendition of Janelle Monae's song Hell You Talmbout, which includes a recital of the names of victims of police violence. Considering the snappy new songs, the radical free-range band, Byrne's obvious fitness and the overt activism at the end, the show didn't have the nostalgic feel of some of the usual Jazz Fest headline acts, despite the fact that Byrne is a silver-haired 65 year-old.

Byrne has consistently reconsidered rock conventions. In 1980, the band broke with punk orthodoxy on "Remain in Light," where the ususal song structure was replaced by something less rigid, and the headlong charge driven by electric guitars and drums became a psychedelic, African-influenced swirl of rhythm and voices in conversation with each other. The vision of the band as a gang morphed into the band as a musical community. Byrne and director Jonathan Demme approached 1984's "Stop Making Sense" first as a theatrical experience instead of a simple concert documentary.

Laurie enjoys the headliners that she chooses to see, avoiding the dinosaur oldies acts, and she is almost always rewarded. Here's a quick video I took so you can see the huge crowd at this performance.

Byrne 3

As for me, I hit the Gospel Tent twice, plus two other stages. First was Tyrone Foster and the Arc Singers. Based out of the St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Carrollton, Foster and his buoyant group of youths could restore the faith of even the most jaded.

The Day 4 report from 2016 contains the story of Tyrone Foster, how he got his start with the Gospel Soul Chirldren, and how he turned the Arc singers from a small church youth choir into an all-inclusive, nondenominational community youth choir group with sometimes up to 100 members. 

There aren't many places outside New Orleans where kids would be chomping at the bit to join a church choir, but such is the infectious joy Foster and his Arc Singers display in their performances. 

Part of the success of the Arc Singers comes from the backing band, which boasts one of the finest rhythm sections in the city. Cornell Williams, from Jon Cleary's band the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, lays down the blessed bass lines along with organist Keith Logan, keyboardist Jeffrey Jones, drummer Adrian Smith, and percussionist Reginald Green. These five play every Sunday at St. Joan, creating a tight bond that is both musical and spiritual. Says Foster, "They know me and each other so well. They can sense when I'm about to do something different, something unexpected. No words are necessary." The Arc Singers' material is based on the works of contemporary gospel greats like Kurt Carr, Kirk Franklin, and Hezekiah Walker. 

Here are Foster and the Arc singers in the Gospel Tent today. There are some more videos in the Day 4 report linked above.

After a quick break at the WWOZ tent, I was headed to the Jazz and Heritage stage, but the Gospel Tent pulled me in again, this time to hear the City of Love Music and Worship Arts Choir from New Orleans. This was an unbelievably enthusiastic group, with cheerleaders roaming through the crowd, people carrying big signs with logos and hashtags, and a very, very boisterous choir, with plenty of over-the-top soloists and dance moves trying to snap the people out of their late-afternoon doldrums.

Lester Love is the Pastor of The City of Love. Born in Mississippi and raised in New Orleans he joined Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church in 1980. He immediately began volunteering in ministry and eventually found his place as the First Assistant to his Pastor, Bishop Paul S. Morton Sr. In 1997, Bishop Morton asked then Elder Love to serve as the Interim Pastor for a local church whose Pastor had fallen ill. Eventually, Love became the Senior Pastor of what is now The City of Love. In 2006, he was consecrated as Bishop under by the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship.

He travels across the country and abroad, presenting leadership sessions for other ministries and corporations that encourage one to maximize his fullest potential. The choir reflects that philosophy.

City of Love 1

Love's talents also include singing. He was featured soloist on the recording "Where Love Abides," which won a Big Easy Award for Best Gospel. He has served as the host of the Essence Music Festival Gospel Tribute and the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration Red Carpet.

Here is the City of Love Music and Worship Arts Choir in the Gospel Tent today.

Miller 2

After some time with the City of Love, I resumed my trip to the Jazz and Heritage stage. On stage were Dr. Brice Miller and the Mahogany Brass Band. This is very modern brass band music, but not in the hip-hop sense that a lot of the younger brass bands are adopting. Rather, Miller updates the traditional New Orleans jazz from a modern jazz and blues-type perspective. It's really good. 

We saw this band on Day 2 in 2013 and Day 11 last year, where you can read and hear a lot more about Dr. Miller and the group. 

Here is my video of the Mahogany Brass Band from today. And here is the page for their Munck Music live recording so you can get more of what they sounded like today.

Miller 1

I tore myself away from this final cube of the day at the Jazz and Heritage stage to head over to the Fais Do Do stage to end my Jazz Fest day with Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers. I experienced the Jimi Hendrix of the accordion last year on the shortened Day 4 (where you can read a lot more about him), and was wowed by this guy's unbelievable work on the accordion. The band was wild, too. 

Dopsie 1

Dopsie's performance was just as crazy this year, and we were treated to a Dopsie second line as he came down into the crowd at the end of the show.

In Louisiana, the name Dopsie is considered zydeco royalty. The family has entertained audiences around the world with its high-energy music.

Rockin' Dopsie, the zydeco accordion player and band leader from Carencro, Louisiana, was one of the early masters who brought zydeco to the world. He called himself the "crown prince of zydeco." Since his death in 1993, Dopsie's sons Tiger Dopsie, Dwayne Dopsie, Anthony Dopsie, and David Dopsie, the man known as Rockin' Dopsie Jr., have become the royal family of zydeco. 

Their real family name is Rubin, but their father became Dopsie when he first started playing music. "My daddy said he got the name from a guy that danced jitterbug from Chicago," said Rockin' Dopsie Jr. "He used to be a jitterbugger and his name was Dopsie, and when he died, my daddy took the name as a young kid and started playing accordion and he called himself Little Dopsie." 

Tiger played drums in his father's band, Jr. played the washboard, and Anthony took over the accordion after Sr.'s death.

"He was a different kind of accordion player," Anthony said. "You got some guys that play single notes, one note at a time, man he could play like three, four notes at one time and it made the most beautiful harmony."

Learning to play by watching Sr. was difficult. "He played left-handed so he played upside down," Dwayne said. "I play right-handed, so it was hard to follow."

"Me and Dwayne can both sound like him, play like him and everything and all, he was just a different breed, he came from the blues," Anthony said.

Dwayne was in ninth grade when his dad died. The other three brothers were already playing in their father's Zydeco Twisters, so Dwayne formed the Zydeco Hellraisers. It's obvious that Sr. also taught his sons how to be showmen.

Here is my video of some of Dwayne Dopsie's performance today, and here's a whole hour recorded this year in Yerevan, Armenia, of all places.

Our two final shows ended at about the same time. Laurie met me at the back of the Fais Do Do area and we got to the buses and back downtown pretty efficiently once again. That aspect of the shuttle service has improved a lot this year, although I will say that the crowds were not especially overwhelming any of the three days.

We went just down the street for dinner tonight, to the Loews Hotel and Cafe Adelaide. It's a restaurant we've wanted to try for quite some time now, and it's a good thing we did, because it has since been closed and replaced by another bistro-type place called Poydras and Peters (for the street corner upon which it sits).

Hotel restaurants are almost always boring. But if a hotel cuts a deal with a well-known restaurant, they avoid this stigma. And, with luck, you get a beautiful, good restaurant where there might otherwise be none. Cafe Adelaide was a fine example of this. The operators were Ti Martin and Lally Brennan, whose main restaurant is Commander's Palace, probably the quintessential New Orleans restaurant.

The place was named for Adelaide Brennan, she of the first generation of the Brennan restaurant family. She was legendary for her celebratory approach to life, and her familiarity with everybody of importance in New Orleans. The perfect host. The decor reflected that, as the place had a mid-century feel to it, with three huge paintings of her on one wall.  

Adelaide had a terrific bistro kitchen, and the bar, called the Swizzle Stick, was known for its creative cocktails. The whole thing was a kicky, casual branch of Commander's Palace, with an accessible, interesting menu. The food was more rustic than at Commander's, with ingredients and techniques that had a homestyle quality. 

More beer! I had a NOLA Brewing's Green Wave, a krystallweizen, while Laurie had Second Line Brewing Company's West Coast IPA. 

We shared a salad with tart blueberries, lemon ricotta, nutty granola, and julienned mirliton. I had an ancho-honey glazed pork loin served with a mixture of red cabbage, radish, mango, avocado, and baby lettuces. Laurie had Cajun-spiced Gulf black drum with toasted couscous, tri-colored peppers and spinach on a tomato-onion puree. No dessert, unfortunately and ultimately regrettably.

And now this year's edition of the Daze Between begin! There certainly won't be as much music, but we still gotta eat!


© Jeff Mangold 2012