Thursday, September 8, 2016

2016 Rhythm and Roots Festival, Charlestown RI

2016 marked my 30th consecutive year  partaking in the annual music festival  held in RI over Labor Day weekend in one form or another,   I started out at the Cajun Bluegrass festival in Escoheag as a day tripper in 1987-88, then a volunteer from 89 - 99 (including the transition to Rhythm and Roots and its first year at Ninigret park).  That was followed by 12 years as a paying weekend camper, because I hated to miss out on any of the festival.  In 2012 I joined the volunteer ranks again, partly to take advantage of the 1-day early access afforded volunteers  - so we don't have to stress about getting there at the crack of dawn on Friday and wait in line for hours.   So even though I haven't chronicled this festival since 2010, I think such a milestone year deserves a Festive Living entry!    Looking back on 2010, I noticed it was similar in some ways,  with its threat of a hurricane that never really materialized but was enough of a warning to cause us to miss a portion of the festivities.  Not stuff on the schedule, mind you, but in 2010 we got a late start and missed out on the Friday afternoon socializing.  This year we packed up early and left after the last act on the main stage so missed the last 12 hours in the campground.

When we arrived on Thursday afternoon there was some light rain but it stopped pretty soon amd  we were able to set up in a stress free environment, near some shade trees in the volunteer camping area. After catching up with a few other volunteers we headed down to Matunuck for a bite to eat at Tara's family pub, and then next to watch the last bit of pre-season football at the Ocean Mist while listening to the waves crash below.

The next morning we were spared the drama of trying to "claim our spot" but we did go over to help our friends with some of the set up when they arrived.  I felt so liberated becasue I had put in my volunteer time prior to the festival - creating 2 photo stand-in boards to be placed around the grounds for people to take pictures...

So I had time to ride my bike down to Charlestown town beach before heading back for happy hour at camp, listening to  Willie J  Laws on the radio broadcast from the main stage. Sounded great!

After a little nap and a shower I headed in to catch the Honeycutters on the Roots stage, the first of several brand new acts I had never seen before.  They were a good twangy country Americana band with a female lead singer /guitarist , stand up bass, and a pedal steel guitar.  One big improvement over years past was that one whole side of the tent had a wooden dance floor, so you had the freedom to stand or dance without upsetting people who like to sit.  It was good for everyone!

Got a call from a friend volunteering and camping there for the first time, so I went back to help her set up. Joe had just finished his shift backstage so we all headed back in to catch the last half of Matt Anderson. He was a festival favorite from a couple years ago when he  played there solo, but brought a band with him this time and brought down the house!

Watched some of the Knickerbocker All-stars then was going to see Dustbowl Revival but they seemed to be off to a slow start.  So we went to Donna the Buffalo in the big dance tent. They had a DTB groove, going,  before switching to  Creole mode  with Preston Frank and Ed Poullard.  Drifted back and forth between the two stages, enjoying a heaping  end-of-the night portion of spicy crawfish from Chili Brothers. then headed back to camp.  We had a little jam at camp, where some of my friends and I attempted some Lucinda Williams songs in anticipation for Saturday..(just in case Lu needed some help on stage LOL).

Saturday I started out with another new band, Guthrie Brown on the Roots stage. a talented young country singer / songwriter  and his band, from Nashville by way of Montana.  They had a nice kind of pop sound with some good harmonies.   Then it was back to the main stage for yet ANOTHER new band  - Hat Fitz and Cara.  They were my favorite discovery of the weekend, a very spirited duo, with just slide guitar and drums and sometimes tin whistle or harmonica. I am not normally a fan of tin whistle, but I like the way she played it.

 Thtey just had so much soul and a driving beat that made you want to get up and testify! which was no problem because the other great improvemnet this year was the abolition of the chairs and blankets in front of the main stage to allow plenty of room for standing/ dancing right UP FRONT as it should be. This was a long time coming, and was probably made possible by the 3rd improvemnet, the addition of some very clear screens on both sides that were on durnig the day (not just at night as in years past). So if you  were sitting further back in a chair you could still see, while those who wanted to get close were able to do so without causing a disturbance behind them, and could interact with the band.

It was great to see the "Gearls" again, Uncle Earl  Reunion with their kicked up old-timey tunes. Even though they hadn't played together in awhile, you;d never know it.  I also loved seeing my old favorite Taj Mahal, who I remember going to see at the Last Call in Providence so many years ago. Ended up with  a rocking set by Lucinda Williams.  It was one of the best closing sets at R&R ever especially because I got to share it with my friends dancing up front! All those songs we all know by heart and have probably sung along with on the CD's dozens of times , they're better together .... it's why we live for live music !  She eneded with her version of  Keep on Rockin' in the Free World.  It was one of the best Saturdays ever at Rhythm and Roots. But it wasn't over! 

Back in the camp I went to a few different jams, First with the bluegrass boys next door, then down to the Lucky Dawgs site where they  had a campfire and maybe 15 musicians and 30-40 spectators. There were 2 of us on accordion (the other guy had a digital/ electronic one that sounded different than mine)  some guitars, electric bass, fiddle, probably 5 members of  Extraordinary Rendition Band with the tuba,  some other horns and drums and various percussion people around .  After that I went to  Cajun jam, then back to the bluegrass with only a few people. They were all fun in a different way and I'm glad I stayed up late Saturday because we ended up taking down our camp Sunday morning due to the weather forecast, So Saturday night was my last chance to jam!

Sunday morning I got a text from my niece who was visiting from California.  She and my sister did not have time to attend the festival but were in the area, and I suggested we meet at the nearby Fantastic Umbrella Factory just outside the gates of Ninigret Park. We had a nice visit in the bamboo forest and the gardens, and shopped for some cool stuff. Again, I was glad for not having to work during the festival, so I had time to step out for a little while.  In all these years, that was the closest they have come to the festival. Maybe next year they'll be able to attend.

I returned in time to dance to Los Texmaniacs,  once again reveling in the open space in front of the Rhythm (main) stage under bright sunny skies.  No sign of a hurricane in sight, but we' d already taken down the pop-up camper and just had to go back and hitch it up for later. Then went back to hear  Steve Riley's new band, Orchestra Royal with Kevin Wimmer and Roddie Romero.  Kicked up some dust dancing to Dave and Phil Alvin.. Did I mention how much I liked the open area in front of the main stage???  Then wandered around while listening to  David Grisman, and back to the seats for Bruce Hornsby.   I had seen him with the Grateful Dead before but not on his own. He played some accordion in the beginning before going back to keyboards.. Then got really rootsy by playing  a few songs on dulcimer, accompanied by rubboard and mandolin. One of the last songs he did, back on keyboards,  was "That's just the way it is"  which made me accept the fact we were not staying overnight.  

In closing I can re-use some points from my 2010 blog - because they are still true:

  •  There is just not enough time for everything one wants to do at these festivals! (In 2016  I regretted missing some of my old favorite bands like Nathan and the Zydeco Cha-Cha's, and the Revelers  but I was happy to discover some new ones!  Also did not seem to get enough dances in with my husband, who did work during the fest) 
  •  All in all it was a wonderful weekend, it was great to see and hang out with everyone...and as usual it just went by too fast!
  • It used to be the Cajun festival / Rhythm and Roots on Labor day weekend was the last chance to jam for the year.. but now we have a couple of festivals next weekend - The Pawtucket Arts festival in Slater Park Sat/Sun, The Narrows Festival of the Arts on Sunday in Fall River, then Fresh Grass in North Adams the week after. 

Who says summer is over?

Friday, July 8, 2016

Festive Living Upgrade 2016

After camping in a Dodge conversion van for 12 years, Festive Living is upgrading our camping accomodations with the addition of a pop up camper that we plan to tow with our 2001 Dodge van.   The nice thing about the van is it serves as a second vehicle,  but is not really a camper.  It's a vehicle you can sleep in.  While more secure and comfortable than a tent, it can be cramped and gets hot with little air flow.  We  considered travel trailers, then found a deal on a 2007 Fleetwood Niagara at a local used car dealer in March.  This camper has all the features of a regular driving RV (including 2 king size beds, a toilet, shower, air conditioner).  When opened up it is more spacious and airy than a travel trailer, and would fit in our driveway better when closed.   It is one of the biggest pop-ups around, with high sides and a slide out dining room .  When we looked at it, was very clean inside, had no moldy smell or signs of leaks, and appeared to have been winterized as it had some pink antifreeze in the shower. There were a lot of others looking at it because it was a relatively low price and we had spring fever, so we pulled the trigger and bought it, "as is".  I figured even if we had to repair or replace some things it still would be worth it.

 Well lesson 1 is don't buy a camping trailer from a used car dealer who didn't actually use the camper, and cannot  guarantee the condition of anything.   (Even though he sells a lot of them!)  Once we started going through it, we discovered that almost everything had to be fixed or repaired in some way.   The hot water heater had a lot of sediment and did not work at first because it had never been cleaned or maintained There were some leaky pipes and the water pump didn't work. The fridge didn't run on gas because the gas line was clogged.    The outdoor shower wouldn't shut off and had to have a valve replaced. The inside sink needed new faucets.  All the fuses were blown and on and on.  My husband Joe went through everything and most of those things were not expensive to repair, but time consuming to troubleshoot.  Thank God for Youtube!

Besides showing how to fix a lot of components,  Youtube was a great resource for learning how to drive and handle the trailer.  We watched a lot of videos on how to tow and back up the trailer, and how to communicate with each other with one of us spotting from behind.   Backing up is the most challenging part and we don't have a huge yard/driveway so we spent a few Sundays practicing that.   One of the videos showed a couple using walkie talkies to communicate and that seemed like a good idea so we ordered some online. The walkie talkies are pretty good if you remember to hold the button down far enough before you start talking! Otherwise it just causes more aggravation. Hand signals are good too but you have to learn and use them.

Meanwhile between practicing, the good deal just kept getting better.  We had to buy new tires because it still had the original ones on.  Because of the weight of the trailer (3500 pounds) we had to get electric brakes installed and learn how to use them.  Then because we are using a van with low ground clearance, we decided to improve the rear suspension which cost $600.  Then there were all the accessories that we'd have to buy even if we had bought a new rig - hoses, cables, battery, gas tank covers, king size sheets, etc.  After spending about $1700  on repairs and accessories, finally we took the trailer out for a longer test run that included highways and hills and Joe felt the trailer swaying and bouncing a lot  - it seemed too risky.  We did some more research and found out about a weight distribution/ stabilizer hitch.  That cost another $600 and took about 4 hours for us newbies to install and adjust, with a few calls to the manufacturer's support line in Utah.

So now we are finally ready to take it out to a couple of festivals... Starting with Green River fest in Greenfield, Ma.  where we'll be camping in a nearby campground for 2-3 nights with hookups, then off to Grey Fox bluegrass festival in the Catskills, where we'll be roughing it in a farmer's field for 5 days and nights.  For what it's cost so far we could have spent 10 nights in the Ritz Carlton!  Or gone on another music cruise...But we hope to get the hang of it and have a few more years of Festive Living in style! We are also planning on  Podunk,  Rhythm and Roots and Fresh Grass and possibly a few others.  Maybe we can get the per night cost more in line with a Holiday Inn.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

PVDFest 2016

PVD Fest 2016

Saturday was a hot day and I had some stuff to do around the house, so I only went to the PVD Fest for a few hours in the evening, opting to take a RIPTA bus from East Providence rather than deal with altered traffic and parking. When I stepped off the bus  and saw the crowds , and people selling beer and cocktails in go- cups , it felt like being on Bourbon street!  Giant black and silver dinosaurs bobbing their heads high above the crowds, and all sorts of colorful characters including Big  Nazo puppets and members of the Extraordinary  Rendition  band made for a carnival atmosphere .  Kids were playing in a mountain of suds where someone  had set up a bubble machine on one of the side streets.  For the moment it  like I was in a whole different city, except running into a few local friends.  I had also met a kindred spirit on the bus and we had similar interest in what bands to see so we ended up hanging out together for most of the evening.

The first band I saw was Red Baraat, a Brooklyn  based band that fuses funk and northern Indian music together and is really high energy.  They got everyone up dancing right at the beginning by encouraging people to get up out of their seats and move closer.   After a few songs they called for a few dancers to come up on stage for a sort of contest.   I recognized one as a Zumba instructor who also teaches  Indian  dancing.   Two of the others were costumed members of extraordinary Rendition Band, so they almost looked like part of the show.   The music was so infectious we could not stop dancing but I had to use the bathroom, and found to my dismay they only had 3 port-a-potties near the main stage,,  so it was a long wait.

After Red Baraat we went to get something to eat at one of the food trucks, but some of them were out of food, and most had very long lines that were moving very slowly.  I ended up going to Haven Brothers.    They've been in business for about 100 years and are reputed to be the first diner in America.  The hot dog I had was nothing special, but they seemed to be the most efficient at catering to the large crowds.

After eating I went to catch what I thought was the Afro Cuban All Stars ( due to bad info from the volunteer staff) m but learned later it was a Puerto  Rican ensemble called Plena Libre. Many in the audience were salsa dancing.  I recognized some of the songs from Zumba so danced in my own style, then  headed home a little after 11:00.

Jorge Elorza, mayor of Providence, was quoted  in the local media as saying: “It  is my vision that this festival becomes something akin to South by Southwest in Austin or New Orleans’ Jazz Festival.”   Only in it's second year, PVD  Fest has potential to become a destination festival but I have a few suggestions to help make that happen:

1) IF YOU ARE GOING TO SELL BEER HAVE A LOT OF. PUBLIC  BATHROOMS,  This seems to be the case with most of the outdoor events I've attended in Providence.  How much can it cost to add more bathrooms?

2)  Have better info.  The printed brochure was confusing and hard to read, and the website was not much better.   The volunteers were not well versed in the performance locations or the schedule.   When I had asked where  the 2 bands I wanted to see were going to be playing they directed me to the wrong stages.  Luckily everything was running a little behind schedule (another flaw that worked to my advantage) .

3) If you are going to  encourage public transportation,  have extra buses!  The RIPTA  buses stop running shortly after 10 pm on Saturday and are not very frequent.  And Sunday is worse.  Luckily I was able to get a ride home with a friend but it would be better if the city could provide better transportation options so people could enjoy more of the Fest.   New Orleans and Austin do a pretty good job of this with the Jazz Fest and Austin City  Limits festival.

Despite these minor inconveniences, the PVD Fest was a really fun time.  Hopefully they will learn a little more each year so it will continue to grow and attract more visitors to our unique city, like the Lowell  Folk  festival.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Bluegrass on the Bogs 2016

Bluegrass on the Bogs takes place  in May and for many of us, it is the first outdoor camping / music festival of the season in New England.   Now in its 11th year, 2016 was my 3rd time attending this regional festival  that features bluegrass and other acoustic/ string bands from  all over New England and New York.   Because so many of us know each other from going to other festivals and jams in the area, it feels a lot like a family reunion, especially since it is early in the season and some people may not have seen each other in a while.   For the past few years it has been held at Camp Kiwanee, originally a summer home for a wealthy Boston lawyer, then a camp used by the Campfire Girls, and is currently owned by the town of Hanson MA.   The piney wooded setting is peaceful and rustic, with very simple cabins to sleep in (no heat or electricity , just cots)  and some space for tents and RV's.  There are also actual bathrooms  and free hot showers, which is a bonus for anyone who is used to camping at other festivals that only have port-a-potties and makeshift showers.

Needles Lodge, photo by John Phelan,,_Camp_Kiwanee,_Hanson_MA.jpg 

On the grounds is big lodge with a wrap-around veranda and gazebo in the back.  The back porch has steps that lead down to the pristine Lake Maquan.  The building used to be the summer home, and is now often rented out for weddings and other functions but is not open for the festival, although we can sit on the porch and enjoy the view.  There are some trails through the woods, where some people set up tents to camp in more secluded areas, unlike our camp neighbors who had set up  tents all over the place in between the cabins in order to be close to the music, vendors, bathrooms, etc.  They sacrificed privacy for convenience.

Friday night's lineup was solid, starting out with a couple of  traditional sounding bluegrass bands,  then ending up with 3 Berklee based string bands that play a combination of bluegrass and other roots style music.

 6:30 PM Local Freight                                    
  7:30 PM Bill Thibodeau Band
  8:30 PM Damn Tall Buildings
  9:30 PM Chasing Blue
10:30 PM Lonely Heartstring Band
We really are lucky to have so many  talented,  up-and-coming bands in the area. Most of them were familiar to me, but Damn Tall Buildings was a new one, lots of energy. Can't wait to see them again at Podunk!

After the show it was a little cold, so we went to sit by the fire with our neighbors Mike and Natalee, under the full moon.  Just because it's called a bluegrass festival doesn't mean that is the only kind of music you hear.  There are usually a few good real bluegrass jams then a mix of other styles.  The people camping on the other side of us  were in a band called Wheelhouse Rodeo with a ukelele, some drums, electric bass, banjo, guitar and were doing  a lot of the same fun original songs over and over, obviously practicing their set for the next day so I didn't want to jump in with them.   I brought my accordion out to some other jams. When I have my accordion with me I seek out the less traditional jams. There was one with a few guitars, where they were playing some blues and jazzy instrumentals, then later on I went down the hill for a sing along type jam of classic rock and other stuff.   At those kind of jams there's always some inebriated folks who think the musicians are a karaoke machine and can play whatever pops into their head. So you might end up trying to play some songs you never tried before, and had no idea you could play! But it's still fun.

Saturday morning,  they offered  2-hour classes for a fee, with musicians from some of the bands that would be playing that day.  I decided to take the fiddle class with Bronwyn Keith-Hynes, from the band Mile Twelve.  She is only in her early twenties, but has been playing fiddle since she was about 3 and teaches professionally through Berklee college, from which she graduated in 2013 with a degree in violin performance.   There were five of us in the class, which was held on the porch overlooking the pond - a beautiful setting for learning!  We worked through a bluegrass song called On and On, learning the melody, fills, chords, etc. and half-way through she went around to each of the  5 students and gave us some individual tips on technique.  Then we went back to the song, trying out the different parts. It was a good class, but after that I was kind of tired so went to rest and listen to Sinner's Pie on the main stage.

Now here was the best part (for me).  The other 2  times I've been to this festival, most of my friends have been  in bands that are playing there.  I am not in a band but love to jam with people after hours.  This year, I had the honor and privilege of playing in a group assembled for the occasion by my friend Ellen,  a vocalist who had played the festival the previous two years with Acousticana ( no longer together).  So "Ellen Breen and Friends" included Matt on guitar, Joe on fiddle/ guitar, Sal from Bill Thibodeau band on mandolin, Carol and Nelson from Sinner's Pie on vocal and bass, and myself on accordion.  We played a 30 minute set on the Pavilion stage.  It was fun because we have all played together in jam settings,  some have played together in bands, and the audience was mostly people we knew so it was a relaxed and uplifting experience.

After the show I went to watch Cold Chocolate, a trio of  guitar, upright bass, percussion - with a kind of jazzy / funky sound,  not  bluegrass, just really good acoustic music.  They describe themselves as "Bluegrass Funk",  Kirsten Lamb, the bass player is as much of a vocalist as bass player.  She is front and center not in the background like some bass players.

Highlight of the evening for me was seeing  Mile Twelve, the fiddle teacher's band. They are a young, hard-driving bluegrass band, another product of the thriving Berklee acoustic music scene.  I found it kind of funny the fiddle player is from Virginia but came to Boston to learn bluegrass.  The banjo player is also female and is from New Zealand and the two guys (guitar and bass) are from MA and NY.  They played some traditional as well as some originals, all done very well.  Watch for them at Grey Fox!

Went back to camp and after a while we got a jam going at our neighbor's site, where they had another nice fire. The threat of rain never really materialized except for a few sprinkles around 2:30 am, and that was my cue to pack it in for the night, but some of the others stayed up playing a bit later. I don't think it rained much at all.

Seems like most of the bluegrass festivals around here have some version of a Kids' Academy which I think was started at Grey Fox.  It's an important component to the festivals, a way to get kids involved and keep the tradition going.   Children register and spend time over the weekend learning some songs together, and on the last day they perform on the stage.  They take turns singing, soloing, and playing rhythm.    The Kids Academy at BOTB is run by the RI Bluegrass association.  They had a bigger turn out this year than last (as more people find out about it and plan for it).  Hats off to the Bog Squad and the RIBA teachers who coached them!

The weather Sunday turned out much nicer than expected  -  a washout was predicted but it ended up being sunny and pleasant... go figure!  Just goes to show you can't let the weather predictions rule your life.  So I was able to hang out and watch Monadnok before making the 45-mile  drive home.  I hope the rest of the festival season turns out as nicely as last weekend at Bluegrass on the Bogs!

I did not take any pictures (except for the one of the kids with my cheesy phone.) But there are lots of excellent photos on the BOTB Facebook page.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Friday at New Orleans Jazz Fest

Jazzfest  - Friday 4/29

My plan for our last day at Jazz Fest was to camp at the Fais do-do stage,  to see Feufollet, Creole String Beans, and Honey Island Swamp band, with side trips to Gentilly  for Bonerama and the Revivalists  and Congo for Shamarr Allen, closing out at Acura with Paul Simon, whom I'd never seen before.  If we couldn't find a good spot at Acura we'd go back to Fais do-do for CJ Chenier.   It was sunny and breezy,  but the grounds were sure to be muddy from the day before, so I wore my old sneakers which were ready to be thrown out anyway, so I wouldn't mind if they got wrecked in the mud.  They were much better for walking than the hot rubber rain boots from yesterday.

We got there too late for Feufollet, so went for breakfast of Soft Shell Crab Po Boy and Crawfish Pie washed down with iced Cafe au Lait.  Ran into some friends from back home so we brought them over to the Threadhead meeting spot behind Ms Lena's beer stand.  That was a good place to eat in the shade, visit with friends and check in to our Southwest flight for the next day with the smartphone.   Across from there was the Belize Pavillion,  (every year at Fest they feature a different country) so we stopped in there to check out the display.  There was a drumming group playing , and 2 men carving instruments out of cedar, smelled so good! They let me try out the harp and the fiddle but I could not hear how it sounded with all the drumming.  The makers were going to play the instruments at 2:30 so I planned to return to see them.  They also had some really beautiful costumes and head dresses on display , that I could try on!

From there we finally headed over to Fais Do Do , too late to get a spot in the shade but we found room  for our little chairs near the back, unfortunately next to the Native American display where they were drumming nonstop between bands. We secured our chairs then went over to Gentilly for Bonerama and met up with a semi- international group of Thread-heads - Kathie and Greg from Canada, Jenn and Dave from New Orleans, ( flying an Aussie flag) , Bonnie from Boston, Mel from Louisiana, Matthew from Salt  Lake/ now residing in Poland.

Bonerama sounded great as usual,they did a cover of Led Zeppelin's Misty mountain hop, among other covers and originals.  There was a young blonde  kid maybe  10 or 12 playing guitar with them, I heard it was Matt Perrine's son.  How exciting to play in front of such a crowd!  After Bonerama  we were going to try and see a little of both Shamarr and Creole String Beans,  but decided it wasn't possible to see a good amount of both, so we made made our way back to our little chair camp at Fais DoDo.  Creole String Beans play swamp pop and Rock'n'roll  ala Fats Domino.   They had one pre-announced special guest (TK Hulin) and a surprise guest Bill Kirchen who kept things rocking.

On the break I went back to the Belize Pavilion to see the native instruments being played by their makers and learned they were keeping alive an  ancient Mayan musical tradition.    With all the noise from outside, it was hard to hear the string instruments until I went up by the  speakers.  The carved wooden harp and mandolin strung with nylon fishing line sounded about as primitive and basic as they looked.   But it had a soothing quality.  They play this music at all kinds of occasions on Belize, weddings, funerals, etc.

Returned to the chairs for Honey Island Swamp band.  Today was a really good day for finding friends - there were a couple of St. Louis Thread-heads  sitting in front of us.   HISB seemed to be playing a lot of new material, at least I wasn't too familiar with it (I only have their first CD) but it sounded good and rocking.  However the heat was getting to me ( even though we'd had a Mango Freeze while sitting there ) so I suggested a trip inside to the grandstand to cool off and use the real bathrooms.   As usual a very long line for the ladies room so I got to see a cooking demo waiting in line while Joe went to watch the band on the Lagniappe stage.     By the time I came out of the bathroom they were just getting ready to hand out samples of the dish - which was a vegan stir fried tofu with basmati rice, with a nice curry flavor.  Not New Orleans style but pretty good!  The chef explained she turned vegan after her mother died at  the age of 37 of heart disease  ( probably brought on by a southern meat-centric diet)

On the Lagniappe stage was a country bluesy rock band called Cary Hudson and the Piney Woods players.   This was my surprise of the day,  and so appropriate for a little something extra, or lagniappe as they say in Louisiana.  They sounded like early Rolling Stones ( eg. Hip Shake) or North Mississippi Allstars with the addition of a female singer and fiddle player.

Back outside to see the Revivalists on the big Gentilly stage. It had gotten a lot more crowded since Bonerama.  Music was good but unfamiliar, so I could not really get into it.  I can enjoy an unfamiliar band on a small stage, but to me, when it is so big it's hard to connect with if you don't  know the music.  We stayed for a while but never met up with anyone we knew there.  Returned to our chairs at Fais do-do where Los Lobos was doing an acoustic set of Mexican folk music, not their east L.A. rock sound.  This would have been good in a smaller venue but with all the background noise it was hard to hear from where we were so we packed up the chairs and headed over to Acura a little early where we found a spot in the bleachers.  I really like those bleachers, they are the sturdy wooden kind not flimsy aluminum and give a good vantage point.   It was almost the same spot we had been at the day before but way more crowded!   That's what a sunny breezy day and a big name headliner will do.

Paul Simon opened with a musical interlude of accordion and percussion  then into the opening track from Graceland (Boy  in the Bubble)  This was followed by "50 Ways to Leave your Lover" a couple of new songs then back to the tried and true like "Mother and Child Reunion" , "Me and Julio" , "Still crazy after all these Years " which really seemed to resonate with the crowd, who sang along.  A few more older songs  with the addition of pan flute ( I think ).  They sounded different but he sounded fine vocally and seemed upbeat with an acoustic guitar, wearing a white hat.  Good thing they have the big screens!  After about 45 minutes in the bleachers , I wanted to get down a little closer.  I could see the Threadhead flag flying over to the right near the inner track and we stepped our way through the muck to where my friend Neen was camped out with her Atlanta crew and other friends we know.  We were just in time  to dance to the zydeco -sounding  "That was Your Mother"   and listened to a few more familiar songs over there then said our goodbyes before heading out a little early to catch the bus, hearing a new song called "Wristband" on the way out.

All the walking  ( and restrained dancing)  over the past week had taken its toll on my knees! Instead of walking several blocks to Deanie's seafood we ate dinner at the nearby Cafe Giovanni, then went back up to hang out on the deck before packing up.  As they say,  Jazz Fest is a marathon not a sprint, and I was glad to enjoy the days I attended,   Even if it was only the half marathon.  That was plenty! And I was grateful for 3 good weather days out of 4.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Thursday at New Orleans Jazz Fest

Jazz Fest Thursday 4/28

Heavy rain was in the forecast for today so we headed straight for the blues tent while there were still plenty of seats available.   The Southern University Jazzy jags were on stage -  it was a large school band with 2 lead singers.  I got some food  to bring in ( Meaty white beans, Trout baquet and sweet potato pie)  so we were set for a while.   The rain started right on schedule, so Spencer  Bohren got play to a much larger audience than usual - there's always an upside to everything.  The band included  his son on drums, a woman named Aurora on accordion and clarinet, Alex McMurray on guitar, plus bass and B3.   They played mostly upbeat blues songs, some ballads, ( one where the son took  a turn on piano)  and a moving song about the impact of Katrina, called the Long Black Line ( referencing the  water marks on all the buildings).   Hard to believe it's been 10 years already!  At times the rain was so loud it sounded like applause, and you could see water gushing over the sides of the tent,  so we were in a good place.

Next up was Geno Delafose and French Rockin Boogie, a zydeco band I've seen numerous times at festivals back home.  Normally they would not play in the Blues tent, because that venue does not usually allow dancing - if you even get up to take  pictures, security hurries you back to your seat.  I am not sure why they booked them there instead of Fais Do Do.  If it weren't for the rain I wouldn't even have gone to the tent to see Geno, how can you sit still for that music?  However,  there were enough people determined to dance that they broke the rules and all the corners of the tent were bopping and two-stepping to the zydeco grooves of Uncle Bud, Johnny Billie Goat, Jongle a Moi and more.  They also had a much bigger audience due to the weather and featured other band members doing material I haven't heard them do before.  The bass player sang a really nice version of Tell it Like it Is, and the guitarist and rub-board player also took turns singing.

At the end of the set the sun came out, but I wanted to see Meschiya Lake again, because most bands kick it up a notch for their Jazz Fest set.   The band we had seen at the Patry was augmented by 2 swing dancers, and a couple of extra  horns, and she looked like a tattooed Rosie the Riveter.   I liked her version of Indian Red, and her version of Que Sera Sera almost brought tears to my eyes because I remember my mother singing that song when I was a kid.

When we left the tent we headed over to Gentilly to see Brandi Carlile.  They were playing the hit " Wherever  is your Heart" when we approached.  She looked so excited to be there, I think it was her first time playing the Jazz Fest.  The ground was wet and muddy and she kept thanking the audience for hanging in there, they didn't seem to mind.   The band was great and also added some really nice harmonies, especially on the song "the Eye" .   She mostly sang but also played guitar and piano and looked really cool,with her headband.   It was a really engaging performance, best of the day IMO.

After Brandi we headed over to get some Crawfish Monica then try out the bleachers at Acura for Tedeschi Trucks.   The bleachers are a new addition to the fairgrounds which they put up to alleviate the crowding of chairs on the track on busy days.  It was nice because we didn't bring chairs this day (as we spent so much time in the tent) and it was  cloudy so not too hot, and not crowded so we didn't have to climb up.  It was really far back but the sound was good and you could see the screens.  I've seen Susan Tedeschi before but not with this band.

They were great with a horn section, and I love her soulful bluesy singing.  After about 45  minutes they brought out some special guests, Jimmie Vaughan ("Let the a good times Roll" , "I Like it like that" ) the Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top joined them for a few, including a tribute to BB King.  skies threatening again, I started making my way out a little after 6 pm, but stopped by Economy Hall to hear a little of Tuba Skinny.

We lucked out and got right on a bus and were back at the hotel by 7:20.   My feet were hurting from walking around in rain boots  all,day so didn't go back out except around the corner for  a bite to eat.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

12th Annnual Threadhead Patry

Twelfth annual Threadhead  patry

For me and my friends, the  best part of the  Jazzfest week happens on the Tuesday between festival weekends, the Threadhead patry.  What began as a casual gathering of friends has turned into a mini Fest within the fest.   This article explains it pretty well

Here's  my take on the 12th edition:

We got on the #5 bus to the Marigny around 11:00 am to go to the old Ironworks and met up with some patry virgins.   After telling the newcomers "don't worry we know where to get off" we almost missed the stop because we were so busy yacking  with some other longtime friends/ patry goers who got on at the next stop.  When we arrived the line was pretty long and Meschiya Lake was already playing.  It takes a while to get in because we know everyone at the check in table and many in line, so you give and get a lot of hugs and chit chat along with your wristband.   However, it is a lot different than the early days when it was 50 then maybe 100 people.  Now there are over 300 guests and I would say I know about 100 of them.  The majority are also friends on Facebook.   My newsfeed comes alive on patry day!

They were serving brunch when we arrived, but I'd never seen Meschiya Lake & the Little Big Horns before so I opted to watch the show rather than eat, because the new people we'd  met on the bus said she's really something to see not just hear and they were right.  She sings old-time jazz/ swing music and sounds pretty traditional but is covered with tattoos and rocks the vintage look.  The band consisted of a New Orleans power trio (guitar tuba and drums) plus a multi instrumentalist who played fiddle and clarinet.  It was a good set to start with while sipping on a moonshine Bloody Mary ( all the food and drinks are included ) and dancing a little.

Near the end of the set I made my way inside and most of the breakfast food  was gone.  I got the last piece of spicy sausage with some grits and a really delicious donut.  That would hold me over til the crawfish was ready. Next  up on stage was the legendary rock band Royal Fingerbowl, led by Threadhead fave guitarist/ songwriter Alex McMurray.   I remember seeing them one of my first times at Fest around 20 ago and really liking them but then never again, I think they broke up.  So it was a good rocking/ eclectic set. Matt Perrine played stand up bass and they also had drums and B3.

Roddie Romero and the Hub  City all stars from Lafayette followed,  and to my surprise it was more of rock and roll sound. Last time I saw them they were more Cajun sounding, but that is probably because it was at Rhythm and Roots. There was an accordion on stage but Rod played guitar for the most part.  It was good upbeat music to dance to, as much as I could.  I was still a little hampered by my knee and and the uneven ground, but I really can't sit still when I hear good music.   Finally he picked up the accordion for a rocking version of Big Mamou, but to my dismay there was no rub board.  I played air rub board hoping for one to materialize but no  such luck.

The first 500 lbs of crawfish had gone quickly but the second batch was ready after Roddie Romero so I went I to have some.  Hot spicy and delicious! But such a mess. After I had my fill I cleaned up and went out to take my turn tending bar at the Moonshine table.   Midnight Moon was a sponsor this year but unlike New Orleans Rum and Zatarains, I guess the company didn't send any reps to dispense the product, so Threadheads signed up to take turns tending bar for one hour at a time. The Patry is a labor of love and many of us pitch In to help with check in, raffles, tending bar, cleanup.   Other times I've poured beer or helped with check in. None of these seem like work because you're meeting and talking to people the whole time, helping  everyone enjoy.   So we were dispensing premixed peach moonshine tea, bloody Mary's and other flavors like strawberry or blueberry mixed with lemonade or Sprite. It was the fastest  hour of the patry for me.  From that spot you ca hear the music fine, and can see a little.

At the end of my bar tending stint I went up front to catch the rest of Johnny Sansone.  He was going nuts on harmonica and looked so festive in a lime green print shirt.  During the last song he came out into the crowd and danced among us, what a wild man!  I though it might turn into a mosh pit with crowd surfing but that's the next generation.  We were moshing in our minds.

Cha Wa Mardi Gras Indian band were just perfect to have near the end of the day, because the late day sun made their colorful costumes look even more brilliant.  The two singers / were accompanied by 2 trombones, trumpet, tuba, guitar and b3 organ and drums. Lots of classic New Orleans songs and chants to remind us of the cultural component.

Last band was the Iron Funk all stars which appeared to be a version of Dumpstaphunk, and they didn't skimp on the funk! They did some good cover songs, like a funky version of David Bowie's  Fame and Steve millers Fly like an Eagle.  By now I was getting pretty tired and still couldn't resist dancing, but was ready to leave a few minutes before it ended to try and get a cab.  We waited a while then piled in to our favorite cab driver's van with 7 other Threadheads.   What a blast! A ten hour party sounds like a long  time but it just flew by! We are so lucky to be involved with this group. A day at the patry is like a bonus day at Jazzfest, every band that plays there has also played at the Fest, and all the food and drinks included you can't go wrong, especially being among so many friends in a more intimate setting than the fairgrounds. And let's not forget  the raffles,  both  online and at the party.   I don't want to quote the amount at the risk of being wrong, but it was a lot of money raised for  Threadhead Cultural foundation to help keep the music and culture of our beloved city alive, and come back for another one next year! To learn more about the Threadheads and all the projects we've supported over the years, please visit