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.

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