Jazz Fest 2015 – First Weekend

This is already the wettest Jazz Fest I can remember, and it’s barely half over. It’s not unusual to see rain once between both weekends, but we saw thunder showers on both Friday and Saturday. That didn’t detract from my enjoyment, partly because I managed to stay try until later in the afternoons. It’s one thing to get drenched at the start of the day, but by the time the closing act rolls around, nobody cares anymore.

My brother Jeff was in town this weekend for the festival, so I had another break in my usual solo festing. I also drove myself to the festival each day, which is a first for me. I also got exceptionally lucking in finding a great parking spot. It’s relatively secluded but only a couple blocks from the Gentilly entrance.

We started the first day of the fest in the Jazz Tent where NOCCA product John Michael Bradford headlined the first set in the Jazz Tent. I’ve seen him play numerous times since he was a little kid, and it’s been fun watching him grow into a superb trumpet player. Jeff and I parted ways after that performance and I went to see Brass-a-Holics. We nearly reunited later for the closing act, Keith Urban. He was about ten paces closer to the stage than me. I’m not a country music fan, buy I did enjoy Urban’s performance. A light rain persisted through most of the set, but but was cut short by lightning nearby.

The rain continued on Saturday, and I spent most of that day in tents. I saw the New Leviathan Oriental Fox-Trot Orchestra in Economy Hall. After a detour to Gentilly for the tail end of Tank and the Bangas, I retreated for the Jazz Tent for a couple hours and heard The Wee Trio, Ellis Marsalis and Jeremy Davenport.

And the end of Saturday, I had to miss Treme Brass Band to catch The Who at the Acura Stage. Having never seen them live, I had no expectations and enjoyed their faithful renditions of everything from “My Generation” to “Eminence Front.” A lot of the people around me had a lot more experience with their music. One gentlemen I was standing next to saw them live in 1968, when my dad was nine years old.

Sunday was the highlight of the weekend for me. I spent most of the day up front at the Gentilly Stage. I wanted a good spot for Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. The two acts preceding them were also great, so it was no chore camping out there. Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra put on a great show with special guest Dee Dee Bridgewater, a Grammy-winning jazz singer. Allen Toussaint followed them and delivered a fine performance with his sizable ensemble.

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga closed out the first weekend at the Gentilly Stage. I saw Tony Bennett during the 2009 Jazz Fest, but this was the first time I’d ever seen Lady Gaga perform. On the face of it, there’s no reason to think a partnership between the two should work, but it just does. Tony and Lady Gaga have excellent chemistry together. I was sorry to learn later after I got home that many people there for the show didn’t have a particularly enjoyable experience because they couldn’t hear the performance, both because the malfunctioning speakers in the back and the enormous sound bleed from Pitbull’s performance nearby at Congo Square.

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