Despite half the first Sunday getting rained out, this year’s Jazz Fest had some of the most enjoyable weather I can remember. With a hint of fall in the first weekend, and comfortable temperatures extending through the second weekend, I was actually dry for quite a lot of the festival. I’m usually sweating profusely the whole time. Last year I lost 10 pounds while enjoying all the excellent and hardly healthy food Jazz Fest has to offer.
There were some things not to like this year. The lineup was pretty weak compared to previous years, with no blockbuster headliners. That in itself didn’t bother me as I would be quite content to see fewer “big name acts” and the crushing crowds that come with them. Pairing that with even more expensive tickets this year at $80 a day, however, was upsetting.
I heard a lot of great music over both weekends, much of it “accidentally,” especially during the second weekend. There were very few bands on the schedule I was married to. I didn’t have that many acts highlighted as “must see” and wandered around more than I usually do. I briefly saw my brother Jeff and his new wife on the first Saturday after Treme Brass Band, but we didn’t get to hang out much.
I spent a little more time with my friend Lindsay, along with her mother and niece. I met up with them at the end of the second Saturday and Sunday. I met up with them for Stevie Wonder on the second Saturday. We were along the track at bridge 4 in a distant but decent spot. Unfortunately the sound bleed was horrific from Snoop Dogg at Congo Square. That was compounded by other sound issues with Stevie. From where we were, it sounded like half the band was missing in action and the half we could hear was playing through a tin can. After about a half hour we abandoned the Acura Stage and retreated to the blues tent for the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. I had never heard of them but was quite impressed with the hour of their set we did see.
On the closing Sunday I met up with them again when I left The Meters early. They put on a great show but it had a jam session vibe that I was not particularly enamored by. They were just outside the blues tent where Blues Traveler was playing. It was packed to the rafters and they played a great show. I was able to weasel my way to the front near the end to shoot some pictures.
Speaking of photography, I took nearly 13,000 pictures at this year’s festival… far more than necessary, but I did feel more disciplined than I have in previous years. I’m getting better about not pulling the trigger on shots I know I won’t keep. As I write this on the Friday after the second weekend, I have only uploaded one day or photos. I’ll probably spend another two weeks working on them.
Outside of incremental improvements in my technique, one of the biggest changes on the photography front this year was the addition of a runway extending from the middle of the Acura Stage towards the crowd. It lets performers get a lot closer to the general admission crowd than they have in the past. I was up near the rail for Harry Connick, Jr. and was able to get some remarkable close-up shots. It also provided some great photo-ops during Jon Batiste and Stay Human, even though I was not nearly as close to the stage. I did not see many acts at the Acura stage this year but I hope that runway is present next year and I have more chance to take advantage of it.
This entry is already running long and I haven’t said much about the great music. I’ve never had any skill in articulating detailed assessments on music. Either I like it or I don’t. I’ll end with the following list of all the bands I saw this year.
Friday, April 28:
David L. Harris
Stephanie Jordan Big Band
Mokoomba of Zimbabwe
Harry Connick, Jr.
Saturday, April 29:
First Baptist Church of Vacherie Mass Choir
Xavier Universal Jazz Ensemble
Connie and Dwight Fitch with the St. Raymond & St. Leo the Great Choir
Treme Brass Band
Jon Batiste and Stay Human
Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience
Sunday, April 30:
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Thursday, May 4:
Southern University Jazzy Jags
Loyola University Jazz Ensemble
Jesse McBride Big Band
Corinne Bailey Ray
Tower of Power
Friday, April 5:
Davell Crawford & One Foot in The Blues
Earth, Wind, and Fire
Saturday, May 6:
Glen David Andrews Band
Tank and The Bangas
Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band
Sunday, May 7:
The Rocks of Harmony
Khari Allen Lee & the New Create Collective
Bill Summers & Jazalsa