With weekend one of Jazzfest in the books, I find myself in the middle of my annual between-weekends breather…a three-day laundry, work, and sleep cram session before weekend two cranks up. I love these three days because I’m not completely worn out yet (check with me next Monday), and I’m still on that awesome music, yummy food high. Every year, I find myself reliving the first weekend during these three days…reflecting on each day, discussing them with my fest partner, and trying to determine my favorite parts. It’s tough, since there’s really no such thing as a bad day at Jazzfest, but some moments shine a little more brightly than others. Here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order. And yes, there were several inches of rain and acres of mud, but that didn’t put a damper on our fun.
•My first time seeing the Revivalists — I had been told numerous times how great The Revivalists were but their shows had always conflicted with other acts I wanted to see. This year the scheduling stars aligned, and I was able to catch their set. They performed in the midst of a steady rain, but it didn’t stop them from putting on an amazing show, complete with vocalist Dave Shaw trekking out in to the poncho-clad audience on more than one occasion. Big Sam even helped out on trombone. This is one band worth scheduling a day around.
•Mardi Gras Indians on the Jazz and Heritage Stage — Mardi Gras Indians are fascinating to me. The history (Google it!); the elaborate, hand-beaded costumes that not only tell a story, but provide those of us with cameras some incredible photos; the singing/chanting, led by each tribe’s chief. I find myself drawn to this stage more than any other, especially on days that I hit the fairgrounds solo.
•Al, the parking guy — For the past few years, I have paid the reasonable price of $20/day to park in a small grass lot sandwiched between two shotgun houses just minutes away from the main gate. Al, an elderly gentleman who owns the lot and squeezes as many cars as possible into that little space in order to maximize his income, has become my friend. He knows Kyndall and I as seven-day, full-day fest-goers, and he seems to appreciate this. He refers to Griff as “cool breeze” and asks about him when he’s not with us. We were a little concerned to see him using a cane this year, but it hasn’t seemed to slow him down much. Starting and ending each day with Al is a big part of our Jazzfest experience.
•Loretta’s praline-stuffed beignets — Do I really need to explain why these make the list? Beignets…good. Pralines…good. A beignet fried with a praline stuffed in the middle, resulting in a liquid praline filling…oh my! The review I read prior to purchasing this little square of deliciousness said that, while they’re small, they’re rich enough that they should be shared. Haha…sharing it…that’s cute.
•The Gospel Tent — Kyndall and I made our first visit to the Gospel Tent a few years ago, in an attempt to cool off and get off our feet. (The tent contains fans and misters, as well as folding chairs.) What we discovered were some incredible singers belting out some old hymns with a passion you don’t hear in just any church. We went to this tent last Sunday without checking the schedule and, lucky for us, arrived just prior to the Zion Harmonizers’ show. Their rendition of “People Get Ready” was moving, and a repeat of last year’s “I’ll Fly Away” brought audience members out of their seats and into the aisles. One of last year’s fans danced about, twirling the same umbrella he carried last year, while wearing the same shirt. Must be his Zion Harmonizers attire.
•Monsoon Charades — The rain began to pick up on Saturday, and Kyndall and I decided it was the perfect time to check out our favorite photographer Frank Relle’s work. Moments after we entered his small tent, what was a steady rain became a full-fledged storm, and Frank was forced to close the tent to protect his work. In a strange turn of events, we found ourselves playing charades with Frank, Michele Gleason (wife of Steve, former Saint and ALS advocate), and a few complete strangers. Bizarre, yes, but it was a fun place to wait for the storm to pass.
•Cochon de lait poboys — I could try to explain to you how absolutely delicious this smoked pork shoulder on top of shredded cabbage and topped with creole mustard sauce all stuffed in a bun really is, but it just isn’t possible. Come and try it for yourself. It’s the best food item at Jazzfest in my opinion, and that’s saying a lot!
•Keith Urban — Kyndall and I both cast a wide net when it comes to the music we listen to, but we’ve never been fans of country music. We do love Keith Urban on American Idol, however, (yes, we watch AI…don’t judge), and we wanted to catch part of his show on the main stage. We assumed we would not be able to get close but still wanted to check the Keith Urban box, even if we were only able to see him on the big screens from the back of the crowd. When lightning began streaking toward the ground during Wilco’s set on a neighboring stage, we decided we should head to the Acura Stage to hear a Keith song or two before the night ended. The rain picked up, and we began running toward the stage against the massive crowd heading for the exits. Apparently, all the performers had been asked to end their shows for safety reasons, but Keith played three more songs, coming out into the crowd in a driving rain storm to sing with those of us crazy enough to brave the storm. He was talented, funny, and charming, and we were even familiar with the songs he was singing. Not that he needs us, but he gained two new fans Friday night.
•Seeing Troy the Saints fan at the refreshment stand — While ordering water at one of the beverage booths, I realized that the man taking my $9 was Troy (last name unknown), who had Saints season tickets in front of us in 2001 and 2002. He was shocked I recognized him, and he actually remembered us after I told him we were the family with the little Saints cheerleader and the baby who slept through almost every game. I got a genuine hug, along with a “you made my day” and that made my day, as well.
•The Who — There are some bands that are such legends (and I’ll just say it, so old), that you assume you will never have the opportunity to see them. For me, The Who was one of those bands. I was surprised when they were announced as part of the lineup, and I knew this was one show I couldn’t miss, although I wasn’t sure how they would sound after all these years. The two hours they spent performing their many hits were two of the most entertaining concert hours I have ever experienced. From very near the front row, we cheered and sang along, knowing this would be one of our Jazzfest moments. The only thing missing was Griff, who woke up feeling sick and took a pass on seeing one of his favorite bands. Kyndall vowed to take him to one of their future shows, and I know that’s going to cost me someday. 🙂
I can’t wait for weekend two, with Elton John, local favorites Maggie Koerner and Trombone Shorty (see them if you can), and Lenny Kravitz, all on the schedule. All that, a sunshine-only forecast, and the greatest festival food on the planet seems like a recipe for making some pretty great memories. You should come!