Last Friday I attended the opening day of the 2015 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. I hadn’t been in probably more than 10 years, last heading out to the Fair Grounds sometime in college with my friend Michelle.
This year we had family in town, and a group of us made a day out of it. Nola was supposed to go, but festing is not really her thing. So we made a trade: she took care of Rory all day and picked up Riley from school, and I took her ticket. Worked well for both of us.
Aunt Dawn’s birthday was yesterday, so that was our main reason for going to the Fest. Our group consisted of me, Nopsi, Aunt Dawn, Uncle Bill, and Aunt Elena. (We also saw QP and James for a bit, and I randomly ran into Kat, Ryan, and Amee.) We parked at City Park and took the shuttle to the Fair Grounds, thereby skipping the general admission line and walking right in the gates. Fantastic.
We went straight to the Acura Stage to claim a spot and then we headed off in search of our first food purchases. Uncle Bill got alligator sauce picante, Aunt Dawn and Aunt Elena split a crawfish bread, and Nopsi and I split our favorite dish of the day: a cochon de lait po-boy. SO good.
I also had crawfish Monica; a combo plate with poulet fricasse (chicken on a stick), fried plantains, and jama jama (sautéed spinach); a mango freeze; and crawfish bread. And I tasted Nopsi’s duck po-boy and Aunt Dawn’s beignets. Everything was so good.
We mostly hung out at the Acura Stage all day, although I did walk around Congo Square (and met Oscar, who makes pretty things out of “friendly” plastic) and Nopsi and I did venture over to the Gentilly Stage to see some of Hozier.
The lineup at the Acura Stage was phenomenal. I hadn’t heard of most of the bands but thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of them. Johnny Sansone and his harmonica started us off, followed by the Honey Island Swamp Band. Then it was Wayne Toups with his accordion, followed by the Tedeschi Trucks Band, which is fronted by a bad-ass female lead singer. She was amazing.
But the main reason we were there on Friday was for the Acura Stage’s final performer: Keith Urban. Aunt Dawn is a huge fan, and she was so excited to see him live. There was only one small issue: the weather.
It had been overcast and breezy the entire day, with the sun peeking through for only a minute or two. Absolutely perfect Jazz Fest weather. We relished in it and thanked the heavens it wasn’t hot.
However, just before Keith took the stage, the skies turned ominous. Festival officials got him onstage as quickly as possible, in the hopes that he could play his whole set before the weather moved in. I walked up closer to the front to get a picture of the handsome New Zealander then rejoined my fam.
We had such a good time rockin’ out, and Keith sounded great. A few songs in, the rain started. (At this point, Keith spontaneously broke into part of “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” with the crowd joining in. Awesome.) Not long after that, the wind starting blowing something fierce. And then there was the lightning.
The lightning was crazy. So crazy that we expected Keith to be shut down at any moment. Every time the sky lit up, the crowd collectively went, “Ooohhhhhhhh.” I really, really, really wanted to capture a picture of the lightning flashing in the sky above the stage, but I made the smart decision to leave my phone in the Ziploc bag in my backpack.
Finally, after one song ended, Keith walked up to the mic and said, “They’re telling me to get off the stage………so what do y’all want to hear?” The crowd voted on “Somebody Like You,” and the atmosphere was electric, in more ways than one.
And then, just when we thought it was over, he carried his mic stand off the stage and down into the crowd, hopped up on top of something, and started another song. At first we couldn’t tell where he was, but then I spotted him. The three girls ran to get closer and had such a great time dancing and singing along.
That song was his last of 11 total, and what a way to end a show, even if it was more than 30 minutes shorter than it was supposed to be. By this time, it had started to rain harder, the wind was gusting, and the lightning was flashing. We hightailed it out of there, but the rain was driving down so hard that we all got completely soaked on our walk back to the shuttle.
We finally collapsed into seats on a bus, dripping wet but on a high from our fabulous day. And, wouldn’t you know it, as we were driving back to our cars, the storm broke and the sun came out. Go figure.
Keith exuded an incredible energy onstage, in spite of the awful weather, and I’m so glad I got to see him perform. I was a fan of his music before but I’m an even bigger fan now. And apparently the Jazz Fest crowd impressed him enough to make a video as he was leaving the Fair Grounds, which he posted to Twitter shortly thereafter. He called us “amazing.”
I’ll take that.
When they got home, QP and James went up to the roof of their building and James took these two photos of the clouds after the storm. Gorgeous.
Nature is so cool.
Even if it does cut Keith Urban’s set short.