Yesterday closed out the 2016 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. I was lucky enough to be able to attend two days of the fest. Just like last year, a small group of us went the first Friday, opening day. Uncle Bill and Aunt Elena were in town again, and they joined Nopsi and I out there.
After we got off the shuttle, we headed straight to the Acura Stage to snag a spot for our chairs and settled in to listen to The Topcats. They were great; I especially loved the drummer and all of his crazy facial expressions. (We would come to the realization as the day went on that in order to be a drummer you have to make crazy faces.)
After that, Nopsi and I walked to get our coveted cochon de lait poboys (SO good) and made it back in time to hear some of the New Orleans Classic Recording Divas (the Dixie Cups, Wanda Rouzan, and Jean Knight). Then I walked over to the Gentilly Stage (stopping to take a selfie with a bearded stranger in a skirt and super cool googly eye sunglasses) to catch all of Cowboy Mouth. So awesome seeing them live again, and at their 25th Jazz Fest! Seems like just yesterday that I saw them for the first time as a freshman on LSU’s campus.
I stopped to get a mango freeze on the way back to Acura, where Buckwheat Zydeco were just wrapping up, and ran into Kat and Ryan. We had about 30 minutes to wait until Michael McDonald started his set, and that’s when the heat got very noticeable. It was really hot out, and there were practically no clouds for any relief. But Michael killed it and we forgot about the sun beating down on us for a bit.
Steely Dan closed out the Acura Stage that day but there was a 40 minute break between them and Michael. So I did what any respectable Jazz Fest attendee should do: I went to get another beer, a Creole’s stuffed bread, and some crawfish Monica. Yum.
Nopsi and Uncle Bill were stoked to see Steely Dan, but I didn’t know most of their stuff. However, they were very good, and I danced along to the songs I did know. I also didn’t feel bad walking over to the Congo Square Stage to see a little bit of Janelle Monae, who closed out over there. I timed it just right and heard her sing “Electric Lady,” as well as tell a sweet story about her relationship with Prince and then sing a beautiful tribute to him with “Smile.” Very cool. (LOTS of Jazz Fest 2016 artists honored Prince over the course of the 7-day festival.)
Once Steely Dan had finished, we walked back to the shuttle, got right on, and were dropped off at Nopsi’s van under this beautiful sky. Jazz Fest day 1, out!
I wasn’t originally scheduled to fest another day, but once I got a taste, I decided I really wanted to go again. (The same thing happened last year. I probably just need to buy two tickets next year.) Plus, the Tedeschi Trucks Band were closing out at Acura on locals day (Thursday), and I loved seeing them last year. And lo and behold, the stars aligned: James got me a ticket, Nopsi offered to watch Rory and pick up Riley from school, and Kenny agreed to get the boys into bed that night. So off I went all by myself.
I was planning on taking Rory with me and seeing how long he lasted, but I am SO incredibly glad that I didn’t have him. (THANK YOU, NOPSI!!!) He would have been miserable: it ended up POURING and the grounds got super soaked and sloppy. I was really glad I had my rain boots on.
I took the shuttle from City Park again and got to the fairgrounds right after 1pm. I caught a tiny bit of Mia Borders as I walked past the Gentilly Stage and wished I had seen more of her. She sounded great. I first went to meet up with Perry, who was working the fest that day, by the grandstand. He took me into the Shell tent, where we chatted a bit and watched the first afternoon downpour. Then I braved the weather to get my cochon de lait poboy. I took shelter inside a merchandise tent just in time before the skies opened again.
I was in there for about 30 minutes watching the rain fall and debating what to do. The clouds parted a little and the sun started to peek through, so I decided to abandon my cover and walk towards Acura. And wouldn’t you know? It didn’t rain again until I was in my car driving home.
Acura was between acts, so I walked over to check out the Blues Tent. However, they were between acts as well. So I went back to Acura and just so happened to score a spot in the first row of the chair seating section. I squeezed in next to a guy from Los Angeles and made friends. Then Gary Clark, Jr. took the stage at 3pm. He was incredible.
Once Gary left the stage, I hightailed it to the bathroom and to pick up a crawfish bread and a mango freeze (and also found Dana’s and my flamingos from last year!) before settling back in at Acura to wait for the Tedeschi Trucks. They started right at 5pm (around the same time QP and James stopped by to say hi) and played for two hours. And they brought out special guests Jimmie Vaughan and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons for a few songs. Awesome.
The best was towards the end when a free spirit started dancing to the music in whatever way moved him. Another guy ran up a few minutes into his performance and blatantly started recording it. The dancer’s response was to ham it up even more. So very entertaining to watch.
I packed up and headed out midway through the Trucks’ encore song to try and beat some of the crowds to the shuttle. I had no problem getting on and was back at home in time to put Rory to bed.
I ended up being really lucky in choosing the two days that I did: on account of huge storms dropping torrential rain on the fairgrounds, Jazz Fest 2016 was completely shut down more than two hours early on Saturday, April 30, robbing the attendees of seeing the three major headliners: Stevie Wonder, Beck, and Snoop Dogg. The rain continued through the night and into Sunday, although the show went on the last day of the festival.
While there were lots of diehards that went out anyway, I’ll bet there are many people hoping and praying that next year’s weather is better. Until then!