Review | Photos | JazzFest @ Night | New Orleans

Words by: B. Getz with additional reporting from Scott T. Horowitz

Images by: Chad Smith

JazzFest @ Night:: 5.02.13-5.05.13 :: Multiple Venues :: New Orleans, LA

Full review below photo gallery!

An unparalleled jamboree that stretched over ten days, the 2013 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival delivered a succulent sonic gumbo that bridged the months of April and May with a joyous celebration. By day the Fairgrounds’ multitude of stages and vendors offered culture-drenched, mud-soaked musical magic and the finest in N’awlins culinary arts; overflowing deep into furious Crescent City nights and sunrises. For second weekend, this writer made his eleventh pilgrimage on down to the Jazzfest, embedded in the annual NOLA-Rage. The forthcoming narrative is just one version of an adventure shared by many; as each year’s Jazzfest quest is unique to each and every individual who makes the affirmative life decision to attend. It is an arduous task, a marathon of sorts; short on sleep, long on dance, and big on refreshments –as Kermit Ruffins always says “We Partyin’!”

Each year, as I catalogue my thoughts and retell my Jazzfest experience, I feel the need to add the forthcoming disclaimer in some capacity; so here goes: In this article, fellow Festers may not see mention of some of their favorite shows and/or artists that certainly does not mean they didn’t kill it at Jazzfest. It’s just the simple fact that one person can only be at one place at one given time. Possessed by FOMS (the Fear of Missing Something), my squad did our best to spread out far and wide, and bring forth a first-person account of the musical madness and cultural gluttony. And yes, we regularly made it to the Fairgrounds too; this is indeed a finely tuned, professional operation. This is Jazzfest after Dark 2013!

After trains, planes, and automobiles transported us to NOLA, we began our Fest just after dusk on Wednesday evening May 1st, at the Howlin Wolf for the annual Megalomanics Ball featuring a load of Royal Potato Family regulars. Marco Benevento blessed an early crowd with a delightful solo grand piano set, before Mike Dillon Band engulfed the stage in a typhoon of punked-up jazz psychosis. A positively wonderful throwback vibe permeated the Garage a Trois performance, dubbed “Original Flavor”. GAT OG’s Skerik, Charlie Hunter and Mike Dillon mesmerized with early material from Stanton Moore’s 1998 seminal jammer All Kooked Out like the jubilant jam “Tchafunkta!”, before working through choice selections found on GAT’s Emphasizer and Outre Mer. Later, Benevento joined the fray as the now- quintet got spastic and drastic with a marvelous meshing of their two distinct eras, jamming with a jovial flamboyance. The finale featured a prodigious collection of talent that rolls as Midnight Disturbers, with Skerik and Big Sam Williams at the helm; a crowd surfing, trombone-blowing Carly Charles stole the show.

Lettuce

Late night, the place to be was the annual Bear Creek All-Star’s throwdown at One Eyed Jack’s, situated deep in the Quarter. We arrived to thunder claps of Dr. Klaw, the punishing breaks of Adam Deitch laying down chunky beats for bassist Nick Daniels III. We strutted up through the packed floor; Eric Krasno’s guitar wailing into the night, Nigel Hall manning an abode of Hammond organ, various synths and Fender Rhodes . As it is every year, this was a freaking party! The Klaw brought the grits and gravy, setting the tone for another mindboggling super-jam that would follow.

Doing the name of its parent festival proud, the Bear Creek All-Stars are an ever-evolving krewe of veteran funkateers, assembled by festival curators Paul Levine and Lyle Williams. This year’s badass posse brought two-plus hours of merciless N’awlins crunk. It is difficult to try and pinpoint a singular highlight, as it was all so ferocious, yet at once so lovely. Ageless bassist/NOLA Funk Lifer George Porter Jr. played de-facto musical director and led this motley crew, driving songs like “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” and his own gritty anthem “The Dragon (He Bite Me). Porter grooved and grinned with a reckless abandon, and the energy of somebody less than half his age. The BCAS saw star turns from Royal Family vocalist Alecia Chakour, Jen Hartswick on trumpet, Natalie Cressman on trombone, and of course the ubiquitous Ivan Neville on organ and vocals. More than twenty musicians would interchange onstage in various combinations past five in the morning. The drummer seat steadily rotated between Deitch, Nikki Glaspie, and Robert "Sput" Searight (of buzz band Snarky Puppy), site and sounds from beyond the stratosphere. Initially, Deitch allowed Searight to turn more than a few heads before commandeering the drum seat for the final thirty minutes of mayhem, reassuring the throngs still raging that this will forever be his domicile.

Thursday

One of the hottest tickets in town all week was Thursday night’s annual Royal Family Ball, again taking place at a packed-to-the-gills Howlin’ Wolf. Songstress Alecia Chakour and the enigmatic Nigel Hall kicked things off with enchanting, jazzy R&B and the lushest of harmonies. This band featured many familiar Royal Family players. NYC jazz-funk trio Soulive delighted with an inspired mix of early material and more recent work. Highlights included a scorching sax solo from longtime co-conspirator Ryan Zoidis on “Tuesday Night Squad”, and an exquisite sit-in from Krasno’s guitar homeboy Warren Haynes, who sanctified “The Thrill is Gone” with a tear-jerking fret ballet.

Warren Haynes

Shortly after 1am, it was time for the evening’s main event; and would be Lettuce’s only set of the entire Jazzfest. There’s simply no other place I could imagine being than in the second row of Fest-freaks and ballin’ Ballers as the one-and-only “Voltron of Funk” took the stage with menacing authority. Immediately, Lettuce HNIC/ninja- drummer Adam Deitch grabbed a microphone, taking a moment to send love back to New York City, where Lettuce guitarist Adam Smirnoff was mourning the loss of his mother. Though there is only one “Shmeans”, Royal Family ally Ian Neville was there to fill in for his friend on rhythm guitar. With heavy hearts, Lettuce loaded up their artillery, and we all took cover. Predictably, Lettuce did what they do best- RAGE! Their entire set was absolute murder; with Deitch and bassist E.D. Coomes (aka Baby Jesus) lacing the lowest-end with homicidal, crunkalogic science. Not three songs into their set, pandemonium was running wild throughout the Howlin’ Wolf and into the streets! Organist Neal Evans was a leviathan, stoking fires well beyond any fifth alarm, with excitable keys and childlike glee. Guitarist Eric Krasno played his third captivating set of the evening, hollow-bodied leads soaring above ruthless, focused funk. Our nation’s capital was repped to the fullest with a bombastic “Let it Go-Go”, before vocalist Nigel Hall appeared onstage with much fanfare, feeding the frenzy with his District anthem “Makin My Way Back Home.” “Madison Square” saw yet another reworked jam section that detonated the Wolf and its mad-hatted occupants. Along with the aforementioned Zoidis on tenor, James Casey (sax) and Eric Bloom (trumpet) filled out the always-vigorous Shady Horns. Ian Neville took a substantial solo on a frenetic encore, the Deitch-penned “Lettsanity”. Without question, Lettuce delivered a John Blaze set that slayed, served, blessed and impressed.

Meanwhile at the Parish at the House of Blues, local phenoms Earphunk served up a chronic tribute to West Coast legends Zapp and their leader, the late Roger Troutman. With Colorado organist Joey Porter and his dynamite talkbox in tow, the drums of Michael Mathews powered this homage with passion. Keeping the legacy of Troutman alive, the seeds that inspired West Coast G-Funk sprouted anew; whilst announcing some new kids on the NOLA block are a krewe to be reckoned with. One Eyed Jack’s was the late night spot, as Fiyawerx, LLC hooked up a super-jam on steroids; a NOLA/Florida/Seattle connection they christened FIYA-POWA!. Skerik, Roosevelt Collier, Tony Hall, Ivan Neville, Andrew Block & Stanton Moore meet at the crossroads of greasy-swamp boogie and ‘that funky stuff’ welcomed more than a few guests, keeping it hard and funky with the one-two punch of Meters’ anthem “Just Kissed My Baby” and Jimi Hendrix’s timeless “Foxy Lady”. Savage fury on the corner of Toulouse Street; the French Quarter was again set ablaze thanks to Fiyawerx.


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