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.

Friday

A departure from the afternoon Fairgrounds routine, Mardi Gras World hosted the inaugural FIYA-FEST, also produced by the players at Fiyawerx LLC- with proceeds donated to local charity The Roots of Music. The nine-plus hour affair initially struggled to get off the ground due to huge turnout and cold weather, resulting long queues and shortages of staff and food. Yet by 3pm all kinks worked out and the rage began in earnest. The promoters and staff rolled up sleeves and got on their Charlie Hustle! Traditional local foods prepared right before your eyes, mountains of crawfish devoured, wheeling in endless cases of craft beer; vape pens aglow, pungent concentrates and sweet extracts permeated the dank, close atmosphere.

And then there was the music! The entire event was streamed live online in HD courtesy of Funk It blog. The lineup boasted a full day of incredible pairings. Festivities got under way with The Revivalists at 1pm, followed in order by this massive slew of talent:New Orleans Suspects (featuring Bonerama Horns) Funky But Better featuring Big Sam Williams, Khrys Royal,Terrance Higgins, Nigel Hall, Roosevelt Collier, Doug Wimbish, and Eric McFadden (yes you read that correctly. Those killers actually made up the band).

Dragon Smoke then stormed the stage with grand turns from guitarist Eric Lindell and a special Fleetwood Mac cover augmented by Skerik. Later, Nick Daniels III gripped the mic and belted out in his highest of registers. Next up were local favorites G.A.B.E. (George Porter, Anders Osbourne, Billy Iuso, Eric Bolivar), a set buzzed about all weekend. Mixing a Southern psychedelic rock aesthetic with NOLA shuffle, this assemblage took zero prisoners. I’d like to take a moment to give props to Billy Iuso, who along with being the Crescent City’s resident Deadhead, is an underrated, humble, and true ambassador for the city of New Orleans.

Nikki Glaspie

Next up: more nasty, greasy funk from NYC/NOLA super-thugs Dr. Klaw. Nikki Glaspie stepped up to (more than) handle drum duties for any of Adam Deitch’s remaining gigs; this Deitch could mourn the mother of best-friend Adam “Shmeans” Smirnoff, who sadly passed away just days before Jazzfest). Special props go out to Deitch; playing the Lettuce gig in NOLA until nearly 4am, flying minutes after their final bow to NYC to attend the funeral Friday morning. Also mad daps to Nikki (who fearlessly took the challenge for this set and TWENTY-FIVE other sets over the entire Jazzfest), for a staggering display of intestinal fortitude, spiritually swingin’ grooves, and astonishing meditations in beatscience. The Klaw were joined at different times by the Shady Horns, Skerik; as well as Living Colour vocalist Corey Glover on “Leave Me Alone”. Glaspie slayed a stomping break beneath Klaw’s massive take on Stevie’s “Higher Ground”, complete with stunning, Wonderful vocals from lifer Nick Daniels III.

Jam-Cruisers were in full force as Fiyo-Fest raged onward, the maritime mob erupting as their leader Annabelle Lukins-Stelling invited Ivan Neville onstage and handed him a microphone. A choice guitar and a grandiose Jam Cruise cabin were raffled off, as Ivan himself drew the Jam Cruise winner by turning a giant wheel. The entire event and all donations benefitted local charity The Roots of Music, Backed by none other than local legend Stanton Moore on drums, students took the stage for a brassy groove in the middle of Fiyo-Fest and marched their way out the door. The event’s finale had Karl Denson leading an all-star revue through an astounding seventy minutes. The conglomerate was a murderer’s row of the Dirty Dozen Horns, Jen Hartswick, Natalie Cressman, Nikki Glaspie, Robert Walter, and Eddie Roberts. Denson beaming a smile and a sweater-vest, they came out the gates with a fleet, charging “Who Let the Happiness Out?”, an absolutely dazzling display. Late in their set, Ms. Hartswick brought Mardi Gras World to its knees with a monumental, gut-wrenching vocal “Drown in My Own Tears”.

After a brief bit of recharging, we were at it again Friday night, beginning with Los Angeles’ erogenous Orgone at Republic New Orleans. Band leader Sergio Rios’s chicken scratch garage guitar wailed into the rafters as the boys behind him cooked sensual grooves that had many fanning themselves like cougars in heat. Original vocalist Fanny Franklin commanded the stage with her certain swagger, every single body in the joint got all types of hot and bothered. Orgone worked in songs from their forthcoming record amongst older material, as well as their still-exquisite version of The Meters emotive R&B number “Ain’t No Use.” Next up at Republic: another version of Everyone Orchestra. Conductor Matt Butler assembled a vast collection of heavy- hitters to execute his 2013 sonic visions, including but not limited to Zach Deputy, Jen Hartswick, Natalie Cressman, DJ Logic, Johnny Vidocavich, Reed Mathis, Marco Benevento, DJ Williams, and Jeff Coffin. The freestyle, improvised nature of an Everyone Orchestra performance made this sprawling ensemble’s presentation all the more impressive.

The New Mastersounds

From there it was onward and upward to Parish at the House of Blues for an uber-rare Fantastic Four engagement. Eric Krasno, Robert Walter, and Cheme Gastellum joined forces with Jazzfest MVP Nikki Glaspie for a foray into gluttonous, rare-groovy crunkadelics. Early on, the four invited Lettuce trumpet player Eric “Benny” Bloom to blow over some classic Rudy Van Gelder steez; Donald Byrd was indeed smiling down. However, Nikki Glaspie was the selfless star on this stage, driving and moving the music as usual, yet channeling certain spirituality within her drumming that manifested itself in the form of astounding beats to behold. She played swiftly and with humble vigor, in a style and steez seldom heard from any drummer this side of Bernie Purdie. As the now-swollen crew raged onstage deep into the night, Shady Horns tenor man Ryan Zoidis jumped up front and center for a fuming “Ain’t it Funky Now?”. Before long, Nigel Hall and Rob Marscher joined the pile of keyboards, and they became a fantastic eight or nine! If I had to choose the single “sickest” ONE song of the weekend, it would be Fantastic Four’s finale. The posse eerily waded into Rhodes-drenched waves of sound and atmospheric soils as the band manifested Bob James’ timeless breakbeat classic “Nautilus”. Kraz executed the snapping, Blaxploitation guitar riff something nasty, syncopated within the dynamics of Walter’s Rhodes lead; this song is the birth of Plinko- funk and the father to dozens of hip-hop classics. On this night, the bludgeoning groove just overwhelmed anybody who was present. It was indeed THEE song to behold! All the while, The New Mastersoundswere still going hard and fast for their tribute to the 70’s next door at the House of Blues proper, creating frenzy well past 5am.

Orgone

At 3:30am, Colorado’s The Motet dispensed their now-famous “Funk is Dead” set at Howlin Wolf to a heartily carousing massive. Bassist Garret Sayers and drummer Dave Watts drove a grooving interpretation of the Grateful Dead songbook home quite convincingly. Highlights include a mammoth “Shakedown Street” at the 5am hour, followed by a heart-tugging instrumental “Stella Blue.” Juno What? followed with a sunrise set, at the Den next door to Howlin Wolf, with Earphunk bassist Paul Provosty sitting in. Straight off his Motet set, organist Joey Porter pulled double duty by anchoring the Juno What? party, with talkbox and keys, the room teeming with synth psychosis. Beginning after 6am, one might think chill-out vibes were in order… Nope! This gang propelled four-to-the-floor electro-crunk, pounding out a dance bash for almost two hours, while the “Default world” started waking up and propping their kids in front of the Saturday morning cartoons. Merry-making spilled out into the street in the blazing morning sun as many of the weekend’s artists milled about as one big happy family, sharing cocktails and tall tales in the morning light.


Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s Midnight Preserves series had them performing at the legendary Preservation Hall each night at midnight for the duration of the weekend. Pres Hall is old and small. About the size of a living room and packed wall to wall with benches in front and pillows for sitting on the floor of the first row, the room was transformed while the band played. First impulse is to say it brings you back in time but a better explanation would be to say it manifests an air of timelessness. Young people throughout the last 100+ years in new orleans, people from around the world have been going deep into the night in search of good times and music to heal the soul. Today the music is louder, has more layers, light shows, etc. But the principle is the same and Preservation Hall brings the inner child back up to the surface for air with songs of eternal notions like “Sunshine in My Back Door Someday” accented by 83 year old Charlie Gabriel’s transcendent clarinet playing.

Saturday

FOMS was in full effect. The Black Crowes played to a sold-out Mahalia Jackson Theatre, sight of the mammoth annual Gov’t Mule gig a night earlier. However, on Second Saturday, the scene down on Frenchman Street is like no other. People fill the streets and party extremely hard, while amazing music fills the clubs that line the blocks. We hustled down to the Blue Nile for The Royal Potato Family All Stars early on Saturday night. The band’s basic crew consisted of Marco Benevento, Robert Walter, Skerik, Mike Dillon, Reed Mathis, and John Speice. Hearing Spiece’s drums and Mathis’ bass in tandem was a real treat; they flirted between psychedelic and punk with an effortless elation, as Skerik egged them on with nontoxic evil. Earlier that day, news of the death of Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman spread, so far be it from this squad to send off the blond Slaytanic axe-ripper with a thrashing tribute to the original speed metal masterpiece Reign in Blood. Later, the band dipped into the catalogues of Walter and Benevento, each taking unique angles on material well established, as the music and aura got as avant-garde as the Blue Nile was prepared to contain.

Page McConnell and The Meter Men

One must make mention of the sold-out Meter Men show that featured Phish keyboard maven Page McConnell. Reports had it hot as can be in the Republic, as this fearsome foursome stormed through the Meters catalogue with a reconditioned motor, shared admirations abound. Robert Walter’s 20th Congress went late night on Frenchman Street, digging backward for unforgettable tracks like “2% Body Fat” and “Volcanic Acne”, Grant Green’s tremendous “Flood in Franklin Park”, and killin’ numbers found on Walter’s brand new record.

Meanwhile, at the Soul’d Out/Disco Donnie party at the Sugar Mill, Robert Glasper Experimentwas consecrating a luscious take on “No Church in the Wild” from Watch The Throne. Few musicians channel the spirit of the illustrious Detroit-based producer, the late, great James “J-Dilla” Yancey as beautifully as Glasper and his band; a special nod to the unique talents of one Casey Benjamin. Next, Yasin Bey (formerly the artist known formerly as Mos Def), alternated between utilizing a band and DJ as he tore thru his solo catalogue while riffing on “Umi Says”, a few well-known NOLA bounce classics, and a bit of Andre 3000-type schizophrenia.

Believe it or not, if you were to ask this writer what was THE BEST single set/show of the entire five plus days, I would immediately answer Erykah Badu’s Saturday late night séance at the Sugar Mill. Not for nothing, it was fucking masterful! I’m nearly at a loss to speak to the sorcery she wielded for nearly two hours, taking the stage just before 2am and blessing the integrated crowd of Jazzfesters and the local Black community with the kind of experience that leaves you bewildered by the artistic merits on display. Her meticulous band followed her every hand signal, twerk, jerk and move with a panache and swag that was just gangster. Badu is a bandleader, a singer, and a purveyor of mysticism of a musical kind, all of which were in top form as the hour grew later. Shouting out the 3rd Ward with a DJ Jubilee classic, burrowing into “Danger”, then segueing into her own magnum opus “Mama’s Gun”, Badu owned the Crescent City. For a lengthy encore, she invited out pianist/opener Robert Glasper for an enchanted, thrilling take on the chestnut “Afro Blue” from Glasper’s Grammy-winning album Black Radio. The phenomenal performance is put to bed by Durand Bernarr – the Youtube soul sensation turned Badu protégé, who took a verse on “Afro-Blue” and was literally DODGING PANTIES by the end of his turn. Then to conclude this testimony of Baduizm, Empress Erykah soared toward the heavens with the always-extraordinary “Soldier”, and had us humming “Yessirree” all the way to…

JazzFest @ Night

…Tipitina’s Uptown, where we walked into the rage at exactly the right moment, catching the end of Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe’s Ray Charles tribute featuring Zach Deputy and Jon Cleary. The two guests stayed onstage as the clock hit 4am and KDTU charged into ninety more minutes of that patented, sexy-funk groove only they can lay down. “Bag of Funk” detonated the place, and from there, Tip’s temperature levels began to rise and rise to epic proportions. Most impressive was Deputy’s fierce and inspired guitar work, as was pianist ,Cleary’s traditional NOLA boogie, both of which gave a renewed life to the KDTU bangers like the seminal “Mighty Mouse” and “Cool is Back”, the latter a big, rotund boogaloo joint that featured dynamite work from Chris Littlefield on trumpet and flugelhorn. Jeremy Steig's "Howlin' for Judy" which morphed into its latter incarnation of the Beastie Boys’ “Sure Shot”, rapping provided by Slightly Stoopid’s De La who also chipped in on saxophone. This was a joyous reminder of losing Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch a year ago to the day, a crushing blow of Jazzfest 2012. The The White Stripes “Seven Nation Army” shook Tip’s to its veritable core as the remaining revelers bounced and shook rumps with aggression. A slow start with the Ray Charles tribute was saved and sprayed with fire; and by sunrise, this was yet another classic KDTU party on Second Saturday Uptown, one of the many fine Jazzfest traditions we treasure so dearly.

Sunday

Sunday evening brought the final festivities, after a delightful day at the Fairgrounds. Dumpstaphunk hosted their annual Fess Jazztival closing party at Tipitina’s Uptown, debuting new tunes “Raise the House” and “I Wish You Would” from their brand new album Dirty Word. The NOLA ambassadors were ably assisted by members of the Royal Family, Skerik on sax, Jennifer Hartswick on trumpet, and Natalie Cressman on trombone. A rollicking cover of the P-Funk jam “One Nation Under a Groove” brought the house down for an encore, as drummer/Jazzfest MVP Nikki Glaspie took a well-earned bow. Fiyawerx Productions final show welcomed the members of Living Colour and a slew of guests including Galactic bassist Robert Mercurio, to the Howlin Wolf for a 25th Anniversary celebration of their groundbreaking debut Vivid. Vernon Reid was his usual mesmeric self on guitar, but as was the case at several gigs all week, it was bassist Doug Wimbash whose skills and presence dropped jaws to the ground.

Royal Family Ball

For this writer, Second Sunday ends with the same party every year, down on Frenchman St. at d.b.a. After a smooth opening gig from the Stanton Moore Trio, the drummer, cohorts Robert Walter (keys), Will Bernard (guitar) geared up for the big finale. Along with bassist Robert Mercurio, the foursome plus Big Chief/sax master/NOLA legend Donald Harrison came together once again as the unparalleled Frequinox. The set was as expected: utterly spellbinding! The backing band laced a joyous, teeming crowd with their distinctive blend of funky rare-groove, hip-hop breaks, Indian chants with call/response workouts; each song blessed by magnificent Harrison sax leads gushing and soaring above the thunder-funk. Highlights ran the gamut far and wide, old-school Coolin’ Off Galactic-funk juxtaposed with traditional Indian themes like “Big Chief”. This krewe even ripped a Judas Priest rocker “You Got Another Thing Comin’”, Walter’s B3 handling the Rob Halford howl.

Monday morning arrived, and (some of us) awoke to another Jazzfest in the books. Despite my employing over three thousand words, one cannot sum up in a few paragraphs the monumental experience that is Jazzfest in New Orleans. It is all things to all people, music and culture in massive doses, a celebration like no other. While there are many mighty fun music festivals, there is only one Jazzfest. And from where I dance, that’s exactly how it should be. See y’all next year, and every damn year after that!

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?


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