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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
…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 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.
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?