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.