Review | Photos | JazzFest @ Night | New Orleans

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.


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