Review & Photos | Jazz Fest After Dark | New Orleans

Wednesday 4/30 - One Eyed Jacks - Bear Creek All-Stars

[Bear Creek All-Stars at One Eyed Jacks - Photo by Scott T. Horowitz]

In yet another can’t miss annual Jazzfest tradition, the all-day long Oak Street Block Party, filled with bands, crawfish and friends galore gave way to the Bear Creek All-Stars shindig at One Eyed Jack’s in the French Quarter. An incredible lineup, per usual, was assembled to take the stage at 3a.m.: Cyril Neville, Karl Denson, Ivan Neville, Eric Krasno, Adam Deitch, Ian Neville, Nick Daniels III, Ryan Zoidis, Eric Bloom and James Casey. Throughout the show, players came and went as the various collections of collaborators changed, and with that, so did the colors, shapes and sizes of the music. “Doodle Loop (The World is a Little Bit Under the Weather),” “Welcome to New Orleans” and the annual Alecia Chakour sung “Piece of My Heart” were given the superjam-workout treatment. Of particular note was the de facto Dr. Klaw reunion, one that saw Nick Daniels III belt out his customary Stevie Wonder stomp “Higher Ground,” as Deitch pushed tempos with a furious lead right foot and Karl Denson and Ryan Zoidis traded blissful sax phrasings atop Krasno’s sweet hollow body licks. The foursome of Zoidis, Denson, Casey and Bloom was one of the finest horn sections one could ever imagine, the tastiest brass breaks and chewiest choruses ringing out to the rafters and spilling into the Quarter, where the sold out crowd had spilled, still dancing in Toulouse Street.

Soon, as is custom with a Paul Levine/Bear Creek production, the next generation of BC family seamless transitioned onstage, and assumed various positions in the mix. NOLA favorite son Bryan Coogan and Brooklyn’s Borahm Lee (Break Science) exchanged Rhodes and organ grooves, Profit’s Eric Vogel took over the bass duties, and Suwannee scion Matt Grondin began to rip up a Stratocaster. Derrick Smoker (of Smoker’s World) kicked some freestyles on the mic. Tomorrow’s future marquee names followed their funk forefather’s suit and under a Crescent City moon, new superstars were born. Just when the Creek was cookin’ and a sizzlin’ hot, the music stopped at about 6 a.m., and we reminded ourselves that come November, it would be time to migrate due east to Live Oak, FL, the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, and another pilgrimage to the funk Mecca that is Bear Creek.

Friday May 2 - Mardi Gras World - FIYA FEST

[Blackbyrd McKnight at FIYA Fest - Photo by Marc Millman]

New Orleans based Fiyawerx Productions really upped the ante with their second annual FIYA FEST, a one-day festival within the festival that featured more than 95 musicians, and so much more than just music! The artists performed over three stages, giving fans a chance to see music outdoors at the River Stage, as well as on the main stage indoors, and the intimate setting of The Mansion - a special perk for VIPs. The affair also included boiled crawfish prepared onsite, and the incredible food and music menu kept the masses fueled for the unparalleled amount of NOLA funk on display for eight hours.

[Doug Wimbash and Fred Wesley at FIYA Fest - Photo by Marc Millman]

Though Fiya Fest, a smorgasbord of incredible New Orleans music, food, art and culture, its primary goal is to raise funds and awareness to help The Roots of Music. This foundation has a mission of teaching and empowering New Orleans’ youth through music education, academic support and mentorship while simultaneously preserving and promoting the city's unique musical and cultural heritages. All the proceeds generated by FIYA Fest goes to The Roots of Music, and a large contingent of NOLA youth, facilitated by the charity, was able to play and Second Lined through the event with The Midnight Disturbers, a favorite highlight of FIYA Fest for the second straight year.

It’s a nearly indescribable sight to behold the students playing and marching through Mardi Gras World with a who's- who of NOLA funk pumping the grooves beneath them: Stanton Moore, Big Sam, Ben Ellman, Mark Mullins, Shamarr Allen, Kevin O'Day and Matt Perrine featuring Rahzel, Brandon “TAZ” Niederauer and many more collaborated as the Midnight Disturbers pushed the Second Line grooves and the kids reveled in their bass, snare and brass bombast. By attending the festival, we supported this wonderful program and the city’s most vital asset - the children.

[Nikki Glaspie at FIYA Fest - Photo by Chris Monaghan for MoPho]

Fiya Fest is known for interesting pairings and the 2014 version was highlighted by a number of one-time-only collaborations. Such was the case for Maceo Parker with Eric Krasno, Nikki Glaspie, Nigel Hall, Calvin Turner and The Shady Horns, a group dubbed "GRITTS" featuring George Porter Jr, Roosevelt Collier, Ivan Neville, Tony Hall, Terrence Houston, Big Sam and Sam Kininger, and this writer's favorite performance FIYA Fest - "The Headhunters Superjam" with Mike Clark, Bill Summers, Donald Harrison, Bernie Worrell, Blackbyrd McKnight, Fred Wesley, Karl Denson and Doug Wimbish. Another special edition collaboration we enjoyed was The Revivalists with Mike Dillon, Carly Meyers, Pete Murano, Jen Hartswick, Khris Royal and Maggie Koerner. Some of the best kept secrets that finally got out at FIYA Fest were Corey Henry's Treme Funktet, the West Coast Sounds and Chicago band The Heard.

[The Shady Horns at FIYA Fest - Photo by Chris Monaghan for MoPho]

The Mansion, an area set up for VIPs, was, in a word, breathtaking. The area was set up like an old Greek revival mansion at twilight. It included a grand front porch, life-sized cypress trees adorned with Spanish moss, stone pathways and bridges, a running stream and a private bar. It made for the perfect place to enjoy a VIP menu of food and drink, while listening to some interesting musical pairings. During my short visits to this space I enjoyed David Shaw & "Taz," Marco Benevento & Papa Mali and Eric Lindell with Billy Iuso. One of the best parts of FIYA Fest, especially as it was Day Nine of this writer's Jazz Fest experience, was that it gave us a chance to stay out of the sun all day, but still fill our time with the best in NOLA music and food.

[Carly Meyers at FIYA Fest - Photo by Chris Monaghan for MoPho]

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