Jazz Fest 2012 | Weekend Two | Highlights | Photos

Words by: Wesley Hodges | Images by: Susan J. Weiand

Big photo gallery below review and more pictures from Weekend Two over here!

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival :: 05.03.12-05.06.12 :: Fair Grounds :: New Orleans, LA

In last year's review I raved about the seven days of sunshine and amazingly programmed Weekend Two at the Fair Grounds, wondering how the veteran festival would outdo a Fest many proclaimed as the greatest ever. Having just blazed a trail across the Fair Grounds with a krewe of six friends over four days and hitting 12 different night shows over a 10-day period I can say with certainty that this year's Fest was markedly better than any of us could've ever imagined. My ability to comprehend and convey what transpired down in that Gentilly Stage valley, at Congo Square, or over in the Gospel Tent is slightly lacking given the sheer amount of heavenly musical transcendence that was thrown our way, but here’s my best shot at offering y’all some of the highlights from a simply unforgettable festival experience.


George Porter Jr. by Susan J. Weiand
George Porter Jr. & Runnin' Pardners
George Porter Jr. is a force to be reckoned with during Jazz Fest season, playing multiple shows a day and generally a few all-nighters (as he would pull on Saturday with The Meters and AM Sessions at House of Blues). On Thursday, the Jazz Fest patrons came out in droves to support the living legend’s solo band. Sax player Khris Royal adds an element you won’t find in Porter’s other projects, adding some seriously out there effects and touches of virtuosity.

Silky Sol – The Red Afro Queen
This woman had soul to spare and her set-closing rendition of “Wang Dang Doodle” was one of the first of many special Jazz Fest moments during Weekend Two.

Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk
Always a crowd pleaser, the double bass funk monster didn’t disappoint after arriving just in time for “Put It In The Dumpsta” on an unusually crowded local Thursday, bringing their incomparably deep and hard-driving brand of funk and rock to a packed field at the Gentilly Stage. Everybody wanted sum and everybody got sum.

Food Item of the Day
Crawfish Bread. Makes my arteries hurt just thinking about it.

Disappointment of the Day
Esperanza Spalding's Radio Music Society came on for their scheduled 90 minute appearance a good 40 minutes late and was then unable to get her stand-up bass sound situation figured out. An unfortunate scene but one of very few low points at the Fest.

Late Night Bonus Round(s)
Cyril Neville’s funky Nevillution down at the Blue Nile on Frenchmen Street followed by a Super Jam session up at the Maple Leaf.


Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
By Susan J. Weiand
Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers
Hornsby offered up the first of many tributes to the late great Levon Helm, doing “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” that was one of the biggest singalongs of the Festival. Generally it is hard to get chills when it’s 90 and humid, but moments like this will do it every time.

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
After hearing the sad news that Beastie Boys Adam Yauch had passed, it was great seeing Grace pay tribute – the band riffed on as she sang and twirled to “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn” and “Fight For Your Right To Party”.

Mavis Staples
Another one of those Jazz Fest moments was her rousing cover of The Band’s “The Weight” (with special guest Glen Hansard) that had the congregation up on their feet and clapping. Very few dry eyes in the Tent after that one as Mavis lifted up Helm’s name, dramatically shouting “Levon!” over and over again in case no one knew the significance of the moment. Staples’ set with Levon would have been special and the tribute was both fitting and extremely powerful.

Surprise Set of the Weekend
Mystikal seriously laid it down at the Congo Square Stage with a full brass section that included Galactic’s Ben Ellman among others.

Gospel Tent Bonus
Immediately walked up to a couple getting married onstage in the Gospel Tent followed by Connie & Dwight with the St. Raymond/St. Leo the Great Gospel Choir doing “We Shall Overcome”.

Late Night Bonus Round(s)
Garage A Trois at One Eyed Jacks and the techno/shopping cart bull robot party rockin’ down Frenchmen.

Food Item of the Day
Shrimp and Grits. A must.


Anders Osborne by Susan J. Weiand
Anders Osborne
Hot off the release of his career-defining new record Black Eye Galaxy, the guitarist showcased his wizardry in a big way on some of the mega-powerful and introspective new pieces like “Mind of a Junkie” and “Black Tar” that fit in nicely and complimented his older catalog jams like “Burning On The Inside”. Carl Dufrene, Billy Iuso and Eric Bolivar rounded out the quartet that made a whole lot of new fans, and I overheard more than one person wondering out loud how they were just then hearing of Osborne and seeing him for the first time.

Saturday was pretty much flawless and the stop in to check out Desert Blues guitarist Bombino of Niger was a big highlight of both the day and weekend. This man and his band are definitely something to keep tabs on. The man has major talent unlike anything I’ve seen or heard. There were some special moments of pure musical bliss that conjured up comparisons to some of the greats like Hendrix and Jimmy Page.

Jim James/Yim Yames
By Susan J. Weiand
My Morning Jacket
The rock band of this generation firmly established their presence before a rather large crowd at the Gentilly Stage on Saturday, playing an almost flawless set that began to take off once they got into "It Beats 4 U" from Z early on in the performance. Yim Yames' recent love affair with all things New Orleans and of the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band has been well-documented and his embrace and love of our fair city was paid back by the adoring crowd on the far side of the Fair Grounds Racecourse.

A retooled, mellifluous "Golden" and an epic, slow-burning and totally unique reworked "Dondante" (which weaved its way around for what had to be roughly 17 minutes) highlighted what may have been the best set of the second weekend. The members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band also sat in on “Off The Record,” “Holdin’ On To Black Metal” and “One Big Holiday” after James introduced the multi-generational legends as “our oldest friends in the whole wide world.”

Late Night Bonus Round(s)
The Original Meters and Papa Grows Funk at The Howlin’ Wolf NOLA. Think they played 9 or 10 songs total in the 2-hour-plus set. Some serious improv jams went well with the unexpected laser show. The guys were having a blast together so hopefully/likely not the last chance to see them together.

Food Item of the Day
Quail Gumbo and Strawberry Lemonade.


Corey Glover with Galactic by Susan J. Weiand
We hurried out there to make sure to soak it all up to the last drop, arriving in time for Galactic’s big main stage showcase before Foo Fighters just in time to see Corey Glover of Living Colour on the band's new joints from Carnivale Electricos "Out In The Street" and "Hey Na Na".

Where Minds Were Blown
(1) The scene at Congo Square for the Bounce Shakedown was amazing and those unfamiliar in the massive crowd with featured performers Katey Red and Big Freedia were simply dumbfounded by all the ass-shaking, wobbling and break dancing going down onstage. One break dancer’s big jump into a split inspired a chorus of jaw-dropping "wows".

(2) Blissed out at Bonnie Raitt. The legendary blues songstress inspired rare pin-drop silence during her sterling set while singing “I Will Make You Happy,” one of the most special and dominant performances of any song heard all weekend. Many achieved a moment of total bliss watching the legend perform and very soon thereafter at Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s heroic 50th Anniversary Celebration. Also, a sit-in by Jon Cleary gave a lot in the crowd a chance to see just how talented the local ex-pat really is.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band by Susan J. Weiand
Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s 50th Anniversary Celebration
Guests included Rebirth Brass Band for “Do Whatcha Wanna” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On”, Allen Toussaint, Bonnie Raitt, 100-year old trumpet player Lionel Ferbos, Trombone Shorty, Steve Earle for “Tain’t Nobody’s Business,” New Orleans resident Ani DiFranco for a song she recorded with them called “Freight Train,” and Yim Yames offered up an core-chilling encore cover of “St. James Infirmary.” Just when you thought this Fest-closing set couldn’t get any better, Trombonist Wendell Eugene, members of Preservation Hall Junior Jazz Band, dance troupe Fleur de Tease and all earlier guests in the show reemerged for an epic finale, ending the Fest with “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “I’ll Fly Away.”

Sunday Spiritual Bonus
Seeing the gospel classic “I’ll Fly Away” performed three times in one day. First at Johnson Family Extension in the Gospel Tent, again at the Boutte Family celebration, and finally to close out the weekend in proper fashion at Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s 50th Anniversary throwdown at the Gentilly Stage. It's just that kind of place and Sunday always has an added element of spirituality to the already transcendent vibe out around the track.

Food Item of the Day
Fried Chicken and Jambalaya. Meal of the weekend.

Late Night Bonus Round
Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk with legendary Neville Brothers guests, Ani Difranco and Skerik.

Jazz Fest just keeps on getting better and better. Anyone - no matter the age, musical taste or background - can enjoy this Fest, and with seven days of sunshine as an added bonus (minus a few welcome drops from the heavens during Preservation Hall), this year was special - even for Jazz Fest. Life has been adequately funkified. See you back at the Fair Grounds on Thursday May 2nd, 2013!

Wesley Hodges runs the Live Music Blog: NOLA site and recently graduated from the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.

Thursday and Friday Photo Gallery

Continue reading for pics from Saturday and Sunday...

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