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Columns > John Zinkand - Improvise

Published: 2002/05/22
by John Zinkand

Jazzfest Part 2: Music in Heat

Holy Shit. Holy music Mecca would be more accurate. Jazzfest in New Orleans is hands down the best musical excursion a music fan could ever hope for. Ive seen the Dead play dozens of times, Ive seen Phish play close to a hundred times, and Ive seen more concerts in my life by artists as varied as the Dixie Dregs to Stanley Clarke, than most people would want to imagine. Ive been to the summer music festival blowouts like the High Sierra Music Festival. Now, Im not bragging here, I just want to establish the fact that Im no casual fan or musical lightweight. Ive seen tons and tons of shows from small bars to large arenas, stadiums to mid-sized rooms, and there is nothing that even comes remotely close to the awesome power of Jazzfest.
The only comparison that one could even make is with the big summer festivals like High Sierra, Gathering of the Vibes, or Berkfest. And even then the comparison gets cut short at the fact that there are many many bands in one place. Thats it. You can expect lots of guests playing with any given band because there are so many musicians and bands in one location.
What differentiates the summer festivals from Jazzfest, however, are myriad things. First of all, you dont sleep in the dirt at Jazzfest. Yes, its expensive getting a hotel for five consecutive nights, but when the final show is over (or over, at least, for your tired ass), you can crawl back to your dark air-conditioned bed and hibernate in preparation for the next days musical onslaught. If you go to a late-night show at a Festival, be prepared to suck it up when the sun comes out and you get no sleep whatsoever.
Then theres the sheer volume of music. Nowhere else is there so much music in one spot. Not even at Bonnaroo this summer will there be even close to the number of bands and musicians at Jazzfest. Theres the actual Jazz and Heritage Festival at the Fairgrounds in the day, then there are evening concerts, and finally late night shows. Whats great about Jazzfest is the fact that you can see every band play long sets or even two set shows and still see a huge variety of music since there is music from 11am-8am every day. Of course, with all these bands in one place the amount of sit ins and guest jams is out of control. Im not sure I saw one show where guests didnt help out to make a collaboration of stellar musicians.
Finally, theres the food and non-stop party atmosphere. I like camping food as much as the next guy, but if you are looking for some filling, tasty, spicy grub like no other, New Orleans is the place to be. I ate in random places based solely on the fact that I was hungry and needed food right away and was never once dissatisfied. From smoky sausage, seafood jambalaya, or shrimp fry bread, everything eaten in New Orleans is just wonderful. Add to all of this the fact that theres a non-stop party on Bourbon St. Walk down this little street and buy a two foot daiquiri from a kid at a stand, hear the varied music coming from every bar and corner, or throw some beads to a young lady and be rewarded with the flash of a rack. New Orleans is the perfect festive location for this monumental event.
We flew into New Orleans uneventfully on Wednesday, May 1st. The humidity was definitely the first thing we noticed as we waited for a cab. New Orleans is located in the deep dank underbelly of the south, and the humidity pumped up out of the Gulf of Mexico is ever present. We jumped into a cab and told the driver to take us to our destination hotel, the Crescent on Canal St. Our cab driver was generous in her admonitions informing of us of which neighborhoods to avoid, where to go for cheap food, and how to avoid the tourist traps. We thanked her as we unloaded at the Crescent Hotel, which is located in a fairly shady area right near the highway overpass and Tulane University.
We were hungry, so we decided to make the eight block walk down to Bourbon St. from our hotel. I must admit that I was sketched out from time to time. New Orleans is a cool city, but its also a slightly ragged city that has an air of dangerous adventure to it. There were blocks we walked through where we felt very much like outsiders, but thats part of the charm of this deep south city. We finally made a left turn onto Bourbon St. and I was immediately struck by the sounds of jazz. A small band of street musicians provided the perfect background music for my first walk down Bourbon St. I was struck by the architecture that I had seen so many times in pictures and movies. The trademark iron work, charming balconies, and drunken partiers were all there. The one thing I noticed that I had not seen in the pictures, however, was the rank stench. It seemed to hang in the air and emanate from everywhere. I guess thats what happens when you gather lots of drunken pukers to party in the same ridiculously hot and humid place year after year. Once we became more accustomed to the smell, food was on our minds. I enjoyed a tasty Muffeltta sandwich (which is a toasted salami and cheese sandwich with olive spread) from the balcony overlook while enjoying the views down on Bourbon St. There was a cool breeze and the Margarita helped cool things off, too. Welcome to New Orleans!
After the meal we were ready to get down to business. This was Jazzfest after all, and we were there to check out as much music as humanly possible, not sit drunkenly on a balcony throwing out beads. At about midnight we took a cab over to the Maple Leaf to check out Will Bernard and Motherbug and the OM Trio. This cool little bar was pretty close to empty when we arrived. Its a small room painted mostly maroon. The stage is in its own separate room with a dance floor and has tin walls and ceilings with little patterns. The stage was small, but did have some neon string lights hanging near the back of the stage to liven things up. In the back of the bar there was a large outdoor patio area with trees and tables- A really cool place to go and mellow out if needed.
Will Bernard took the stage first and played a great set. There were about fifty people or so shaking their bootys on the dance floor by this point. His rhythm section is so tight and it was a real pleasure to watch them play together. The drummer and bassist fueled the show while Will took some tasty solos. A guest guitarist sat in with them and was very good, too, but I forget his name. After Motherbugs set we chatted it up with the many music loving fans that were there. Everyone seemed friendly and mellow, but as we sat outside we did witness what too much alcohol can do to some people as this punk kid decided to get loud and a little violent. He seemed to be trying to make eye contact with me, but I skillfully averted my eyes and kept talking with my friends.
After the short break we headed back inside for OM Trio. It was my first time seeing these guys. While they were pretty good, I didnt enjoy their set as much as Bernards. The bass players riffs were a bit repetitive and uninspired. However, Will Bernard sat in with them at one point and things definitely heated up. With the extra energy a dance floor full of people provided, OM Trio actually jammed it out pretty tough. However, it was almost 4:00am at this point and the Maple Leaf seemed to be losing a little steam. With the free Addison Groove Project CD that the manager of OM Trio and Addison Groove Project (a guy who said he was from Colorado) gave to us in hand, we headed out for the short three block walk over to Jimmys Music Club.
We got to Jimmys and could hear the music blaring loudly from a door that was slightly ajar. We peeked inside this large wooden door to see two freaky people dancing like whirling dervishes right next to the band, Particle. This was some sort of side stage load in area, but the band didnt seem to mind us hanging out and getting a little bit of free tuneage. The keyboardist leaned back and looked at us giving a sarcastic tisk tisk motion with his fingers at one point. We smiled and kept on dancing, but eventually decided we should go into the actual club.
After an unsuccessful bargaining attempt at the door (it was a ten dollar cover so we asked the door guy if we could get a deal to which he jovially replied, Sure, for two people its twenty bucks!), we entered the large room. The place was three times the size of the Maple Leaf and had tiered levels with the bar in the back, a huge dance floor, and a cool little patio that stretched out beside the building. There was a large screen provided by Particle with trippy inversions of the band, colors, and patterns that seemed to pulse perfectly in time with the other-worldy rave sounds of the music. This was a very young and energetic crowd, with packs of people jumping up and down wildly to the crazy dance party music.
By 6:00am we were pretty beat. We decided to head back to our ghetto home at the Crescent. The cab driver was, surprisingly enough, a middle aged Jewish guy who proceeded to tell us about a wedding he attended in Southern Alabama where he felt like he was in a time warp. Everyone wore white and all the servants were black and would answer Yessah! or "Nossah!" to any questions. He said he felt very fearful and that everyone wearing all white made him feel like he was at a KKK rally or something. Apparently, his wife is from the south and it was her deal, but even she admitted afterwards that the whole thing seemed very weird in bad way. When he dropped us off at the hotel we tipped him heartily for the entertaining 6:15am story and then quickly jumped into our beds in the cool dark cave that was our room. With the sun starting to peak out behind the corners of our drawn curtains, we drifted off to sleep.
We woke up around 2:30pm and had some little chores to take care of. One of us had to meet some friends at a certain time while another had to take care of some other monkey business. I cant say I minded driving around in the air-conditioned cab with my friends while they went about finishing up their odds and ends. I was happy to just be cool and try to shake off the weariness from the prior nights party. By the time they were finished doing their respective things, everyone was ready to eat. We ate on Bourbon St. and the two Hurricanes (a strong fruity 151 rum drink) went down easy. I watched a carriage go by and, as the driver passed under a tree, he reached up and grabbed some beads for his customers that were hanging here and there from the trees branches like Mardi Gras Christmas ornaments. After the tasty meal of Jambalaya and Gumbo, we headed back to the room where the Hurricanes forced me to take an hour long mini-nap. It was already 6pm and there was no way we would make it to the Fairgrounds. I woke up refreshed and ready for the evenings festivities at about 7:30pm.
After arriving at the Orpheum Theater, I immediately went inside. I was anxious to see the Jazz Mandolin Project and moe. The Orpheum is a beautiful old theater with a floor and two balcony levels. The shows were all a combination of reserved and general admission seating. If you had a floor ticket, you could go anywhere on the floor. If you had a first balcony ticket, you could go anywhere on the first balcony. I had second balcony seating on this night. There was an old elevator there and a Theater employee asked me if I wanted a ride up to the second balcony. After the rickety elevator ride, I arrived at the top. It was warm up there, but I took a seat and watched the entire Jazz Mandolin Project set which was excellent. It was kind of mellow, but that was fine with me for the first music of the eveningkind of ease into things. Jamie Masefield never ceases to amaze me with his awesome skill on that tiny little stringed instrument, the mandolin.
moe. hit the stage next. They opened the set with a new tune and gradually built up speed. They played a great "Captain America" and the energy levels were definitely rising. Then Jamie Masefield and the drummer for JMP came out to sit in with moe. They played a long cosmic funk jam that was totally grooving. I honestly hated to see Masefield leave the stage because I was enjoying the groove so much. I barely had time to think this thought when moe. started their high energy set closer and my personal favorite moe. tune, "Plane Crash." It was a high-flying experience, to say the least.
At this point I had a decision to make. I could stay here for the second set of moe., or head over to the Howlin Wolf to see the one-time only collaboration of Mike Clark, Les Claypool, and a few others. We decided that Mike and Les would never happen nearly as often as a moe. show, so we hopped into a cab and went to the Howlin Wolf. We arrived at the club which is very nice and is located in the nicer Warehouse District of New Orleans. Its a big room with an upstairs balcony where you can go enjoy an open bar, large wind fans, and plenty of space for an additional $25 (the cover was $20).
Im so glad I was able to witness this special collaboration. Les was great and spoke charismatically with the crowd. Mikes precision drumming was as impressive as always, complete with amazingly fast and neatly placed cymbal crashes, one handed rolls, and other drumming feats of amazement. With a rock solid bass player like Les by his side, this band launched itself into some very interesting and original places. A unique rendition of a Headhunters tune segued into a free jam that was a little on the heavy side due to the heavy playing style of Les Claypool. The keyboard player and horn player, Benjamin Casey, were both excellent, too. When the show ended around 2:00am, we knew we were just hitting our stride. Next stop: The Blue Nile for a little late night Umphreys McGee action.
The Blue Nile was a much smaller bar. It was basically just a big room with a bar on one side and a stage at the end of the rectangular shaped space. We arrived at 2:15am or so, and were among the first there. By 3:00am, however, the place was pretty well filled up to its 150 or so capacity. I was feeling fairly spacey and ethereal for this show and details are sketchy, but this was one of my favorite experiences at Jazzfest. Jake Cinninger just smokes on the guitar while the entire band is tight, energetic, and well rehearsed. The tunes can be seemingly random snippets of strange music or rocking grooves that make you shake your ass. They ebb and flow and really keep the spectator entertained. I know Kai Eckhardt and Eric Levy from Garaj Mahal sat in at one point, but both performances were pretty low key. Ive seen a picture of Al Schnier from moe. sitting in during the first set, but I must have been floating around in the stratosphere as I have absolutely no recollection of this happening.
After a quick fifteen minute set break around 4:45am, the band came back for another full set. I know the second set contained a nice cover of the tune "Kinky Reggae" that I was psyched to hear after some furious jamming. Umphreys can definitely get a little intense and the slow airy rendition of the Marley tune was exactly what I needed to keep things grounded. At some point in the second set a huge guy in a mask, cape, and wrestling tights with a big W on his chest came out and literally assaulted some keyboards. They were not really Joels keys, I dont think, but either some old keyboard or some sort of toy keys. At any rate, the guy lifted them over his head and smashed them down repeatedly on the stage until they seemed quite dead. Then, for good measure apparently, Joel got out from behind his keyboards and kicked the dead keys a few times. After the encore everyone was milling around in the morning sun on the street just outside the bar. Thats when a guy pokes his head out and says, If you guys come back in I think theyll play one more for ya! That was definitely a first for me. Never before have I been standing in the morning sun after an all night show and the band has requested my presence so they could perform an encore. Awesome!
We hit the bed at the Crescent around 8:00am and got up again around 2:00pm. We didnt want to miss the Festival again on that day, so we forced ourselves to get up and hop into a cab over to the Jazz and Heritage Festival. The 3:00pm heat was almost unbearable, especially considering the strenuous musical workout and party we endured the previous night. Walking through the gates with no shade in sight, I was downright sad at the prospect of dealing with the heat for the next four hours. When we finally got inside the first thing we did was get some food to replenish our sagging energy levels. I scarfed down another Muffeletta sandwich and drank some delicious Strawberry Lemonade while I watched some guys breaking the heads off crawfish, sucking out the brains or whatever, and devouring the tails. I had no urge to try the creek dwelling crustaceans.
After food, we all felt so much better and decided to head over to the Acura Stage. We caught a little bit of Lonnie Brooks set and it was not too bad. She is an older lady who played a rollicking boogie-woogie piano and belted out every tune with mirth and vigor. After a few tunes, we decided to hit the Sprint stage and check out the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Each of the main stages had a sea of people in front of them. Rising from the crowd here and there were poles with flags, spinners, wind wheels, and kites fastened to them. One had a marionette, another had a big plastic crawfish, others had college banners. All the poles seemed to pulse along to the music and made for easy landmarks when trying to describe to a friend via cell phone where we were located. Even though I was hot, tired, and dehydrated, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band had me grooving in the sticky weather. I looked around to see that almost everyone in attendance was grooving. What a party!
Next it was time for Karl Densons Tiny Universe and they did not disappoint. Karl gives off such a great positive vibe that the heat even seemed to let up during his set. His smooth, funky, danceable tunes had everyone grooving and smiling. He told us a little story about how he understood that it might be tough for the guys at Jazzfest what with all the women looking so good. He said to try not to get unraveled by their beauty and to just walk right up to them and tell them, Ive got a dollar fifty in my pocket and I would love to buy you a cup of coffee. Music and love came together yet again. Karl D. is the MAN!
We headed back to the hotel after Karls set ended. While standing on the corner, a local group of players was blasting a great rendition of "Cissy Strut" (the song I heard the most by far while in New Orleans) from a local bar, and people were grooving and dancing in the streets again. As we drove back to the hotel we saw the local folks that had set up water stands and food stops in front of their houses, hoping to entice some Jazzfesters and make a little extra cash. Im sure that would have been some of the best local food I could have had in New Orleans, but our musical schedule was tight and we had to go back to the hotel and shower up before heading out to see the Les Claypools Frog Brigade and Govt Mule.
We arrived at the State Palace Theater in the middle of Less set. We found an uncomfortable seat in the first balcony and just took in the strangeness that is Les and his band. They played bizarre and quirky tunes. Skerik, the bands sax player, was dressed in a full red devil outfit complete with little horns. The highlight for me was when they covered Pink Floyds "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" in the weird fashion that only Les could pull off. The final tune of the set had Les banging on some sort of bass looking stick thing with a drumstick. It was a strange set, indeed.
After a short set break, Govt Mule hit the stage. Warren, Dave, and Matt play a soulful, southern, bluesy style that is very much straight ahead but that rocks one to the core. Midway through the first set Warren welcomed some of his phriends on stage to help out, Jimmy Herring and Rob Barraco. Jimmys guitar work is second to none and his presence is always welcome anywhere as far as Im concerned, so I was super psyched. After a slow powerful tune, DJ Logic on turntables and Skerik on sax came on stage to help out. The jams got pretty sick and at one point all six players were taking a few measure of the lead and trading it around, making subtle changes to the riff the last guy played. It was some sweet stuff to have witnessed.
The second set continued with even more special guests. Rob Barraco was back and helped out for pretty much the rest of the show. The Deep Banana Blackout horn section gave a funky hand and added some depth to the straight ahead bluesy style of the Mule, providing the musical springboard to get to a funk groove very unlike much of what one expects from Govt Mule. Their great version of "Spanish Moon" had everyone singing along with the chorus about Whiskeyand bad cocaine! Just when we thought there could be no more surprises left, the DBB horn section left the stage and Les Claypool joined the band. Les and Dave Schools played around quite a bit and traded some great licks. They even went into the "Dueling Banjos" theme from the movie Deliverance on their dueling basses. Both bass players shined as they forced one another to keep increasing the energy. The show finally ended around 2:40am with a soulful cover of the Rolling Stones classic, "Wild Horses." What a show!
Without sparing much time at all, we quickly hopped into a cab and headed over to Tipitinas Uptown to catch the Disco Biscuits. When we arrived the place was packed and crawling with freaks. The line to get in was huge, but they had not started letting people in yet at around 3:15am. We decided to hang on the grassy median and talk with some friends while the madness subsided a little. A quick walk over to a local grocery store and we had a couple Samuel Smiths Nut Brown Ales in handa rare treat in this mostly light beer town! We finished up the tasty brews and finally headed in to the show around 3:45am. Im not a huge Bisco fan, but they provided some great sound and light to freak out to. And the place was jut packed to the gills. People were gyrating to the chaotic sounds and crazy light show. I decided to start hitting the bar pretty aggressively at about 4:15am, and by the time we left at around 5:30am I was pretty sauced up. I figured getting a little buzz on would ensure a good solid nights sleep.
We woke up very late on Saturday afternoon and had to check out of the Crescent to go to our new hotel, the Spring Hill Marriott in the Warehouse District. It was infinitely nicer than the Crescent and I wish we would have stayed there the whole time. It was very hot that day and we knew the Fairgrounds would be packed, especially with the likes of Jimmy Buffet headlining the Acura Stage. A huge crowd and 95 degree sun are not my hangover cure of choice, so we decided to skip the festival again and just grab some food before the evenings festivities. We walked over to Mothers Restaurant at about 4:30pm in the intensely hot and humid weather. We arrived at the cafeteria style restaurant and I enjoyed a tasty southern breakfast of eggs, sausage, grits, biscuits, and a cup of chicoried coffee. By the time we got back to the hotel we were drenched in sweat again, so we showered and headed out.
We were headed back to the State Palace Theater for one of my most anticipated shows of the festival, Robert Randolph opening for Karl Densons Tiny Universe. What a show! I was totally blown away from beginning to end. Randolphs high powered pedal steel guitar roared and cried as he put all of his energy into a stellar performance. Slow gospel sounding interludes gave us breaks between the intense guitar jams that were being churned out. Luther from the North Mississippi All-Stars helped out on guitar at the beginning of the set and other guests included DJ Logic and Skerik.
As Karl Denson started his first set I felt as if I was floating away in a musical cloud of pleasure. Details are scattered from this point, but I know it was one of the most high power shows Ive seen. Everyone was dancing and there was tons of room to get down (seems the bigger draw this night was the Phil and Friends show which made the Karl Denson show nice and roomy). People were dancing wildly and swinging their arms around in what seemed like totally uninhibited joy. I know Skerik helped out some on sax and there were some other guests, but at this point my mind was starting to deteriorate in its feeble attempt of trying to keep all the sick music and experiences I was having in some assembly of order. I walked out of the show beaming from ear to ear, ecstatic at the energy and power of the show I had just witnessed.
After a short cab ride we arrived at the block party around 3:30am. There were tons of people milling around in the street in what could only be described as big old party in the street. Bands were playing at the bars that were located all around this area. A friend of mine gave me a bracelet to wear to get in to the shows (one bracelet admitted you to any of the different shows), and it worked like a charm. Once inside Cafrasil I enjoyed the set being played by Garaj Mahal. I slipped my bracelet back off and gave it back to my friend so that he could let other folks inside for free. The place was packed! I had never really dried off from the serious sweat I worked up at the Karl Denson show, and the crowded room was a bit annoying to me. I was being bumped into non-stop and my greasiness was only increasing. Garaj Mahal was rocking it out, but I noticed Fareed Haque was not playing guitar with them. I had no idea why he was playing at the time, but I definitely enjoyed hearing Will Bernard sit in and take on guitar duties. By about 5:00am I decided that I had had enough of this way overcrowded room. I also knew I wanted to make it to the Fairgrounds the next day, so I called it an early night (only in New Orleans is leaving the club at 5:00am considered having an early night).
Id like to be able to say that we woke up refreshed and feeling good on Sunday . All I can say, however, is that we woke up on Sunday. The consecutive days and nights of raging were taking their toll on us, but we knew this was the final day of fun, so we valiantly pushed on. A short cab ride and we found ourselves back at the Fairgrounds for the last day of the Jazz and Heritage Festival.
We headed right over to the Acura stage where Phil and Friends were playing the second song of their set, Uncle Johns Band. Luckily, there was good cloud cover on this day so the sun was not nearly as devastating. I honestly dont think I could have handled it if the sun were out full force. Then Bob joined the band for "The Music Never Stopped" and "Cassidy." It had been many years since I had heard Cassidy, so I was very psyched to hear Bob sing it. I was happy that Bob was on stage and that the set was going well, but I was also hurting in a major way. Remember when I spoke last about food? That was about twenty-four hours prior to the current Phil set and I was getting seriously light-headed. I was hungry and totally dehydrated. My one friend was in the same boat as me, so we decided to forgo the rest of the Phil set and get some much needed sustenance.
The food booths were brimming with activity and we immediately scored some gigantic Cuban sandwiches and big glasses of lemonade. The delicious smells wafting from the booths lured us in for another round of vittles. My friend grabbed a meat pie while I ordered a baby back rib sampler from a booth out of Baton Rouge, LA. They were so good, meaty, and tender and were sitting on a small pile of some of the best coleslaw Ive ever eaten. After loading up on some herbal orange iced-teas, we headed back to catch the end of Phil. Of course I picked up some delicious and juicy chocolate covered strawberries on the way over there for my dessert. While we missed most of the "Help>Slip>Franklins," we were in time to catch the mellow set closer, "Tom Thumbs Blues." This song always brings me back to the late eighties Dead shows when it was one of the very few songs Phil would actually sing. My how things change!
When the set ended, we walked on over to the Sprint stage to see the Radiators close out the Festival. They came on and played a very low power mellow set. I was sitting down at this point, surprised at just how mellow they were playing. Ultimately, we decided that we should head back and see the Nevilles close out the Festival on the main stage. Im glad we did! They just jammed it out with like 15 Nevilles playing various instruments and dancing around like the partying family and musicians they are. There were little children Nevilles banging on cowbells, an old Art Neville at the keys, Nevilles singing, and a Neville couple hamming it up center stage dancing like they were possessed. For the encore the announcer tried to name all of the Nevilles, Art Neville, Ian Neville, Cyril Neville, Charles Neville, Aaron Neville, then as if he were seemingly exasperated with the list of Nevilles he jokingly said, Neville Neville! Were all Nevilles in New Orleans!! The band busted into a rollicking rockin Dixie gospel encore that seemed to sum up the entire Festival in one huge jam. Family, fun, food, and music. What an end to a great Festival!
As we walked out of the fairgrounds, local flavor was everywhere. There was a large band of what looked like local kids from ages 10-17 each playing an instrument as they hung out in a park. There was a tuba, drums, trumpets, and various other horns. The cab line was right next to them and we enjoyed watching locals clap and dance to this great spectacle. The local people were out in full force again trying to make a buck selling their home cooked food, water from coolers, and ice cold beers. I purchased a Heineken which I enjoyed on the cab ride to the restaurant.
Since our one friend didnt really eat at the Festival, we decided on Igors Restaurant at the suggestion of some girl we met. There was a nice little patio in front but it was pretty much full. Once inside, the hostess said, We could squeeze you onto the patio if youd like, or we have a seat for you in our air-conditioned back room. We hit the back room in a flash and enjoyed our first non-sweaty moments of the day. Our food there was just awesome. I chowed down on some super tasty beef brisket, spicy cajun dirty rice, and mustard greens.
Next we headed over to the Orpheum Theater to see our final evening show on our last night in New Orleans. What could have been more fitting than the New Orleans staple, The Funky Meters? And they wailed in typical Meters fashion. The rhythm section for this band is just so sweet. George Porter, jr. on bass and Russell Batiste on drums cemented the phat groove while Art Neville went off on the keys and Brian Stoltz raged guitar solo after guitar solo. Bob Weir was welcomed to the stage and played "Aiko-Aiko" with the band. His performance was kind of lackluster, however, and he fumbled pretty seriously when asked to rip off a little solo during "Aiko." I know Bobs a rhythm guitar player, but the guy must have some lead chops! Maybe he was just a little intimidated being on stage with these New Orleans legends. The show ended after only one set, but I can honestly say I wasnt too disappointed. Art said he was just about to turn 65 and just cant jam as long as he used to. The band was treated to a standing ovation by the happy and respectful crowd.
The final night of Jazzfest found us close to total depletion of energy, yet we persevered. Onward music soldier!! However, we decided on our late night show this night based purely on location. We wanted something within walking distance of our hotel so we could see the show, walk home, crash, and be up and ready to go the airport by noon the following day. First we walked over to the Howlin Wolf and were ready to see the Zigaboo Modeliste Funk Review play. The line was large and the doors had not yet opened, so we decided against this selection. We heard that DJ Logic was playing at a bar only a few blocks away called the Mermaid Lounge, so we headed in that direction.
When we arrived at the Mermaid, we were pretty psyched. It was a very small room with a maximum capacity of maybe 100 people, and it wasn’t even packed full. There was a very mellow vibe at the show and they had lots of stools and chairs for people to sit on outside. The bar is at the end of a dead-end street, so people just sort of hung out in the street in front of the place and talked about their intense experiences at Jazzfest. One guy said that this was his favorite Jazzfest yet, and we hung out with a drummer who had sat in with some act on the main stage of the Festival that day.
Once inside, the band took the stage quickly. Luckily, Rob Wasserman would be sitting in on bass for the entire evening. What luck! This kind of collaboration was so cool to see, especially in a bar with only about 75 people. The show was totally off the hook, too, and the whole place was bumpin to the funky sounds the band played. Another highlight for me was that this bar had Sierra Nevada beer! It only came in a bottle, but at least I could get a delicious drink of my favorite beer on this final night of Jazzfest while checking out this hidden gem of a show. We danced on and ontil the break of dawn. When we could take no more, we walked back to our room at about 6:00am and were sleeping by 6:30am.
The flight back the next day was tough and just trying to deal with life the following days was harsh to say the least. After the biggest party ever there is one inevitable downsidethe biggest hangover ever. I was mentally squashed for a good four or five days after the Festival. Ive been coughing up gnarly lung butter after spending so much time in the humid smoky bars for five consecutive nights. The dehydration and physical exertion made my body feel drained and tired, and work was a serious struggle for a few days. Any amount of pain was worth that incredible experience, though. If music is an important aspect of your daily life, then Jazzfest is a musical Ironman that must be experienced first hand. Just dont bring your casual music fan wife or your friends who like two bands that will be at the Festival, because this event is for the die-hard music junkies of the world. I cant wait to do it again.

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