Thursday, May 6, 2010

New Orleans: Birthplace of Jazz

New Orleans is truly the birthplace of Jazz and the home of wicked awesome music. In fact, if it is possible to see more great music in one weekend I would be amazed and I didn’t even see a third of it. You can rock and roll, jazz and blues it up from the minute you roll out of bed and turn on WWOZ to the first show at the fest at 11am until the last show of the night (I don’t even know what time that is). From Friday to Sunday I immersed myself in the annual Jazz fest which has 12 stages with 5-10 performers daily for the amazing prize of $45 per day. Then of course there are the thousands of shows after the fest which ends at the very early hour of 7pm. Each day we awoke and prepared uncertain of what the day would hold for us. With so many acts it is really difficult to choose who you will see except perhaps a few special big names and so we wondered into the fair grounds like excited little children.

Friday began and ended with Latin music for me. First Fredy Omar con su Banda which were a great way to start the day shaking my booty to, then off to Buckwheat Zydeco who was amazing just the kind of music you expect and want to listen to in NOLA. Third, we went off to see our friend John Boutte who I recently have the pleasure of spending time with when he was up in Calgary playing with Paul Sanchez. Boy, did he rock it out with way more energy than his show in Calgary, the whole audience was singing along and feeling the joy. Our fourth act of the day was the New Orleans Social Club which technically is very good but not really my kind of blues. My final act of the Friday fest was the Gipsy Kings (alas Aretha Franklin cancelled) who were absolutely fabulous, after all these years they can still play some mean music. After the Fest we went and saw Paul Sanchez at Chickie wa wa’s, who had tons of guests that jammed it out together and really reflected the ability of great musicians to play together music that they may never have heard before. The best show of the day would have to go to John!!

Saturday was truly a day of the unknown, as there was really no one special I wanted to see and it turned out so good, a day of Louisiana music to the max. We started out with Paula and the Pontiacs at the blues tent who were awesome, Paula could sing, dance, play the harmonica and the sax and was hot. After Paula we wondered over to see Shamarr Allen and the underdawgs. Shamarr a NOLA native who was brought up through a youth music education program sponsored by the threadheads, now a singer, rapper and mean trumpet player. This man can put on a killer show. Shamarr was followed up by a full afternoon at the Fais-do-do stages which is strictly Cajun, Creole, Zydeco swamp bands and man did I ever dance my little heart out. First was Chubby Carrier and the Bayou swamp band; hot, hot, hot. Their who stole the hot sauce song was wicked. Then we had Beau Soleil avec Micheal Doucet who was a little chiller but some awesome Cajun French music and finally the Honey Island Swamp Band, Oh My Goddess were they good and cute!! Then to finish off the day we checked out a little Banu Gibson with Swing out and tap, some good old jazz and dancing too. That night we made it out to Bourbon Street which is just what you would imagine it to be, half naked people drinking on the streets and mean music coming at you from every direction. Finally to top it all off we went and saw a midnight show of John Boutte and Paul Sanchez at Preservation Hall, one of the oldest music halls in NOLA and you can truly breathe in the history of jazz. The best show of the day, hmmm, this is a little trickier I am going to have to say Shamarr and Honey Island are tied for top.
The final day and my most planned out day was also a killer. We missed the first act after our rather late night and so started out the day with Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-stars, who were absolutely amazing. A little reggae, a little African and a whole lot of fun!!!! On the diasporic train we went and checked out Chouval Bwa of Martinique who were a lot more chill than I expected but great tropical island music. A complete flip of genre was in order next as the amazing Van Morrison was playing. I went a good 30 mins before the show started and the grounds around the stage were packed and so I squished in about 2 meters out from the VIP zone and a little to the left of center. The show was not exactly what I expected and yet so much more; very chill and crowded, Van left us all swooning in his wake. Finally to finish off the day BB King at the Blues Tent, not quite as busy as Van but still impossible to get into the tent and so I danced outside till I some people left the bleachers and I snuck in to hear the last few songs. At 84, BB is still a musical king!!!!! So who were the winners for the day definitely Sierra Leone’s RA and BB, my apologies Van but just not enough energy in it for me.

And so the weekend of music came and went and I can’t wait to get a hold of some of this music. If you get a chance to go to this festival you sure as hell had better. It is cheap and awesome.

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