Jazz Fest weekend 2 recap
After a very stormy first weekend, Jazz Fest crowds were treated to a weekend of perfect weather. With the great weather came some of the biggest crowds I've ever seen at the Fairgrounds, including what had to be record-breaking attendance for Elton John's Saturday headlining set. Sifting through all the music offered at Jazz Fest is no easy task, but we've shaken out our top 3 sets from each day at the Fairgrounds and our favorite late-night sets to highlight what makes this fest so special. Read below for pictures and recaps from each of our favorite sets and artists to keep on your radar in the future.
Saturday May 2
Local rapper Dee-1 has been on the rise since 2010, when he decided to resign from a career teaching middle school in Baton Rouge and focus on rapping full time. Dee-1’s noontime performance on the Congo Square Stage showcased an unapologetic performer speaking out about the injustices in his community and the national rap industry. Songs like “One Man Army” were transformed into anthems thanks to a killer live band and Dee-1’s contagious charisma. Dee-1 deserves a platform to spread his message of love and positivity to the masses, and Jazz Fest is the perfect place for him to gain some exposure with music fans who would otherwise never hear him.
The Shirley brothers marked their return to Jazz Fest with a high-energy set at the Lagniappe Stage that woke up the sun-weary crowd and got the people dancing in the grassy patches near the stage. The band's excellent 2014 album, The Echo Choir EP, offered a glimpse into Cardinal Sons’ penchant for three-part harmonies and danceable indie-rock. Since that release, the band has honed their sound into an irresistible package that gets stronger with every performance. The hellish blues of “Monsta” and the rollicking “Day of Summer” exploded off the stage thanks to the brothers’ innate ability to read each others’ minds and feed off the crowd's energy. Catch Cardinal Sons' next local show at Gasa Gasa on June 6.
This brass supergroup only gets together around Jazz Fest time, which makes sense because each member has his own highly successful career. Led by Galactic drummer Stanton Moore, Midnite Disturbers assembles the biggest brass names in town including Big Sam Williams, Corey Henry, Trombone Shorty, Shamarr Allen and Ben Ellman. The raw power of brass band music was on full display, with each member taking turns blowing minds with extended solos that attempted to one-up each other. Seeing these big names on stage together with absolutely no ego is a true testament to the camaraderie of New Orleanians.
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead
Despite the original surviving Grateful Dead members planning a reunion for later this year, the most exciting group playing the Dead catalog in 2015 is Joe Russo's Almost Dead. The second of two nights at The Joy Theater saw the band blast through two sets of uninterrupted music that included Dead classics "I Know You Rider," "Sugar Magnolia," and the entire "Terrapin Station" suite. An encore featured a revved-up version of Bob Dylan's "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You" that proved this band can do far more than just play Dead tunes.
Sunday May 3
Anders Osborne had a difficult Jazz Fest this year due to a back injury that prevented him from strapping on his electric guitar and rocking out like he's known to do. Despite this setback, Osborne's early set on the final day of Jazz Fest perfectly encapsulated his distinct brand of Louisiana rock. A brief foray into Neil Young's "Down By The River" preceded the hard-rocking "Back to Mississippi" before the debut of the low-key "Tchoupitoulas Street Parade." The reggae slink of "Sarah Anne" was the perfect closing for a perfect day of sunny weather and positive vibes.
At the ripe age of 79, Buddy Guy is nothing short of exhilarating with his acrobatic guitar attacks and hilarious stage banter. Guy was born in Louisiana and he proudly embraced his southern roots for a two hour set of Delta blues filtered through a Chicago edge. His searing guitar tone was the star of the show as Guy went to battle with his instrument, playing it behind his head, whacking it with a drum stick, and using a towel to muffle the electric abstractions coming from it. A Jimi Hendrix medly of "Purple Haze" and "Foxy Lady" came off as less of a tribute than a vision of Hendrix as a true bluesman. And with a dirtier mouth than Juvenile, Guy easily took the crown for most cuss words used at a Jazz Fest performance this year.
Craig Adams and Higher Dimensions of Praise
Craig Adams is a local gospel singer who has toured the world extensively with his incredible band, Higher Dimensions of Praise for decades. Closing out the Gospel Tent on Sunday gave Adams and his band the chance to show their hometown what it means to be the best band in gospel. The highlight of the set was a cover of the soft-rock classic "I Want to Know What Love Is" that became electrifying in the hands of Adams' choir and ace band. With the passion of God emanating from Adams in his every move, all who left the Gospel Tent on Sunday felt just a little bit closer to heaven and ready to return to reality.
Colin Lake closed out a busy Jazz Fest with an intimate set at Gasa Gasa that showcased the local singer-songwriter's breezy, soulful original songs. The set focused primarily on Lake's hot-off-the-press album One Thing That's For Sure, a set of bluesy tunes that sound right at home at any New Orleans bar or festival. The backwoods thump of "I'm Trying to Tell You" proved an effective counter to the second line rhythms of "In On Time," both punctuated by horn blasts that felt just right. A spot-on cover of Joe Cocker's "Let's Go Get Stoned" made a strong case for best cover of the weekend and a perfect close to a long weekend on non-stop music.