Jazzfest Airblogging

I call it airblogging. I like to write blog posts on airplanes. I can’t post them until I land, but it’s a good time to write without interruption.

Jazzfest was great as usual. We only go for a three day weekend so we don’t get to take in all the action, but we get enough. We like to “nosh” our way through the fest. That means tasting our way through the food, music, and art instead of dedicating ourselves to a sitdown meal or set of music. It works out best for us.

Every year I get more and more taken with what happens on the fringes of the fest and less and less taken with what is happening on the big stages. Besides fighting the crowds, the music always seems to disappoint at the big stages. This year it was even more so. With the sole exception of Bonnie Raitt and her fantastic piano player Jon Cleary, the shows we saw on the big stages were not memorable. Bonnie, on the other hand, was in prime form and proved one again that blues music isn’t a young person’s game.

Everyone talks about the Gospel tent. And for good reason. It is home to the most real and most moving music at the festival. When I look at the lineup I never recognize any of these acts, but we always come home with a Gospel disc or two. This year it was Lee Williams and The Spiritual QC’s who hooked me. His rendition of Wilson Pickett’s Midnight Hour and his own I Can’t Give Up just blew me away. They were dancing and crying at the same time in the Gospel tent when Lee and his group were on the stage.

The other place where the dancing and the music are infectious is the Fais Do Do Stage. I have no idea what Fais Do Do means, but to me it means Zydeco and lots of it. I have never been disappointed by an act at the Fais Do Do stage. Maybe it’s because the music is simple and so appealing. I love what the washboard, accordion, and occasional fiddle do to classic rhythm and blues music. My favorite this year was Lil’ Brian and The Zydeco Travelers. Maybe it’s because they had this kid who reminds me of all the pre-teen boys I know up on the stage doing the washboard. Maybe it was the impact of three washboards going at the same time. Or maybe it was the funk infused Zydeco that they play. Whatever it was, I came home with their disc too.

But the most moving moment of the three day weekend was seeing Aaron Neville sing Amazing Grace last night at the House of Blues. I’ve heard him sing that song plenty of times, but it never fails to bring tears to my eyes. He has a completely and totally unique voice that is perfect for soul and gospel music. He played with the entire Neville Brothers clan and we had great seats thanks to Dr Dana. It was a great finish to our annual Jazzfest trip.

We’ll be back next year. And to anyone who likes roots music, I’d suggest you head down for a little noshing in New Orleans next weekend, or if you can’t get your act together that soon try to make it next year.