Jazz Fest 2016: Rain Shuts Down Saturday Early (FESTIVAL RECAP/PHOTOS)

Hell no, we won’t go! That was the rally cry for late Saturday afternoon at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. After a cloudy, humid, albeit windy, start to the day, the raindrops started small and turned big; Very big. Midway through Dr John’s main stage set, the rain, wind and lightening finally got severe enough to shut things down, something that is a rarity in Jazz Fest’s history.

But most folks stuck it out, waiting for the break in the storm system so the music could resume. With Stevie Wonder, Beck, Snoop Dog and Buddy Guy headlining, no one wanted to miss their favorite artist of the day and “a little rain” would not deflate their determination to stay in their spots in front of the stages. Unfortunately, it was decided that alas after enduring pounding rain and wind, they would not get to see their idols after all … unless you were amongst the lucky who saw Stevie Wonder walk out and do an a cappella version of Prince’s “Purple Rain” through a bullhorn as there was no power. Otherwise, you were grabbing all your drenched belongings and trudging through, in some spots, knee deep water to head for the exits. It was a disappointing end to a fine start.

A nice discovery, and first time Jazz Fest performer, Andrew Baham brought some cool Jazz to the early morning crowd. Dressed in a white suit and sunglasses, he was suave with a nice smooth touch on the trumpet, given a little funkification with Big Sam Williams sitting in with the horn section. He is definitely a shoe-in for repeat performances at the Fest for years to come. Another delightful discovery was Tione Johnson, a sixteen year old singer with a memorable voice. She is another bright star to keep your eyes on.

Over in the Blues tent, the pace picked up with Lil Buck Sinegal, his stratocaster and his blues band as he roared like a twenty year old on guitar. Chuck Berry would be very proud. The guitar seduction continued with the now-named Cyril Neville’s Royal Southern Brotherhood’s Tyrone Vaughan and Bart Walker. Big Freedia brought the bounce and a lot of Prince love to their set on the Congo stage. Adorned in bright purple pants and a white jacket emblazoned with the singer’s emblem, Freedia released purple balloons into the stormy sky at the end of her set.

Glide’s Artist To Catch, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, was warming up the crowd real good when some rain started to fall and continued into the start of Hurray For The Riff Raff. The weather would halt them midset. Kenner (that’s right outside of New Orleans) native and now Stephen Colbert bandleader Jon Batiste was also caught in those first few sprinkles over on the Acura stage. But his infectious smile and music never missed a beat as his band Stay Human kept everyone dancing. He would reappear with Dr John, who followed him on the main stage.

Overall, the day started off on a good solid note. Other artists who were able to perform included Kristin Diable, the Midnite Disturbers, Henry Gray and Deacon John. Although Fest organizers have announced that Sunday was still a go, more rain has been predicted.


Live photographs by Leslie Michele Derrough; Stevie Wonder photograph by Mary Andrews

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