When your Artist Of The Day sets the tone for what the day will be like then you know it’s going to be hot and funky. Big Sam Williams brought his Funky Nation back to the main Acura Stage to heat up an already hot afternoon. Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Big Freedia and to end it all for the day, the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band, who blew the roof off the Blues Tent. Stevie Wonder most certainly felt the hurricane winds from Shepherd’s guitar all the way over on the main stage.
Speaking of Stevie, his crowd was large and excited to see the legendary singer, whose set last year was canceled due to the rain that poured down and knocked out all the headliners. Hometown legend Irma Thomas was his so-called “opening act” and nobody does New Orleans like Ms Irma, who performed in a colorful blouse emblazoned with vinyl records.
The traditionally Cajun/Zydeco stage, Fais Do-Do, was hopping all day with the fantastic BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, the Savoy Family Cajun Band, Rockin’ Doopsie Jr and the Lone Bellow.
Fiddle player Amanda Shaw summoned her inner Nancy Sinatra in a hot pink mini-dress and bouffant hair while Big Freedia let loose her booty-swishing bounce. The Lone Bellow’s Kanene Pipkin, dressed in a lovely royal blue dress, showed off her baby bump while playing mandolin and Judith Owen played piano on the Lagniappe Stage.
But Shepherd and his band – singer Noah Hunt, drummer Chris Layton and bass player Tony Franklin – were just too hot to be upstaged by anyone. Putting on his best Jazz Fest performance of his career so far, he whipped out his strat and just soared on a never ending swirl of notes, ending with an exhaustive “Voodoo Child.” He may have only done about 15 songs – among them “Blue On Black,” “Deja Voodoo,” “Somehow Somewhere Someway” and “King Bee” – but he could have played all night. The crowd just couldn’t get enough.
And that’s how you end a day at Jazz Fest, folks: hot, sweaty, exhausted and singing as you left the grounds (yep, heard it happen).