On Sunday, Jazz Fest 2018, Weekend 1, closed it’s curtains and said goodnight the only way they know how: by having the right artists get down, get funky, get bluesy and rock their way out. You just could not go wrong by spending the last hour and a half enjoying the sounds of British blues with John Mayall, the cool rhythms of George Benson, the experimental mind trips of David Byrne, the beach sonics of Jimmy Buffett and the R&B of Charlie Wilson. No matter whether you were tired, hot, dripping with sweat, stinking to high heaven and ready to go home, after hearing these guys you realized you weren’t ready to leave after all.
But no worries, as Jazz Fest will begin Weekend 2 on Thursday, May 3, and run for four days, with plenty more opportunities to eat, drink & listen to some great live music. On the docket will be Aerosmith, Cage The Elephant, Lyle Lovett, Trombone Shorty, the Revivalists, Sheryl Crow, Beck and many others.
Sunday was once again hot in more ways than one, as Jazz Fest had something for everyone. Our Glide Artist Of The Day, Erica Falls, sashayed out onto the Congo Stage in a white short jumper and just took flight with her wonderful vocals and vibrant stage presence. And although you couldn’t be in three places at one time, fiddle player Amanda Shaw and the duo known as Royal Teeth were all decked out in sparkles and fringe and revving up crowds at the Acura and Gentilly Stages, all in the same time slot. It was a hard choice to pick out only one to see but none disappointed.
Other Day 3 highlights included the spry 84 year old bluesman John Mayall, whose Bluesbreakers band at times included youngsters who went on to become some of the greatest players in rock & roll: Eric Clapton, the Stones Mick Taylor, Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood, Aynsley Dunbar and Andy Fraser, to name just a few. With him during his set at Jazz Fest was Carolyn Wonderland, a native Texan who has won several Austin Music Awards.
David Byrne could claim the most unique set of Weekend 1. A smaller version of his current concert setup, the always visionary Byrne sat in a chair holding a brain, bringing it to the edge of the stage to show everyone this humble yet magnificent piece of human technology before a band of grey-suited clones helped take the set into more realms. You’ve got to see it to believe it.
Jon Batiste, who had appeared the day before as part of the all-star tribute to Fats Domino, returned on Sunday to perform just ahead of Byrne on the Gentilly Stage. This time, though, he was part of another great ensemble – the late Sharon Jones’ Dap Kings. And what an amazing, for lack of a better word, combination this turned out to be, earning the Glide Set Of The Day. The fit was perfect and both artists were electrical wires sparking. Jones, who passed away in 2016, was known for having one of the best backing bands in the business, and even without her electrifying presence, they were on fire.
Altogether, the first three days of Jazz Fest were a hit, a success, another half-chapter in the forty-nine-year history book of this great festival. It was such an honor to see the festival’s founder, 92-year-old George Wein, all around the festival grounds, still with a smile on his face, still enjoying the music and the place he started for it. He joined Quint Davis onstage Sunday to talk about next year’s celebratory year #50. It just proves that music is never a passing phase or something you turn on while riding in the car. It is a lifetime of passion, freedom, enjoyment, the soundtrack of births, deaths, weddings, babies, good times and bad times and times you’d rather forget – music is always there and you always feel it and react to it whether you realize it or not. And thanks to Mr Wein, we have a festival that is for every one of every age. I humbly tip my hat to you Sir.