After a full day at the Fairgrounds to celebrate the return of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival the NOLA Summit returned to the Howlin’ Wolf on April 30th after two years of cancellations. With a lineup of local players, the second running of the Summit showcased New Orleans bands playing originals and tributes to some of rock and roll’s best.
Opening up the event was the NOLA Suspects who delivered a fluid hour-plus showcase that paid respects to Little Feat. Lead singer Jake Eckert mentioned that the band was playing songs written by and with Paul Barrere as their loose set rolled out. The opening song, “Dixie Highway” was co-written with Barrere as the sax blared with energy while “Fat Man In The Bathtub” was dedicated to the rock legend and “Willin’” showcased a gorgeous piano solo.
The set reached new heights when Duane Betts joined the band to add his guitar-slinging talents on “Spanish Moon”, a funky highlight of the whole night which got down with blazing riffs before the extended band powered up “Skin It Back”, grooving and showcasing the Suspects fluid talents.
John “Papa” Gros was up next backed by a three-piece horn section, bass, drum, and guitar as he rolled out a tribute to his hometown. A Dr. John cover began the set as “Qualified” bounced along as the New Orleanian paid tribute to one of his biggest influences. Gros commanded the stage with his singing and playing during “River’s On Fire” as the piano man led his outfit with confidence while the highlight of his set was a funk laced “Cocaine and Chicken Fricassée” before a syrupy slow “Hey Pocky Way” wrapped up the proceedings.
The Iko All-Stars took over next as the crowd packed the venue for the collective Grateful Dead tribute set. “Feel Like A Stranger” started things, but the outfit found its footing during a rendition of “Catfish John”. The All-Stars played the Dead’s tunes, but clearly put a New Orleans stamp on them with funk and blues grooves propelling each effort, no matter the tune.
“West L.A. Fadeaway” was a 70’s inspired funk fest while “Scarlet Begonias >Fire on the Mountain” devolved into four drummers getting after it with a Mardi Gras Indian influence. The group played in some “Space” before a Meters-inspired take on “Not Fade Away” cooked to close their excellent set.
The horn-based Bonerama headlined the event, playing originals and Led Zeppelin numbers as the crowd thinned out after a long day of excellent music. That didn’t deter the band though as they opened with a few originals including “Mr. Okra”, a tribute to a local New Orleans legend. The band blazed through the English legends’ numbers with power and grace, giving songs like “Good Times Bad Times” an extra brass urgency.
After literal years of waiting, New Orleans came back alive with Jazz Fest energy this weekend and the NOLA Summit was a grand post fest showcase of just a sliver of this special city’s immense talents and culture.