For the inaugural Daze Between Festival in New Orleans, on the grounds of the Faubourg Brewery, the overriding feeling was friendship and an easy-going sense of family as guest spots were all the rage on day one and the next generation of acts shined bright on day two. Under gorgeous clear skies and hot/humid temperatures on both days, the performers, staff and crowd all smiled and joyfully mingled as the brand new festival came to life.
Opening the whole event on May 3rd was a group of New Orleans players, Benny and The Late Bloomers who got the early arriving fans up and dancing with originals like “Friends and Ragers”. The tune featured the killer drumming of Alvin Ford Jr. and keyboard work from the MVP of the first day, multi-instrumentalist and singer Nigel Hall, who sat in with everyone. He joined Eric Krasno and Friends next for a steamy run-through of “Leave Me Alone” as the group presented a set of polished soul.
Krasno invited Duane Betts on stage for a triple guitar airing of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” during which organist Wil Blades surprisingly stole the show with his sweet solo, but it was during the set closer where this collective soared the highest. A sizzling rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady” was led by Jen Hartswick belting out the lyrics and trumpet blares as guest Chris Bullock, saxophonist from Snarky Puppy, helped the brass along while Curtis Kelley delivered the funky beats; a clear highlight of the whole festival.
The local vibe was amplified during the angular improv jazz from Nicholas Payton’s light funk set as the trio was augmented by Hall on keys and bass at times. Erica Falls delivered her infectious, dance-laden R&B around her powerful vocals to a receptive crowd while Snarky Puppy rolled out the smooth yet intricate, upbeat funky jazz they have become known for.
The two day headliner, the String Cheese Incident, kept the guests flowing as an early “MLT” saw Shaun Martin and Nate Werth of Snarky Puppy join the band on keys and percussion respectively. The biggest surprise guest of the whole festival was saved for the band’s second set though as the Colorado jamband brought out none other than Billy Strings to play electric guitar during “Close Your Eyes” and “Ramblin’ Man”. The group wrapped up day one with an encore of “Colliding” as the festival-goers left to get rested for day two.
Two of the hottest up-and-coming New Orleans-based acts were major highlights on May 4th and both played on the second stage. Chief Joseph Boudreaux Jr. led The Rumble, opening the stage for the day while The Iceman Special produced a whirlwind rock show and closed it.
The Rumble deployed their bouncing, second-line-infused sounds, using layers of percussion and a searing guitar solo during the rambunctious “Wildman” before their syrupy sticky funk take on “Big Chief Wears A Golden Crown“. The bright set wrapped up with strong brass work and vocals on the band’s “My People”, a stirring tune about unity that all listeners can get behind.
The Iceman Special quartet delivered a diverse array of jamband-styled offerings to a joyful fanbase. The group ranged from the Black Sabbath-inspired breaks of “Who Says There’s No Swamps in Heaven?” to the pure disco get down of “Expectations”. TIS mixed clean sounds with filthy and kept the energy high throughout their set, closing with the expansive “Zydeco Radio”. Both acts are clearly on the rise and ready to break out onto the national scene.
Another New Orleans based act, the Honey Island Swamp Band graced the smaller stage with their mix of elongated Southern rock and roll as the harmonica laced “Chocolate Cake” was delicious as was the energetic bass and key showcase “Watch and Chain” before the dramatic closing cover of Otis Redding’s “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember”.
The main stage saw the GRAMMY-winning brass legends the Rebirth Brass Band deliver older hits like “Do Watcha Wanna” while also airing new originals off an upcoming album the collective is currently recording. They also managed to weave in tributes to TLC (“Waterfalls”) and Outkast (“So Fresh, So Clean”) as Rebirth was squarely in their element. The funk outfit Lettuce played an early evening set of mostly blazing instrumentals that delved deep into their cinematic grooves with the stand-out offering being their collaboration with Nick Daniels III on The Clark Sisters “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”.
For the second consecutive night, SCI closed things at the brewery, and while the excitement of the Billy Strings sit-in was still fresh in fans’ minds, the band opened the set with a combo of “Missin’ Me” > “Black Clouds”, though none of those were seen in the sky as the sunset. The more old-school leaning opening frame concluded with “Restless Wind” while the second set brought out another surprise guest to help the band.
Lyle Divinsky from The Motet joined on vocals to open things up with “Get To You” before the SCI segued through live staples “I Know You Rider” > “Stir It Up” > “I Know You Rider”. The cover love continued for The Talking Heads “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” before the set finale “Just One Story”. The jamgrass outfit closed the whole festival with a two-song encore, “Barstool” and “How Mountain Girls Can Love” leaving all in attendance satiated.
Daze Between Festival brought together the jam band elite with the modern sounds and classical influences of the host city, resulting in an excellent multi-day gathering debut concert, never an easy task. Hopefully, this two-day event continues next year, presenting a high-quality festival in New Orleans, smack dab between the two weekends of the world-famous Jazz and Heritage Festival for locals and fans worldwide to enjoy.