After a downpouring of rain the night before, it turned the grounds of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival into a simmering, steaming bowl of roux. Thankfully, the mud was at a minimum and the music was blasting. From hyper harmonica solos to an instrumental “Amazing Grace,” the Fairgrounds helped you sin, sweat, and be saved.
The morning started out on a lighter note with the Cowsills – Susan and her brothers Paul and Bob – as they opened Friday at the Gentilly Stage with their melodic pop that conjured up a lot of images from their idyllic younger days in the sixties when the times were carefree and sweet. Taking that vibe, you could mosey over to the Fais Do Do Stage next for some cool Cajun folk with Feufollet then strut in the blossoming heat on Congo with the wonderful Erica Falls.
An interesting tidbit about yesterday was choice of attire by some of the artists. Jackets seemed to be a thing. Chris Isaak was sparkly in a light blue suit adorned with rhinestones, Elvis Costello was stylish in his leopard print, Busta Rhymes was aglow in lime green and The Black Crowes Chris Robinson was all Jaggery in his metallic outfit over on the main stage to close out the day.
Speaking of The Black Crowes, they put on an electrifying set with Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr playing some mean slide on guitar and Ivan Neville sitting in for “Jealous Again.” But it was Chris’s voice that was full of good old hard life living blues and the band just powered on top of that.
Elvis Costello was also on point with Charlie Sexton on guitar and 82-year-old Louisiana native Tommy McLain, who sat in with the Imposters on “Sweet Dreams,” which was a Top 20 hit for him back in the mid-sixties. The previous day, Costello had joined in on a tribute performance by The Dirty Dozen Brass Band honoring Dave Bartholomew, who wrote and recorded with Fats Domino (Bartholomew passed away in 2019 at age 100), and had himself a whopping fun time.
Chris Isaak was the comedian of the day, cracking jokes throughout his whole set. After introducing his band members, he said, “And we are The Cowsills.” With his charming vocals and romantic, oftentimes heartbreaking, songs, he had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand; and he had one of the best, most fun, bands of the day.
Granted with eleven stages, you have to miss some artists you want to see in order to see others. I heard great things about Nayo Jones and Leo Nocentelli; Boz Scaggs did his “Lido Shuffle” and The Campbell Brothers, whom I did hear, were nailing it with some great guitar melodies.
And we couldn’t end this piece without mention of the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Their set was, as always with these guys, perfection.
There are two more days of Jazz Fest. Get your tickets, get on the grounds, eat a bunch of New Orleans food, have a Mango Freeze to cool off and enjoy lots of great music. It’s how they do it better than any festival out there.