The first weekend finished with music from opposite poles at opposite ends of the Fair Grounds.
Sunday’s final sets at Jazz Fest couldn’t have been more different. Eric Clapton worked in traditional forms - particularly the blues - and the show was all about traditional notions of talent. The Acura Stage’s infield and track were packed to hear a legend play the guitar, while at the Samsung Galaxy Stage Vampire Weekend played a brisk hybrid of African music and American pop which was often reminiscent of The English Beat. If anyone in Vampire Weekend took a solo I missed it, but that didn’t slow down the fans who clearly admired the songs’ brevity and their crisp contemporariness. Since I’m a song guy at heart, I was happier at Vampire Weekend, where people joyously danced. Still, when Clapton revved up his first killer solo in “Pretending,” I was glad I saw it.
Also on Sunday
- I wish I’d seen Galactic because three people stopped me to ask me about Maggie Koerner, who’s singing with them these days. I got a similar question after a Mardi Gras show. You could start at her website, here or here:
- During Chocolate Milk’s set Sunday, there was no sense of cosmic injustice that The Meters are revered and Chocolate Milk are a cratedigger’s find. Brett Milano told the band’s story when I was editing OffBeat, and in short, their label (RCA) let them down, and they made the conscious decision to sound less distinctly New Orleans. As Sunday’s show illustrated, that meant they sounded less distinctive - but not less funky. They took a little while to settle into the sweet spot, but when they got there, the grooves were powerful. The crowd waiting in lawn chairs for Charlie Wilson got up and took notice when they got to the summertime jam, “Groove City,” which Frank Richard introduced as “New Orleans’ National Anthem.” It wasn’t my choice, but the reaction suggested that there was a time …
- Last year, Tuareg guitarist Bombino blew me away in the Blues Tent, and he was a find for others who were there. This year, the crowd was ready for him and was ecstatic and on its for much of his set as he wound out hypnotizing bursts of guitar over circular rhythms. He responded with his most intense New Orleans set yet, surpassing his hot show Thursday night at the House of Blues.
- At Voodoo last year, Royal Teeth’s pop lived so much in the higher have of the sonic spectrum that their sound matched with the buoyancy of the songs threatened to float away like a helium balloon. Sunday didn’t quite get to that place, though late in the set all the ’80s pop textures and high-end sonics started to wear me out. Then, they closed with their hit, “Wild,” which is very representative of who they are and all was forgiven anyway. It’s really all about the songs.
- John Michael Rouchell opened Sunday at Jazz Fest with his new band, TYSSON. I’m not sure that name’s an improvement on his own and MyNameIsJohnMichael, but it’s interesting to hear him work to find his music. By now, it’s clear that he can write, sing, and play; the question he seems to be working through in public is what music only he could make, and what music he needs to make. I’m not sure TYSSON’s the answer, but it’s a good answer with Joe Dyson Jr. and Alvin Ford Jr. on double drums, Max Moran on bass and Joe Shirley on keys. The songs live in the same universe as those from his previous incarnations, but they’re a little more electronic, a little more rhythm oriented, and a little more spare. It wasn’t always clear that two drummers were needed, but even with two it remains his smallest and presumably most economical band, but he’s going need a big van to tour with this group.