The Cajun band and Kamasi Washington were two of the highlights Friday at Jazz Fest. Here are our picks for Saturday as well.
A lot was good on Friday at Jazz Fest, but nothing was as mind-blowing as the Lost Bayou Ramblers’ set. The Cajun band has shown a healthy sense of adventure since 2012’s Mammoth Waltz, but you could almost always trace musical ideas back to Cajun musical traditions. Friday, they went further out, and it sounded better for the moments of musical exploration. Guitarist Jonny Campos looped a guitar part and let the loop continue as the song ended just because, and he started another song by playing with a foot pedal to produce a science fiction electronic squeal.
In those pieces, and for most of the set, the Cajun musical traditions were clearly in evidence, but they weren’t always. The band’s most radical moment sounded like the South of I-10 Hawkwind as Campos played his electric guitar with a violin bow and Andre Michot ran his accordion through foot pedals that gave it a genuinely unexpected sound. When Michot switched to the lap steel guitar, he got shrieks out of it until he detuned it, so much so that he could pull one string six inches about the fretboard. When he did so, his brother Louis Michot came over to play it with his bow.
Those moments were exclamation marks for a band that has shown punk leanings in the past. Like punk bands, Lost Bayou Ramblers often play in front of the beat to create the cyclonic rhythms, and their taste in drummers has run toward a caveman thump. That thump was certain present Friday, but so was additional percussion, whether it was the bassist Bryan Webre taking a break to play the t'fer, or Eric Heigle playing an electronic drum pad. The results were often obviously Cajun, but it was great to see the band commit to the musical exploration that much of the band’s last decade has pointed toward.
The audience at the Gentilly Stage was as attentive as it could be for Kamasi Washington, but those holding down their spots for Gary Clark Jr. could only do so much with a jazz set. I suspect Washington’s contract dictated that he not play in the Jazz Tent, but if it was simply a programming choice, it was a bold one that largely paid off because it was great to hear jazz outside on a big stage.
Musically, you could hear why Washington might want to be heard outside of a jazz context. “Street Fighting Mas” more than any other piece in the show made clear the influence of Parliament-Funkadelic. You could hear it in the groove, the sound—including silly, squiggly keyboard textures—and the maximalist approach, with no song ended before its ideas had been given a thorough testing. Still, an hour-long show is little more than a good introduction to Washington’s music. He’s not known for brevity, and when he announced the last song, it felt like the band was just warming up.
Our highlights for Saturday don’t include Pitbull. It feels like his moment has passed in a number of ways. That said, the spectacle of this little homunculus onstage leering and dancing with a bunch of women who are out of his league has to be seen, and to be fair, he catered to the Latinx audience far more than I expected or had seen him do in the past. Credit where credit is due …
As of this writing, we don't yet know when Jazz Fest will open today, but it won't open on time because of the rain that has fallen and the rain still predicted to fall. It's likely to be a good day for muddy puddle boots.
The Soul Rebels
12:20 p.m., Acura Stage
Tribu Baharú of Columbia
12:40 p.m., Cultural Exchange Pavilion World Journey; 3:30 p.m., Jazz and Heritage Stage
Jerry Douglas Interview by Steve Hochman
1:30 p.m., Allison Minor Music Heritage Stage
Tank and the Bangas
1:40 p.m., Acura Stage
Jupiter & Okwess of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
2:40 p.m., Congo Square Stage
2:55 p.m., Lagniappe Stage
3:10 p.m., Acura Stage
4:05 p.m., Congo Square Stage