QOTSA, Beach House, Weedie, and "Exile" Play Night Shows During Jazz Fest

The jam wave that followed Phish’s first appearance at Jazz Fest changed New Orleans’ nightlife during the festival, for years turning it into a place where the members of Lettuce are royalty, Grateful Dead-like jams take place nightly, and friendships made on the Jam Cruise find a stage. Funky jazz rock, rocky jazz funk, and jazzy funk rock have been the dominant sound for a decade, but this year featured some shows that acknowledged the broader spectrum of music. On Friday, April 27, the festival closed with sets by Sting and Sturgill Simpson.

How Does Jazz Fest Turn 50?

On a star power level, this year’s Jazz Fest was soft. Its biggest names play casinos and theaters, not arenas. David Byrne’s tour will play Saenger-like venues when he’s not booked at festivals. Jack White fit in the Saenger as last time he was in town, and it’s hard to imagine that the poorly received Boarding House Reach changed his draw for the better.

Jazz Fest: Shorty Honors the Nevilles

Trombone Shorty’s fest-closing set deserves to be the ritual that the Neville Brothers’ set used to be. The shows have been impressive, funky, and a lot of fun as he worked to justify occupying the slot, and each one has shown meaningful growth. He concluded this year’s Jazz Fest by using his songs as starting points for more expansive musical experiences.

Jazz Fest: Aerosmith Acts Its Age

Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler clearly has no plans to grow old gracefully. Saturday at Jazz Fest’s Acura Stage, the lead singer spent much of the set having an obvious, onstage squabble with the sound engineer running the monitors, repeatedly pointing angrily at the wedges in front of him and his in-ear monitor. At one point, Tyler jokingly stopped short of hitting him in the face with the base of his mic stand, and Tyler missed the pick-up in “Sweet Emotion” because he couldn’t let it go.

Jazz Fest: Catching Up with Joe Dyson

Since Joe Dyson was a teenager at NOCCA, he has been one of The Drummers Most Likely To …. He, Conun Pappas, and Max Moran made an impact right away as The Bridge Trio, and became players to watch when they performed an impromptu tribute to the NOCCA teacher and mentor Alvin Batiste at Jazz Fest on the day he died in 2007. They furthered their musical education playing with Donald Harrison Jr. during their stint in the Tipitina’s Intern Program, a program for which Harrison is artistic director.

Jazz Fest: Tank and The Bangas Contain Multitudes

Friday at Jazz Fest was a lesson in context. I went into the day excited to see Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, but after an afternoon that included Fiend, 3D Na’Tee, Tank and The Bangas, and Jupiter & Okwess from the Congo, a dude with carefully crafted country(ish) songs didn’t fit the day’s flavor profile. The musical and lyrical clarity in his songs were also at odds with the sometimes gnarly music I got from Tank and Jupiter. 

Jazz Fest: The Second Saturday at the Fest and at Night

Saturday at Jazz Fest ends with Cage the Elephant and Aerosmith opposite each other at the Gentilly and Acura stages. One rocks; one used to rock. Cage the Elephant has never sounded as gloriously decadent as Aerosmith in the ‘70s, but neither has Aerosmith since the ‘70s. I realized at one point in their 1980s comeback that I cared more about what happened to Alicia Silverstone in their videos than the songs themselves, and that was that.

Jazz Fest: Terrace Martin Was Just Getting Loose

Terrace Martin’s set felt like it was just getting started when he brought it to a close Thursday at Jazz Fest. He was finding his groove, and guests Nicholas Payton and Maurice Mo Betta Brown began playing with each other and briefly teased what could happen in the show’s second hour. Unfortunately, Martin was slated for a one hour show, leaving us to speculate about what could have been. 

Jazz Fest: The Second Friday at the Fest and at Night

For me, the stretch from 12:25 to 5:25 p.m. Friday is what makes a good Jazz Fest. During that stretch, I hope to see part of the New Orleans Hip-Hop Experience (particularly Fiend and 3D Natee), Lil’ Buck Sinegal with Barbara Lynn, The Nth Power, Tank and the Bangas, Jupiter & Okwess, 79rs Gang, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, and The Soul Rebels.

Jazz Fest: The Death and Rebirth of the NOJO, Pt. 1

In his best days with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO), Victor Atkins could have supported himself. Not his wife and kids, and a mortgage would have been tough, but he could have handled the one-room apartment he lived in for a while, furnished only with a futon and a piano. On some of the longer national tours early on, he got paid not on a per-gig basis but on a contract for the tour, and that worked out pretty well.

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