Hey gang, I told you that I would be back with my thoughts on the Jazz Fest live acts. I’ve been nutty busy at work – The Man has been killing me! But I think there was a breakthrough and now I’m back. Time to revisit New Orleans, right?
Let’s wind through what I did on Day 1. I’m not going to give the typical full live review because the bands didn’t play their typical sets. Most sets at JF are short – in the hour-long range – and there are no encores (yay!) or fooling around with late starts, etc. It is run with some precision as numerous bands are lined up for each stage, and therefore, they pretty much start and end on time. Cool with me, not cool for those who are chronically late. The shows start around 11:15 or so and run through 7 pm. I didn’t get there quite on time to catch the very first act, but saw lots of music. Ready? Me, too.
E.L.S. For the first set of the day, we didn’t have a band that we had targeted beforehand, and just stumbled upon E.L.S. They are three female vocalists backed by a powerful band complete with a full horn ensemble. It’s cover song heaven, and the ladies blasted through rock, funk, disco and even a country tune. Can you sing “I Will Survive”? If so, you’re better than some of the karaoke performers I’ve seen – but E.L.S. carried it off with aplomb. They were entertaining enough, had BRP dancing in the muck a bit, and were thoroughly enjoyable. Would I go see them again? Nah. But it was a cool way to spend the first hour at JF and get things hopping.
Marcia Ball Oh my, this was a great find. Marcia Ball is Americana music par excellence. Think roadhouse rave-ups and gulf coast blues with some Cajun and R&B influences thrown in. The demure Ms. Ball sits cross-legged behind a piano and belts out her numbers with heft. With her leg swinging in time to the beat, I don’t know how she gets such power given her posture, but it works well. Clearly a seasoned performer, Marcia gave a rousing set and me and the team were digging it. I would definitely check her out should she come Philly hopping, and think that you ought to put her on your list, too.
Wayne Toups Hey, we had to get our zydeco on while we were in New Orleans, and Wayne-o was the way to go. I had seen Wayne decades ago in DC, and he still is lively and kicking it. I’m a sucker for bad-ass accordion (I’ll bet you didn’t know there was such a thing, did ya? Hey, Joe Ely has a guy he plays with named Joel Guzman who is just amazing on the squeezebox). Anyway, Wayne ripped it up. He has some good songs that got the crowd grooving and a solid backing band that rolled through his originals with well-rehearsed and tight renditions. There were some technical problems plaguing his set, but they got resolved without too much interference with the music. All in all, an hour well spent.
Widespread Panic The first of the headliners to take the stage. WP is a seasoned, well-known band with a lot of music in their catalog. I’m not a huge fan, but they were good live. A fair amount of jamming, but not so much that it was like watching “Mountain Jam” ramble on for 30 minutes. It was good, I pushed my way up close, and I enjoyed them. They had a lot of people in the crowd that were big fans (singing all the lyrics), and it was crowded. Would I see them again? Probably not because they would be expensive, but they are a decent live act.
Tower of Power Now, that’s what I’m talking about! Huge horn section, great stage presence and da funk! There was a lot to like about these guys, and they ran through a great set that had the whole Congo Square Stage crowd grooving and dancing. If you’ve never seen them before, you’ve done yourself a great disservice. Go ahead, treat yourself, and enjoy some funky good times with a fantastic party band.
So that was it for Day 1. It doesn’t seem like much, but that is many hours of music, walking from stage to stage, and a lot of standing up. Plus, Day 1 was cloudy, chilly and muddy. The crowd was thin compared to Days 2 and 3 (I didn’t realize that until Days 2 and 3 mind you – it wasn’t like the place was empty), and that made it very enjoyable. I could get pretty close to most of the acts, and the sound was generally solid. More on the entire experience and my festival thoughts later.
I hope you are doing ok, and that The Man isn’t oppressing you. I ask you to check back in a few to hear about Days 2 and 3. I got some pretty good pictures using a regular camera (as opposed to the iPhone 6), and hope you enjoyed them. See you soon, rockers.
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My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.