By Andy J. Gordon
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival made a triumphant comeback in 2022 after cancellations, delays and disappointments due to the pandemic. While the festival itself took place April 29 to May 1 and May 5-8, the clubs, special event venues and outdoor parks were teeming with live music. Those venues booked first rate talent from local musicians to world famous touring artists.
Many live music devotees from out of town came into New Orleans to experience the unique vibe. They mingled with the locals who attended dazzling musical-collaboration-filled shows that happened across NOLA during the festival period. We went to several of the hottest shows during the days between Jazz Fest weekends and caught some of the magical moments.
The local NOLA Crawfish King, Chris “Shaggy” Davis, put on a three day music and food festival at The Broadside, an outdoor space in midtown. Shaggy has built close relationships with many local and out of town musicians, so he masterfully put together a lineup of established bands and one-off all-star mash ups. We caught several of the special festival sets, along with an outrageous crawfish eating contest.
Anders Osborne did a wonderful acoustic duo set with his bandmate Jonathan Sloane on May 2. Osborne’s vocals, guitar playing and harmonica work were stellar. Sloane contributed fine rhythms and some intricate guitar solos. Local harmonica whiz, Jason Ricci was in the audience watching when Osborne called him to the stage. He stayed for a few songs and wailed on a few different harmonicas.
The crawfish eating contest has become a tradition at the fest. Shaggy oversaw several contestants who downed as many mud bugs as they could in seven minutes. A few entrants talked trash, but winner Rebecca Williamson miraculously polished off fourteen pounds of crawfish (four pounds of meat!)
Later that night, we went to Tipitina’s for Shorty Fest, a fund raising multi-band party for The Shorty Foundation. Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews started the charitable organization to provide music education to children in need. The party at Tips started with marching bands in the street, an auction of memorabilia and a presentation honoring Cyril Neville with a plaque in the sidewalk, enshrining him in the Tipitina’s walk of fame.
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band opened the live music sets inside Tips. They always bring the brass heat to their shows and this performance was no different. Their sweet arrangements on “Deliza Jane” and “My Feet Can’t Fail Me Now” got the crowd energized for a long night of music. Dumpstaphunk performed next. Ivan Neville led his band through a few of their funkiest tunes with vocal support from bassists Tony Hall and Nick Daniels III. Ian Neville played several creative guitar solos during the all too short set.
Home team, Galactic came next. The bandmembers own Tipitinas, so whenever they play at the club it is like they are having a backyard party. Dynamic vocalist Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph spun around the crowded stage as she sang “Right On,” “Dolla Diva” and “Getcha Sum.” Ben Ellman and Eric Gordon played intense saxophone and trumpet solos respectively, while Jeff Raines performed understated, but complex guitar solos.
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue closed the show. Shorty is always a master showman, whether he is blowing his trumpet and trombone or singing songs. His band is talented and energetic as well. Their cover of James Brown’s “Get Up Offa That Thing” nearly brought down the house. Shorty invited several of the Foundation students to the stage and led a horn showdown with a few players. The long night ended with a mash up of the band’s “Do To Me” and the classic “When The Saints Go Marching In.” Shorty wove through the crowd with his trombone blaring before making it back to the stage for the final farewell of the night.
On May 3, another special event called Daze Between NOLA took place on the property of Faubourg Brewery on the east side of New Orleans. The expansive indoor/outdoor space accommodated two stages and had food trucks, beer tap stations, an indoor tasting room and various lawn games for the attendees. String Cheese Incident headlined the show with a two set performance, but a lineup of local and out of town talent filled the undercard.
Snarky Puppy along with Eric Krasno & Friends, Nicholas Payton and Erica Falls all did sets through the day and evening. Snarky Puppy demonstrated meticulous horn arrangements, synchronized percussion and creative electronic keyboard forays during their instrumental set. Birthday boy and djembe player Weedie Braimah sat in for much of the set and could not wipe the smile from his face.
Nicholas Payton presented a short set of jazz, funk and fusion vibes while playing both trumpet and electronic keyboards. Erica Falls was the vocalist with Galactic until she started her solo career. Her voice during Daze Between was sweet and powerful as she sang a few funky, soul tunes before String Cheese closed out the day on the main stage.
Their first set contained trippy versions of songs from their catalog, but the first surprise came with “MLT” featuring sit ins at percussion and keys by Snarky Puppy’s Nate Werth and Shaun Martin, respectively. The set wrapped up with a wild ride for Weather Report’s classic “Birdland” that segued into and back out of “The Remington Ride.”
The closing set had more heavy jams, but not before Billy Strings snuck onto the stage and plugged in an electric guitar. The unannounced bluegrass master was set for a headlining performance later that weekend at Jazz Fest, so when he appeared with SCI, the crowd went nuts. He proceeded to play uncharacteristically jam heavy guitar solos, trading licks with Bill Nershi and Michael Kang. He was only going to stay for one song, but the band encouraged him to stick around and everyone was rewarded with a jamtastic, bluegrassy version of the Allman Brothers Band’s “Ramblin’ Man”. The rest of the set had several psychedelic explorations, but the Strings sit in capped the event.
One of the band mash ups at Crawfish Fest was billed as Luther Dickinson and Company. The North Mississippi Allstars guitarist put together a band of veterans on May 4 that really wowed the crowd. Lamar Williams Jr., the vocalist in NMAS, Duane Betts from Allman Betts Band, drummer Terence Higgins from Tab Benoit’s band, sousaphone player Kirk Joseph from Dirty Dozen and guitar whiz Marcus Machado were the core players.
The band covered “One Way Out” and “Crossroads” among other classics. Eric Krasno joined the party for “Up and Rolling” and a four guitar symphony ensued. It was amazing how the guitarists complemented, rather than stepped on each other. Kraz sang a heavy blues tune and then Williams Jr. belted out a simmering “I Ain’t Superstitious.”
Another supergroup was put together by Dumpstaphunk’s Ivan Neville for the closing set on that last day of Crawfish Fest. He brought George Porter Jr. from The Meters, Ian Neville from Dumpstaphunk and Russell Batiste from The Neville Brothers together for a funk retrospective. Eric Krasno sat in for a few songs as well. They did great versions of “Just Kissed My Baby,” “Hey Pocky A Way” and “People Say” as well as other standards.
Late that night we went back to Tipitina’s for more Eric Krasno. He brought his Daze Between Band for a late show. That band included old friends, drummer Adam Deitch, saxophonist Ryan Zoidis and trumpeter Eric “Benny” Bloom from Lettuce. Trey Anastasio Band vocalist and trumpeter Jennifer Hartswick rounded out the horns while George Porter Jr. and Ivan Neville represented the local talent.
The band played funk classics “Fiya on the Bayou” and “Hey Pocky A Way” along with other grooving songs. Erica Falls came out to sing Sly and the Family Stone’s “If You Want Me To Stay” while Galactic’s Stanton Moore sat in on drums. The show continued late into the night and early morning. It wrapped up an array of eclectic, wild and creative shows before the second weekend of Jazz Fest.
We will have more coverage of shows that took place at clubs around New Orleans at night during the second weekend of Jazz Fest. Stay tuned.
Photos courtesy of Andy J. Gordon ©2022 FB: andy.j.gordon1 IG: andyjgordon1
To submit an article an article or review, or to just say hello hit us at [email protected]
Also- check out the search feature in the upper right hand corner and search for your favorite artist, event, venue or genre. You’ll be surprised at what you find!
Check out the Live Music News and Review.com Facebook page for updates and announcements.