New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival includes many ancillary events. Review and Photos by Andy J. Gordon
The club scene during Jazz Fest takes place primarily at night and into the wee hours of the morning. However, during the days between the festival weekends, a number of events occur in the afternoon and bleed into the night. We attended two of the most prominent ones.
The NOLA Crawfish Festival took place at the Broadside, an outdoor space in Mid City. Hosted by Chris “Shaggy” Davis, the Crawfish King who owns a local restaurant and food trucks that are locally renowned for excellent boiled crawfish and BBQ. Advertised as a true New Orleans experience, the event was held from Monday May 1 to Wednesday May 3 and had a variety of live music, mostly performed by local and regional artists that have become friends with Shaggy. Interspersed between music sets were a wild crawfish eating contest and a serious crawfish cookoff that was judged by local celebrities. Many of the musicians at Crawfish Fest also perform at the Jazz & Heritage Festival as well as in the local clubs.
Tony Hall & Friends were led by the Dumpstaphunk bassist and featured Brad Walker on saxophone, Steve Lands on trumpet and Ari Teitel on guitar. North Mississippi Allstars guitarist Luther Dickinson was the artist at large for Crawfish Fest and sat in with virtually every band all three days. He joined Hall for a magical version of the Allman Brothers Band classic, “Dreams.” Galactic’s Anjelika Jelly Joseph sat in for a few songs including Chaka Khan’s “I Feel For You” and Dr. John’s “Qualified.”
Three NOLA legends that rarely play together anymore graced the stage on the opening night. George Porter. Jr., Russell Batiste and Brian Stoltz are PBS. Porter is famous for his time with The Meters. Batiste played drums with Harry Connick Jr. and Maceo Parker. Stoltz was a guitarist with The Neville Brothers. Combined, the trio are a rare treat and their set of funky standards had the crowd dancing into the night.
A local band called Deltaphonic played an inspiring set of blues based rock. The best part of the show was when Luther Dickinson traded guitar solos with Logan Sanders. The Lost Bayou Ramblers are another local band that played a set of Cajun and Zydeco infused blues. Dickinson also sat in with the Ramblers, exchanging licks with brothers Louis and Andre Bichon. Blues master Sonny Landreth played a scorching set of slide guitar songs including Elmore James’ “It Hurts Me Too” which included a slide duel with Dickinson.
The other big mid-week event that started in the afternoon and bled into the night was called the Daze Between Fest. It took place May 2-3 at Faubourg Brewery, the site of the oldest beer producing plant in New Orleans. The property has an open grassy area that was set up with two stages and an indoor space with a tasting room. This event blended national acts with local ones and leaned toward jam bands.
David Shaw is the vocalist for The Revivalists, the band based in NOLA that has broken out nationally. Shaw had to cancel the band’s Jazz Fest set scheduled for April 29 due to a viral issue that affected his voice, so his solo set at Daze Between was highly anticipated. It was not really a solo set as the singer had an all-star band backing him up, including Trombone Shorty guitarist Pete Murano. Shaw sang and played guitar on songs from his self-titled solo album. The band also did a nice version of Tom Petty’s “You Wreck Me.”
Neal Francis played a fun and trippy set that included a cover of The Meters’ “You’ve Got To Change (You’ve Got to Reform).” He also played fine versions of his “How Have I Lived” and “Can’t Stop The Rain.” Francis tried to get “Can’t Stop The Rain” co-author David Shaw to join him onstage, but unfortunately Shaw was not within earshot. However, Cool Cool Cool vocalist Shira Elias joined in for a few songs including “Problems” and “She’s a Winner.”
Goose closed both days of the event. The breakout jam band put on two stellar shows that reinforced their growing reputation as a must see live act. They started each performance under the golden rays of the setting sun, but each show really kicked into high gear once the darkness allowed their psychedelic lightshow to match the mood of the music. While still under the natural light, the band played “California Magic” and “Turned Clouds.”
David Shaw sat in for an accurate tribute to Blind Melon’s “No Rain.” More star power joined the fray for “Hot Tea” as The Horn Section (Cool Cool Cool’s Josh Schwartz, Greg Sanderson and Chris Brouwers) plus Neal Francis came on stage. Francis and Goose’s Peter Anspach traded licks on the Clavinet and organ. Once the guests left, guitarist Rick Mitarotonda stretched out on “Hungersite” and “Feel It Now.” The Horn Section came back out for an engaging arrangement of “Fish In The Sea.” The band closed out the Daze Between fest with the uplifting jam “Empress of Organos.”
Tipitina’s has been the site of many epic shows over the years during Jazz Fest. One of their most anticipated and celebrated events is Shorty Fest. Troy Andrews, known as Trombone Shorty, created a charitable foundation to help students in New Orleans pursue their passion for music. Shorty Fest is the foundation’s biggest annual fund raiser. Outside the club, there was a silent auction, performances by several marching bands and a “Walk of Fame” induction ceremony honoring Andrews before the indoor festivities began. Once inside Tips, Tank and the Bangas, Galactic and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue played sets of music for a packed house of adoring fans.
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