Jazz And Heritage Festival
Friday 28th April to Sunday 7th May 2023
The name is a bit of misnomer. Though called “Jazz and Heritage” Festival, the seven days of the festival are magical and diverse as any music event you can find. It does have Jazz and does have Heritage, but has a Blues tent, a Gospel tent, along with the Jazz Tent, as well as nine other stages of music that offer every genre you can name.
I’ve seen University Jazz bands to the big names like The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Dead & Company, Pearl Jam, Phish, Bon Jovi etc., as well as long gone guitar heroes like Steve Ray Vaughn, Albert King and B.B. King. Everyday is a different line up, with the day running from 11am until 7pm. Making a matrix of who you want to see each day and at which stage can be a challenge, but fun. Some days you can just set up your chairs at one stage, and other days you will find yourself running from stage to stage to catch your favorite or new act you want to see.
The Heritage part should not be missed either. People come just for the food stalls - which include local delights such as crawfish Monica, crawfish pie, crawfish enchilada’s, crawfish strudel (did someone say crawfish) along with hosts of other delicacies like Couchon de’lait or soft shell crab po’ boys (New Orleans style sandwiches), other seafood and Asian treats. There are arts and crafts stands from locals and all around the world. Native Americans and Cajuns have their wears to sell along with festival gear and everything you need for the day.
There are also parades, second lines and the Mardi Gras Indians dancing about. Some folks come to people watch, others for the food and some to socialize with their friends. I go for the music.
If you want to know more about the history of the Fest (what locals call it - either Jazz Fest or Fest - and fest becomes a verb as well - are you festing today? Let’s fest etc..) read this link below:
Also if you want to go back in time to see who has played the Fest, take a look at this article from the local paper:
The 2023 Jazz Fest presented by Shell quick synopsis.
It is an outdoor festival and some stages are in large tents with seats but the main two stages are open air. You can bring your chairs, stand or sit on blankets. There are upgrade packages that offer covered seating (VIP or the Big Chief) but they are quite pricey, but helps for the big names. The weather can be hot, raining and great. We had a bit of all of it this year.
Out of the seven days of Jazz Fest we went for four. Two the first weekend and two the second. You can buy a one day GA ticket, which is good for any day that weekend. You can play the weather that way, but I pick the bands I want to see-rain or shine. Just dress accordingly.
Friday 28th of April
The first weekend we passed on the first day as I wanted to see The Revivalists Saturday and Tedeschi Trucks, Gary Clark Jr and Marcus King on Sunday. Friends that went on Friday really enjoyed Dragon Smoke (local Super Jan group (http://www.dragonsmokenola.com/bio) and of course Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Some of the key bands that day were Lizzo, Wu Tang Clan and Soul Rebels, Mavis Staples, Tank and the Bangas and Charlie Musselwhite.
Saturday 29th of April
We went out Saturday despite the weather prediction to be a bit wet. Luckily we had backstage passes for The Revivalists, so there is a side stage undercover you can sit at as well as hang out with the band. We sat at the side stage to see Maggie Koerner. She is a good friend of The Revivalists, part of the local New Orleans Music scene. We have seen her before and met her in person a few times. A great singer and person. Check her out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXlL6XA6FUs
We were backstage when the band got the word that The Revivalists lead singer, David Shaw, was ill and they could not perform their set. They were to open for Ed Sheeran, which was exciting but not to be. A big disappointment to the band and their fans. The festival did a quick switch and moved Samantha Fish ft. Jesse Dayton to their spot (she was supposed to open for Steve Miller Band and the other stage). We headed out to meet some friends and the heavens opened up. We got lucky and grabbed a couple of seats in the Blues tent and caught Sonny Landreth. A Blues tent/Louisiana staple. Good set with some good Cajun influenced Blues Rock: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfT8lrQo7HE
Finally we ended the day catching up with our daughter, grandson and friends to see Ed Sheeran. He did not have a backup band and only used some loops for backing tracks (and explained to the audience what he was doing so there was no confusion that this was all prerecorded). Ed is an entertainer. Despite the wet and the rain the crowd sang along to every song. He is a great singer and song writer. Very talented and put on a great show:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEqPcgDYyQc
Some of the key bands that day Steve Miller Band, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram and Sweet Crude.
Sunday 30th of April
Well if Saturday was wet and disappointing with the cancellation of The Revivalists (thought there never is a bad day at The Fest), Sunday was sunny and choc full of shows to catch.
Started the day with a great few songs from another local New Orleans band Naughty Professor. Very horn centric and they don’t have a lead singer so very jammy and jazzy but always a treat to hear. They did bring out two singers for a song or two - Josh and Jelly who have sang back up on a number of The Revivalists shows. Also the drummer and the guitarist play with the saxophone and bass player in a side project called Space and Harmony. Again no vocalist but good jams for sure.
To continue with the New Orleans Funk and Soul theme we headed to the Festival Stage for Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk (where our chairs were for the next few sets). The Neville brothers are a New Orleans tradition, stemming from their days as The Meters, then The Neville Brothers. They used to close out Jazz Fest as a tradition but with the passing of some of the family they have formed a number of groups. These guys had a three piece horn section, drums, keyboards, sometimes two bass players and two guitarists. A really cool sound with a lot of funk. My first time to catch them, and I was not disappointed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cl9w50H8AoA
Following Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, we had the pleasure to see Gary Clark Jr. He put on a solid set of Blues and was his usual cool and collected self. Always a pleasure to listen to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKf8OiYgaDQ
The finale on the Festival Stage was the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Absolutely amazing set with great guitar work from both Susan Tedeschi and her husband Butch Trucks. The band was all together and heard some many folks told me they loved what they heard. Everyone raves about Truck’s guitar work, but, to me, Susan can hold her own. Really great set. Unfortunately, we had plans to catch the last two bands over at the Blues tent so did not catch their full set: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzhFfk12Op4
My son-law recommended I see this band and took him up on it. I was not disappointed. Mdou Moctar is from Niger Africa. His songs we sung in French, but the rhythm and guitar playing was something I had not experienced in the Blues tent before. It was spacey yet Bluesy and full of energy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ylrCTEhHz0
Marcus King was smokin’. Not sure what else to say about his show. High Energy, rockin’ at times, Bluesy at times but a really great set: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXlhKhveYGU
Missed Kenny Loggins and Los Lobos, although saw more big bands with better weather, but unfortunately cut a few short to catch all these great sets.
Thursday 4th of May
So Thursday is local’s day at the Fest. Locals (need a Louisiana state ID of some kind) can attend for a discounted price. We did not qualify but the line up was so good we had to go.
Durand Jones is an American contemporary R&B and Soul group. They were interesting and good to hear something different. Recommended by a friend, but a bit mellow for my taste and Jazz Fest.
You can’t go wrong with a Cowboy Mouth show if you want pure energy, crowd engagement and entertainment. He said he has played at 35 Jazz Fests and you can tell he’s loved all of them. Fred is the drummer and singer and he loves to egg the crowd on to sing along, participate in his antics and have a great time. This year is no exception. They are a New Orleans band and best way to describe them is right on their website: “Much like gumbo, the famous dish of their hometown, the New Orleans-born Cowboy Mouth uses a potent blend of musical ingredients - Rock, Blues, Punk, Funk, Country, Pop, Soul and whatever else feels good – to create their bodacious, kickass tunes.” Enough for me to make them a staple on my matrix of Jazz Fest sets every Fest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQjd8hijVY4
Best way to describe Buddy Guys’s set was outstanding. He left it all on the stage and even brought out his son to play. He did a smattering of other greats hits (from Al Green to BB King to Jimi Hendrix). He made the point that he did not play the entirety of some of these songs as to not want critics to say he is too old to hold his own on stage. Not the case for this set: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqPnwAr2PJQ
All I can say is Santana came out straight to his hits – ‘Soul Sacrifice’, ‘Evil Woman’, ‘Black Magic Woman’, ‘Oye Como Va’. We stayed for these songs and were glad we did. We were off to catch Larkin Poe then a bit of Leon Bridges, but very happy with what we saw and heard of Carlos. He can still blaze that six string: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfvvyB_TkMc
This is the main reason we were pulled away from the Festival Stage into the Blues Stage - Larkin Poe. We were not disappointed. The sisters from Northern Georgia can Rock and they came out to play. A real highlight of all the Festival shows for me. I wish I would have seen their entire set. I have been wanting to see them for years and never had the chance. They blew me away with their vocals and guitar work.
We missed J & the Causeways, although went to see Leon Bridges and would say his set was good but not great. He did not seem into it and for Jazz Fest it was kind of mellow. He did a good version of his hit ‘Beyond’, which is why we were there (long story behind it).
Friday 5th of May
We took Friday off as we were going on Saturday, but some of the featured bands were Jon Batiste, Ludacris, Eric Gales and Irma Thomas.
Saturday 6th of May
Another day of storms and rain. They delayed the opening by an hour and cancelled the first set of shows. It was a big mud fest, but no reason not to get there with a great line up that day.
Boyfriend is a “burlesque” Rock act from New Orleans. She is a great songwriter and singer. The Revivalists (ex-David Shaw and PJ Morton) played as her back up band. They have done this at past Jazz Fest shows and a number of late night shows as well. She has a great set of singers and dancers and is always entertaining and The Revivalists were great playing behind her.
David Shaw had a great solo set. The guitar player from Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Pete Murano, who is a great guitarist on his own, plays with Dave. He did not disappoint and shredded a couple of guitar licks. David Shaw has a good solo album and has talented musicians that play with him (in addition to Pete). Since he went on the Gentilly stage right after Boyfriend, the rest of The Revivalists joined him to play ‘Kid’, their new hit single. A highlight in the rain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLlUtiAlej4
What can I say? I am a confirmed Dead Head (though having only seen the original Grateful Dead five times in the 70s and 80s) and this was my twelth Dead & Company show since they formed in 2015, supposedly on their final tour. Jazz Fest sets are normally limited to 1 hours and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes for the closing act. Only for special performers have they been known to lengthen them (Bruce Springsteen for example) and this was another exception. They gave Dead & Company a 2 ½ hour slot. However, they usually play from 3-4 hours with two sets. They did squeeze in 12 songs. This averages out 12+ minutes a song, so you have to love the jams and the Dead to see them. They did not disappoint. John Mayer is a phenomenal guitarist in my humble opinion. They started with an ode to New Orleans with ‘Truckin’ and went through some Dead classics – ‘Brown Eyed Woman’, ‘Playing in the Band’, ‘Uncle Johns Band’ and others. It was a great set list and perfect end to a pretty muddy and wet day, as the sun did come out halfway through their set and stayed with us through close: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qx2-gAtWpac
Bands that were also there on the wet Saturday and a number I would have loved to have caught as well: The Lumineers, H.E.R., Keb’ Mo, John Hiatt & the Goners, Robert Randolph Band and Anders Osborne
Sunday 7th of May
Though we didn’t attend Sunday, you can see it has a pretty strong line up. A number of local bands, with now for the last few years Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue closing out the Fest - the torch was passed from The Neville Brothers to The Radiators and now Trombone Shorty, always a top local act. A good line up for the day also included Tom Jones, Herbie Hancock, Melissa Etheridge, Flow Tribe, Mumford & Sons, The Radiators, Tab Benoit, and Galactic featuring Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph.