Where to begin. In New Orleans for 5 days for Jazz Fest and several special moments. Night shows in order:
Anders Osborne at Tipitinas with special guests Dave Malone (Radiators) and Amy Helm: Was a bit concerned going in as this show was billed as an album release show for Osborne and his latest release is far from his best (at least for my taste). But he rocked this show from the get go including a few covers (Wild Horses and Up On Cripple Creek). Plus it is hard to not have fun at Tipitinas.
Dumpstaphunk covering Curtis Mayfield and the Isley Brothers: Kicked off with Superfly and it was non-stop funk for the next 90 minutes which felt like 5 minutes.
Gov't Mule: I've seen Gov't Mule several times and people say, why would you see them in New Orleans during Jazz Fest when you can see them back home. And the reason is that two of the best songs I have ever experienced live were at Mule shows in New Orleans during Jazz Fest five years ago. So I went Saturday night and was treated to Mule playing Bird Song and Fire on the Mountain joined by Branford Marsalis and Jeff Chimenti. It was close to 30 minutes of magical music. Jimmy Vivino joined for several other songs including Why Does Love Got to Be So sad.
Luther Dickinson: this was a solo show in a small room and may be the the most entertainment value ever for $15. Greasy blues and story telling from a master guitar player.
And at Fest, the highlights for me were:
PJ Morton: PJ is the keyboard player for Maroon 5 but recently moved to New Orleans and started his solo R&B career. Several good songs and delivers them Stevie Wonder like.
Foundation of Funk: The rhythm section of the Meters with 1/2 of Dumstaphunk running thru the Meters catalogue. Great to see young people recognizing the music from all the sampling of the Meters. George Porter and Zigaboo Modeliste are true legends.
Santana: Started off with a video from Woodstock and then was in non-stop overdrive. He can still play and his wife on drums is a treasure. Solid band, joined by Trombone Shorty for the last few songs. Great set by a legend.
Maggie Koerner: ex-lead singer for Galactic, she writes dark songs and delivers them with passion. She was the first act on the main stage Saturday and was tremendous. Nice to see her get a mention in the Times write-up of Jazz Fest Monday. She deserves it.
Naturally 7: Acapella group made up of 7 excellent singers plus they use their voices to mimic instruments. Sounds corny but they are a great act. When My Guitar Gently Weeps made the Jazz Tent explode. Several standing ovations.
Mdou Moctar: Saharan blues by a Hendrix like guitar player. Word got out on this via social media because the Blues Tent was half empty when he started and was overflowing when he ended.
Maurice Brown: I may be biased but another great jazz/hip hop set from "Mobetta" and his excellent band. Brought a few friends to see him for the first time and they are now believers. He sat in on several sets over the weekend including one at a crawfish boil I went to Monday. Very versatile player now touring with Anderson Paak.
The O'Jays: Don't laugh but this is more about the vibe at their stage than the O'Jays. Still good with I believe two original members. Looking at thousands of people of all different races and ages dance and smile during Love Train gives me a bit of hope for the world. My daughter said "this is the greatest vibe ever" which made it a special moment for me.
So much other great stuff I missed. I don't know if it was because it was the 50th Anniversary or the weather or the crowds but this was my favorite Jazz Fest since I first went seven years ago. Just a great event and if you like music even a little bit, I guarantee you will come back from Jazz Fest disappointed that you had not gone before. I'm not stopping and hope to be able to go for both weekends at some point.
Some food highlights:
First bite of food in New Orleans was a tasty pork belly po boy from Killer Poboys
Excellent lunch at Herbsaint
An okay dinner at Peche
A better than expected dinner for 25 people at Luke
Ridiculously good grilled oysters at Drago's
Cochon de lait po boy
Soft Shell Crab Po boy
Mango Freeze with a shot of tequila
Meaty White Beans
And 3 lbs of crawfish at a crawfish boil.