I woke early so I could get an early start and get in early. I planned on staying at Gentilly Stage all day with jaunts elsewhere between shows. Same routine, got to Burgundy and Elysian Fields without bridge or train event and rode casually to the Fair Grounds the usual route. I tied my steed to the usual pole and greeted my familiars for the last time. I headed to Lagniappe Stage to start the day with a dozen oysters. I like this tradition. There was a crowd this morning. After a leisurely slurping, I left and headed to Economy Hall Tent to wait out the rain, which was just beginning. I have some time before Aaron Neville, so I decide the Economy Tent best choice, as it is close. The rain is heavy and the lightening and thunder dominate the silences. The New Leviathan Oriental Fox-Trot Orchestra was playing and I found a good seat in which I could spread out a bit as I waited out the rain. I sat through the break since it was still raining outside. Was this going to be a repeat of yesterday? The MC kept coming out announcing rain in the forecast. The problem with him coming up to the mike might mean the cancelling of the day. During the break I followed the English Football League’s games. The Foxes tied, which is good for the Spurs and the Citizens lost big. Now the Spurs must win and Kane must score. Tommy Sancton’s New Orleans Legacy Band began to swing us all. Aaron was supposed to begin at 1240, so I hung here until 1230. I had my sandwich and yoo-hoo, since this was the best time. When lunch was done and it was 1230, I headed to Gentilly Stage. I went in on the right and wormed my way to the rail. There is a metal grate to stand on and keep my feet out of the muck. The show was starting late by about fifteen minutes. The rain let up and we just had a sprinkle as Aaron Neville came out and serenaded us. It was beautiful. At the end of the show, I walked to get an Alligator Po-boy and then to the Economy Tent to eat it and get out of the renewed rain. The Economy Tent always has old time Jazz with band members dressed in shirts and ties and captain’s caps. Always entertaining with Second Lines snaking the aisles of the Hall. The 220 Tribute to Allen Toussaint with his band playing and special guests is about to start at Gentilly Stage. Again I get to my spot by the rail. Everyone who came out played one of his songs. I stayed here between shows for the show I have been waiting for seven days, Bonny Raitt. She made a quick appearance at the AT tribute so I got a taste of what was to come. Her show was everything I expected. The show was fabulous as she started with new stuff followed by old and familiar and her penultimate song was my favorite, “Good Man and Good Woman.” She does it with the keyboard player. Her show rocked. Before the tribute to BB King, I had to go to the Economy Tent to add a t-shirt, eat the PBJ and yogurt so I’m fortified for the end. I need to generate more heat. I put on the t-shirt I wore on the bike ride and then put the green vest I had been wearing all day and was too wet to continue in alone. I put the vest over the t-shirt and then the slicker and buttoned up. I was going to generate heat with my body heat and the damp clothes to steam me warm. It was working as I had gained a comfortable level of heat and made my way again back to my spot on the rail for the all-star cast paying tribute to BB King. At center stage was a stool with white flowers and the players came out and played a King song as their tribute to the King, BB. So many old timers came out and sang or played a gem including Bonnie. And then they all came out and ended the 2016 Jazz Fest with a picture moment.
My first Jazz Fest and I’m hooked. Next year, I’ll be back. Bonnie was great. She was part of both Allen Toussaint and BB King tributes and she was gracious and vocal in both. She was the star of the day for me. Rain had stopped and I was glad to ride back to the car in dry. Once I got the chains in the backpack, the skies blessed us once again. And the wind thought it would be fun to blow up the streets making bike riders ride a bit challenging, we want them to remember us, said the elements. Oh I will remember them. When I got back to the car, I put the bike up, took off the backpack, raincoat, vest and t-shirt and put on the long sleeved shirt I brought. With front and back door open I remove al clothes below my waist and jump into my sweats. I forgot these clothes yesterday. Easy ride home to no rain so I could cook dinner. I have to attend to the awning at some point, maybe with George, as I need help and tools. I listened to the end of the Big Broadcast and then the end of the Yankee game. I haven’t been paying attention to the Yankees. I discovered they are in last place. WTF!! They were behind the Red Sox, who are tied for first with Baltimore. WTF!! The Yanks are behind 8-7 in the top of the ninth and lose the game by that score for a Sox sweep of three of Yanks at Fenway. I have to pay more attention.
I was amazed by my first Jazz Fest. Each day provides a different path to follow, a musical path. Sometimes this path is altered by a natural event like rain or sun. I had both sun and rain, and even a more rare cancelled show. The first weekend was delightful as it was sunny and I shared some of it with Erica and Klon. I found my way around the Fair Grounds in a rudimentary way to accomplish certain tasks, to get from venue to venue on the twelve stages. I was using the interior tracks and Tim taught me about the racetrack as the way to move from venue to venue. The advantage to the racetrack is how well it drains and provides firmness to make better time and it is wide. Toilets are along some of the lengths, which is always a good thing. Soon I learned about finding refuge during the storms. I discovered the oysters and found a good tradition, start the day with a dozen oysters. The Economy Hall Tent is a great refuge tent with excellent music, atmosphere, and is centrally located. I was learning the culture of each stage or tent. Some days, I’d be at one stage or tent, on other days, I’d be back and forth in neighboring stages, on other days I’d be going back and forth from one side to the far side of the moon, the other side. Each day had spectacular shows and too many times I had to choose one over another or see half of each show. If I hadn’t seen the group, that was the first tiebreaker; after that it was a crapshoot.
The first weekend had new artists I hadn’t seen: Steely Dan, John Hammond, Boz Scaggs, John Mayall, and Amanda Shaw. There were those I had seen before, Michael McDonald, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter. And there were some of more local favorites: Panorama Jazz Band, the subdues, Gal Holiday, Osborne, Benoit, and the Iguanas. All of these acts and others were fabulous because this was the Jazz Fest. John Mayall stuck out because he was not scheduled. He is 84 and put on a great show, a show worthy of his 1972 era.
The second weekend had the same menu but for four days, one more than last weekend. After three days of sun from the first weekend, I had experienced a rain here by going to Chazfest. It was rain practice. I was prepared for the next four days, which would have three days of rain, the first and last two. Over these days I followed themes like Cajun or Brass bands or blues or stages. I was becoming more comfortable with the Fair Grounds. During these four days I would learn how to survive the Fest. On Thursday I started with some Cajun and was surprised by Brandi Carlile and pleased to see Tedeschi Truck Band. Friday was a brass day high lighted by Aurora Nealand and Elvin Bishop. Saturday was best remembered because the day ended at 5 and not 7 because of the rain and the damage to my awning. High lights were Jon Batiste and Dr. John. A surprise was Ingrid Lucia. Sunday was a day of tributes, Allen Toussaint and BB King with Bonnie Raitt sandwiched in between.
My overall summations for me have John Mayall, Jon Batiste, Bonnie Raitt, Boz Scaggs, Steely Dan my favorite memories as well as some locals like Aurora Nealand and Craig Field. I love the culture of this event and plan on doing it again. It is addicting.