Saturday, April 25, 2009
Friday At The Fairgrounds: Special Saturday Edition
I left the house without the camera battery. (It was still in its charger.) Rolled that one right off the back figuring I'd be taking the same pictures of the Grandstand, the Mardi Gras Indians and the like that I have been taking for the last ten years. It was a bit harder to roll taking the wrong tickets off the back. (FYI: Tickets that say "Sunday" are not good for "Friday." Just sayin...) Had to get back in a cab. $22 and 22 minutes later, I was part of Jazz Fest:Day One.
After the shakey start, Connie Jones' set of traditonal jazz with a big band twist put me back into the right mood. With a horn section that included Craig Klein, Tim Laughlin, Jimmy Webber and Rick Trolsen, Jones put a nice swing spin on such songs as "Basin Street Blues," "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans," and Jelly Roll Morton's "Wolverine Blues."
But while the more than manageable crowd spent the afternoon listening to people like Joe Cocker, Spoon, Marc Broussard and Wynton Marsalis, I parked myself in the Gospel Tent for two of the most incredible performances in all my Jazz Fest years.
The McDonough #35 High School Gospel Choir followed by Mavis Staples' and Irma Thomas' tribute to Mahalia Jackson left a jammed-packed tent limp. The 35 voice choir kept their set mostly upbeat, with choreography to boot. It's impossible to not be moved when hearing the triumphant sounds of so many voices singing in harmony.
But it was the my last set of the day, that defines the Jazz Fest moment. Mavis Staples was a woman possessed, as she paid tribute to her idol, Sister Mahalia Jackson. Staples' 4 song set stunned the crowd as she shimmied and shook the devil right out of the Crescent City. Irma Thomas closed the set with her own tribute that brought everyone, including Thomas herself to a sobby mess. Two legends of gospel and soul, inspired by the First Lady of Gospel and the great city of New Orleans, makes for a stellar Day One.
As for the Neil Young rumor...can't confirm. Too busy testifyin'!