Courtesy of Gus Escanelle and Scott Chernis

Festive Reflections

00:00 May 28, 2013
By: David Vicari
Looking Back at Jazz Fest 2013

Fleetwood Mac

If you didn't stake out a spot early in the day, it was hard to miss the massive sea of people heading to see the resurgence of Fleetwood Mac Saturday. After an endlessly revolving door of drugs, hookups and heartbreaks, the flailing rock band of the '70s has finally found peace with itself. As Lindsay Buckingham accurately pointed out, "There do seem to be a few chapters left in the history of Fleetwood Mac." The revived band members are celebrating thirty-five years since the release of their epic album Rumors, which poignantly captures the struggles they faced with each other and themselves. Kicking off the evening with a rollicking rendition of "Second Hand News," followed by the autobiographical "Chain," one thing was clear: Mac is back! To prove it, Stevie Nicks and Buckingham performed their recent single "Sad Angel," which, true to form, is about a disagreement between them. Several classics followed, including the emotionally charged "Landslide," which Nicks and Buckingham did as a duet. Nicks also performed a New Orleans tribute written after Hurricane Katrina. The show allowed each member to carry on their own legacy. There was an intimate feeling in the air that can only come from hundreds of thousands of people sharing one nostalgic story at the end of a sunny day. After several sparkly costume changes and a rip-roaring guitar solo from Buckingham, Fleetwood Mac closed their set with "Go Your Own Way": Buckingham's original middle finger to Nicks back in the day. An encore followed with "World Turning," and after, estranged band member Christine McVie's well-loved hit "Don't Stop". As the band wrapped up, Nicks addressed fans, some of over thirty years, by yelling out, "It's all your fault!" The accusation is a small price to pay for the legendary return of Fleetwood. - Lauren Adam

Frank Ocean

After Thursday's storms, the mud pit in front of the Congo Stage was daunting. But that didn't stop the throngs of screaming girls and R&B enthusiasts from cheering on UNO's one-term wonder, Frank Ocean. The cutting-edge artist has been widely recognized in the genre for publicly announcing his love for another man on Tumblr: a breakthrough in the often homophobic hip-hop scene. Prior to being R&B's sweetheart, Ocean (his name inspired by the film Ocean's 11) was a ghostwriter for Beyonce, Justin Bieber and even John Legend. Thankfully realizing anonymity was too "comfy," Ocean joined a hip-hop collective and was inspired to put out his 2011 mixtape, nostalgia, ultra, followed by full-length album Channel Orange. Debuting at number two on the Billboard 200, Ocean's music has been critically acclaimed and his performance at Jazz Fest followed suit. Though he was soft-spoken between songs, Ocean's set did not disappoint. In fact, it seems that Ocean is continuing to transcend the boundaries of hip-hop. Less of a traditional performance and more of a candid confession, his set was mellow but moving; it was not unlike his song "Forrest Gump," which he also performed at the Grammys. With the help of his eight-man brass band, Ocean belted each number with flawless conviction, transitioning easily from wrenching ballads like "Thinkin' Bout You," to funkier reveries like "Pyramids," and sing-alongs like "Novacain". He wrapped up his set twenty-five minutes early with the hopeful, more melodic "Golden Girl" and even let out a freaky dance move. The fans were hanging onto every last note. He signed off abruptly with, "When I say I love you all, I mean it. I hope y'all are safe; don't get too drunk tonight." We love you too, Frank, but I think you know that last part is wishful thinking. - Lauren Adam

Galactic

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[Courtesy of Gus Escanelle and Scott Chernis]

As the morning shows wrapped up and the beer lines got longer, Galactic rejuvenated the Gentilly Stage crowd with electro-funk fusion straight from Frenchmen Street. Performing as a collaborative jam session, Galactic hasn't had a lead singer for years. Instead, the eighteen-year-old instrumental quintet features a variety of different vocalists, and Jazz Fest was no exception. With vocal performances by Corey Glover of "In Living Color" and David Shaw, Galactic, as usual, managed to harness the spiritual energy of New Orleans, sending good vibes from the speakers to the back gates. Beginning with soulful rock and roll from Glover, the brass beats of Galactic had throngs of music enthusiasts singing, stomping, swaying, and basking in perhaps the most beautiful day of Jazz Fest 2013. As the energy climbed, trombonist Corey Henry of Treme Funktet jammed out with his daughter Jazz on trumpet on the Galactic/Henry original "Keep Steppin,'" before David Shaw was called to the stage. Shaw had the crowd singing back to him during "Hey Na Na (Yeah! Yeah!)," and fist-pumping with melancholic passion during "When the Levees Break." And before they called it a night, the movers and shakers of Galactic even managed a cover of one of my all-time favorites, White Snake's "Heart of the City". Take 'em to church! - Lauren Adam

Mutemath

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[Courtesy of Gus Escanelle and Scott Chernis]

Though I've lived here most of my life, my first experience seeing New Orleans' indie-rockers Mutemath was while I was living in Atlanta last summer. Mutemath was relatively unheard of in the ATL when it opened for nu-metal veterans Incubus and Linkin Park on the Honda Civic Tour, so I had to all but drag my friends to the show early, as they had no interest in seeing a no-name act. Thank me they did. Mutemath's showmanship and high-energy crowd interaction set a high precedent for the multiplatinum headliners that night.

That opening was just a warm-up. It's one thing to hold your own against two bands—to steal the show from a day's worth of countless performers is another. The band exploded onto the Gentilly Stage with the electro-psychedelic "Odd Soul" and danceable indie-rocker "Prytania". Mutemath's sound has an airy, dreamlike essence similar to—but heavier and jazzier than—Phoenix, who closed the Genitlly Stage that day. The scene that stole the show, however, was when frontman Paul Meany boarded an inflatable mattress and surfed through the crowd. I've been to large-scale productions where singers have flown over the crowd and even been carried by the crowd in a bubble, but the impromptu, DIY nature of the mattress was pure punk rock. Adding to the image, Meany was eventually thrown from the mattress into a swampy mud pit, found his way back to the stage, and finished the show with a bang. Mutemath were not afraid to get dirty like the rest of us this year—and had just as much fun doing so. -Greg Roques

Phoenix

Phoenix was the band I most looked forward to this year. Hailing from Versailles, France, the last time they made their way down to New Orleans was for a Tipitina's show, where I first discovered them in late 2009. With a phenomenal new album, Bankrupt!, released just a week before their Jazz Fest debut, and the energy generated from a massive festival crowd, my hopes were high—and they did not disappoint.

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[Courtesy of Gus Escanelle and Scott Chernis]

The band opened with their newest single, "Entertainment," followed by "Lisztomania," the opener from their previous album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Though they're fi ve albums deep now, I am most familiar with their most recent two albums, which received wider commercial recognition this side of the Atlantic. I was stoked, then, that they played most every song from Wolfgang—"Lisztomania," "Fences," "Lasso," "Armistice," "1901,"—as well as several from Bankrupt!, including "Entertainment," "The Real Thing," "Trying to Be Cool," and "S.O.S. In Bel Air". Bankrupt!'s songs have a breezy, almost ambient quality to them, bringing to mind another French act, Air, which is often cited as an inspiration for Phoenix. I thought it might be diffi cult to marry this backing element with their rock sound live, but the songs translated perfectly, as if you were listening to a mastered recording. Taking a cue from their Gentilly Stage counterparts Mutemath that day, Phoenix's lead singer let the crowd carry him out as he continued to perform. The perfect performance to close out the day . -Greg Roques

Stanley Clark/George Duke Project

These two legendary virtuosos came together in 1981 when they recorded their Top 20 smash hit "Sweet Baby," which they were gracious enough to masterfully play at the 2013 Jazz Fest. Since their collaboration began, the musicians have recorded a total of three albums, and have continued to play show after jaw-dropping show. Not only do the heavy plunking bass of Stanley Clark and the juicy keyboard frenzies of George Duke capture the audience, but the talents' attitude itself is put on display, making for a fun-fi lled and wild show. This fi erce combination of pure musicianship and a genuine display of goofy happiness during the performance translated into a beautiful artistic masterpiece that closed out the Jazz Tent on the second Saturday in true genius fashion. The band was able to take on new heights through building solos and the grooving-out of stankifi ed funk lines, though still capturing a certain calming glimmer during soulful ballads sung by the sweet-as-honey voice of George Duke. Often proclaiming, "I'm gonna cry after this one, y'all," Duke would then fl y into a lovely sermon of love, heartache, and everything soul on a few occasions during the lively set. During a long piano trill that lasted throughout a keyboard and piano solo, Duke actually did act like he was crying, fanning himself with his hat as the crowd went into a frenzy for the outrageous showmanship. Stanley Clark made his own impression with his loudspeaking electric and stand-up bass, which were blessed by his schooled fi ngers, genius compositions like his hit song "School Days," which they crushed that day, and his friendly personality, which recruited a huge grin to show its identity to the crowd. -Chris DiBenedetto

Widespread Panic

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[Courtesy of Gus Escanelle and Scott Chernis]

Bursting with a fl avor sensually caked in the excitement of rock and roll with a dash of improvisation that is then baked into the crust of funk, Widespread Panic has been known for their novel live performances ever since their inception in 1986. Originating in Athens, Georgia, the Southern-infl uenced musicians have toured extensively throughout their long career, with each show having its own unique blend of the moment. This year's set at the 2013 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival was no different, as the band's two-and-a-half-hour spot raged through heavy rains and gently succumbed to the glimmers of sunshine as the clouds parted ways briefl y during the mostly soggy Thursday. It was the band's seventh time performing at the festival, their fi rst appearance being in 1997, and with it came a culmination of past years' styles that grouped together the delicate specialties of each member to create a pungent performance that Spread Necks everywhere would appreciate. Ripping guitar solos from Jimmy Herring were blessed with the soul-gripping vocals of John Bell as Dave School's bass thumped along, driving the sound of the band along the edge of their improvisational cliff. Panic drummers Todd Nance and Sonny Ortiz climbed into a rhythmic drum celebration as the rest of the band took a break before entering into a joyful "Little Lily". Showing their love for New Orleans-style music, Widespread Panic brought up local keyboardist C.R. Gruver, who roared into a piano solo during "Stop Breakin' Down Blues" that then continued to thump away as he and JoJo Hermann played a double keys section that made for one of the funkiest moments in the set. The band truly captured all the aspects of their long career playing to a city they're known to love. -Chris DiBenedetto

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