[Emily Hingle]

Jazz Fest 2023 Closes Out First Weekend

22:05 April 30, 2023
By: Emily Hingle

The closing day of Jazz Fest 2023's first weekend had some of the best weather that the festival has ever experienced. The strong, cool breeze and brilliant skies refreshed our souls and allowed us to party, dance, and experience from beginning to end.

I wanted to spend time in the Cultural Exchange Pavilion where Puerto Rico was being highlighted. A band called Tambuye started the day with singing and drumming. Two of the members found their way to the forefront to do some dancing. The lady swirled her flowing white skirt all around her to the hypnotic beat of the percussive instruments.

Just after Tambuye was a band from Niger that would go on to perform later in the day at the Blues Tent. Mdou Moctar was a groovy rock outfit that captivated the crowd that grew so quickly it spilled out of the tent into the surrounding area. The bandmates donned gem-colored suits and long white scarfs to perform mind-bending, somewhat psychedelic rock music with an ever-changing time signature. Mdou Moctar had a Jimi Hendrix Experience feel to them, not because the frontman played his guitar left-handed. This is a band that I will remember surely.

I quickly went by the Gentilly Stage to hear the Honey Island Swamp Band who sounded more funky and groovy than usual. Jazz Fest does have a way of bringing out the jams though. But the Fais Do Do Stage nearby was calling to me. Rather, Lil' Nathan & The Zydeco Big Timers were calling me. His soulful Zydeco tunes were such a needed dose of true Louisiana flavor. Lil' Nathan sang, "if you've lost someone in your life, I want you to raise your hands," as he sang about losing a special someone. Lil' Nathan's father Nathan, Sr. of the Zydeco Cha Chas joined his son's band on stage and exclaimed that his heart is full to play with his son today. Their next few songs about being deeply in love prompted couples to dance even with crowds walking all around them like rocks in a river.

This was the time of the day where I need to get my main meal and find a spot to enjoy it. I was happy to see my go-to dish from the Gambian foodmaker: tofu, veggies, and cous cous in a spicy peanut butter sauce. It fills me up, and it's never to messy to walk with.

Bluesman Gary Clark Jr. was just starting his set at the Festival Stage, so I thought this would be the ultimate place to take a rest. He started his set with a slow blues jam, but it had the silver lining of funkiness. Gary made the guitar sing even though his voice is wonderful and smooth. He performed some rollicking numbers with horns that were reminiscent of Chicago-style blues, but he would infuse those faster numbers with the necessary long jam parts that are so indicative of the fest. For one particularly noteworthy tune, Gary used a slide to play a deep, mournful Delta blues song.

After some more mid-day meandering through the art vendors, the grandstand, and other areas. I settled in again at the Fais Do Do Stage to see one of my favorite local bands: The Lost Bayou Ramblers. They're always a great time. Fiddler and vocalist Louis Michot was really letting loose and engaging the crowd. He found a couple who came up from New Iberia to see them, and he played a few songs just for them.

As LBR went through their traditional and somewhat contemporary repertoire, there was a blacksmithing demonstration was being held across the area from the stage. I must say that it was pretty mesmerizing to see a hunk of metal rod quickly become an intricate leaf and vine.

While a lot of people at Jazz Fest today were thrilled to see the Tedeschi Trucks, I could not pass up the opportunity to see Kenny Loggins since this was a stop on his final tour. Some people were so excited to see him that they flaunted costumes for the occasion. One brave soul wore a full Top Gun costume, no doubt waiting to hear "Danger Zone."

Kenny Loggins wasted no time starting his set. He was looking great in just a simple black t-shirt and blue jeans, not needing the flash and pizzaz that other artists use. He performed many of his hits which are softer numbers. "It's about time, "This Is It," and the very lovely "Return to Pooh Corner" about Whinnie the Pooh and his human companion Christopher Robin made up some of his set. It got more intense (as far as Kenny's brand of yacht rock goes) later into the show. I was satisfied when I finally heard "I'm Alright," the theme to Caddyshack, and a mountain of cheers erupted when "Danger Zone" shot off of the stage. Even Steve Gleason was in the audience for this show because we may not be able to get Mr. Loggins down here for another show again.

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