Jazz Fest week one wrapped with a bang, at least from what I’ve read. The only day I really cared about was Sunday, to see the master, David Byrne. Sadly, it didn’t happen, but truth be told, I fall into the Jazz Fest category of night stalker. This past week’s night shows leading up to and including the fest itself were nothing short of amazing. Even harder to believe, this week may even top all of that. I was fortunate enough to catch some amazing acts and sad I missed out on seeing Dixie Dregs and Los Lobos, due to scheduling conflicts.
My Jazz Fest week one started off at the House of Blues with an amazing pre-fest show by SoCal anthem rockers Hollywood Undead. The seven-piece outfit commanded the stage all night and was flanked by some impressive pyro and amazing moving lights and atmospheric fog.
Friday brought Queens of the Stone Age and Wolf Alice to the Saenger Theatre. Josh has been under a cloud of bad press and is doing his best to put the incident behind him. They brought along Wolf Alice to open, and albeit a tough position to be in, Wolf Alice held their own while still captivating the audience. Their short set was the perfect appetizer for the evening’s main course. The stage was donned with an array of flexible light sticks and complemented by a vast array of moving and strobe lights. This was, by far, the most vivid and energetic I’ve ever seen the guys play and came across as a full-fledged rock experience. Queens, Alice, and Hollywood Undead made New Orleans a stop as they were heading to Welcome to Rockville in Florida.
Friday night was just getting started as I ran across the street to catch St. Paul and the Broken Bone’s set. This was night two of their two-night residency. This was my fourth time seeing the Birmingham, Alabama, six-piece, and Paul Janeway, the charismatic band leader and vocalist, was as on his game as ever. His touring horn section was right in place on stage, and Janeway had command of the crowd the whole evening. It’s always great to see New Orleans local Jason Mingledorff on stage backing such a great talent. His time with the band is winding down, but we’ll get a chance to see him at Tipitina’s for the Papa Grows Funk reunion show. I attempted to catch the end of Tank’s set at Tipitina’s, but just missed it. Big Freedia stopped by to bounce out the end of their set. Had I had the stamina, I would have stuck around and caught the late, late show by The Floozies, but I thought pacing myself was a better and saner idea, as Saturday was going to be a long one.
Saturday started out at the Joy Theater, hitting the As the Crow Flies show. Chris Robinson’s new band has a higher focus on the Black Crowes material he loves to play. The showcase of songs didn’t leave much more for the wanting, and Chris and company enjoyed every minute of it.
The Joy was in for a treat, and the crazy music-lovers couldn’t wait for the evening’s late show by Beats Antique. But first, in true Jazz Fest, crazy fashion, like crossing the racetrack, I ventured over to Santos Bar to catch Royal Teeth. The Decatur spot has been putting up a host of amazing shows of late and it was great to finally catch something there. One can’t go to a Royal Teeth show and not have fun. This was the first time I’ve seen the guys since Gary and Nora were married, and the spark is still there on stage. We also got to hear some new material—still being polished, but great nonetheless. I was a bit sad, because I missed Pet Fangs’s opener, but it could have been worse.
After the show, I made my way back over to the Joy to catch Beats Antique. I had a vague idea of the band, but didn’t truly get it till I was there. Beats is an amazing experimental band hedging themselves with several world-music influences, as well as various cultures. At times tribal and classic jazz, the band weaved several belly-dancing acts into the set, as well as some excellent accompaniment by The Preservation Horns and guest vocals by Matisyahu. It was quite an experience, and one that shouldn’t be missed if it comes through your town.
Sunday could have easily been the blow-off evening but, but as a trooper, I had to catch The Squirrel Nut Zippers at Tipitina’s. The revitalization of the band carries on and hasn’t let up since the last time I saw the guys and gals at Tip’s. This time around, Gal Holiday opened for the band and was a guest vocalist during the encore, singing material she helped lay down for the band’s latest disc. The evening ended with the band second-lining through the audience, marching out at the end of an amazing first week of Jazz Fest.