Groove City

By Jim Stanford on April 24, 2010

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Despite a torrential downpour on the festival's opening day, Lionel Richie again came through with (Big) Easy Like Sunday Morning. Click to enlarge.

When I get off this mountain, there’s only one place I want to go: straight down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.

Spring break is finally here. I’ve spent the last week traveling across the South, which explains why I haven’t yet obtained and posted the video of Jackson police tasing the guy for a paperwork infraction (anyone else want to step up here?).

Camp Stanford has been established in New Orleans, where by Thursday a significant portion of Jackson Hole’s population will have arrived at the 41st annual Jazz and Heritage Festival. The Wyoming flag is set to fly above the Fairgrounds as more than 1,000 musicians create a harmony as sweet as the scent of jasmine blowing in the Bayou breeze.

Jazz Fest is a musical education. Recently I watched two rock epics for the first time: the original Woodstock and The Last Waltz. The intensity of Richie Havens and The Band’s Levon Helm were mesmerizing. Coincidentally, both are playing the festival and are among the acts I’m most fired up to see.

Only at Jazz Fest can one catch these classic titans alongside hipsters like Band of Horses and My Morning Jacket and old favorites like Widespread Panic and Pearl Jam. I will do my best to see them all.

Yesterday, on the festival’s opening day, a torrential downpour turned the Fairgrounds into a swamp. But in New Orleans they dance in the rain, and as headliner Lionel Richie observed, whereas out West rough weather might have canceled the show, “Down South when it rains the people get LOUDER!”

After the jump, a rundown of a typical fest day. OK, not so typical. Extraordinary.

A Jazz Fester exults after slip-and-sliding in a torrential downpour.

Day one, 2010 New Orleans Jazz Fest:

11:30 a.m. — catfish po-boy at Domilise’s

2:45 p.m. — raining so hard that opening car door is enough to get one drenched

3 p.m. — charging into Fairgrounds anyway, optimistic that rain will end

3:05 p.m. — soaked, like everyone else

3:15 p.m. — Gospel Tent: “Everything we represent,” proclaims singer for Mount Hermon Baptist Church Mass Choir, “is about love.”

3:30 p.m. — Dr. John and Lower 911 rumble “Renegade” (“I’m a runner in the jungle / An outlaw on the run”).

3:35 p.m. — observe two tarps laid end to end beside a large puddle: ah, Slip-and-Slide. Sure enough, a couple dudes take a running start and plow into puddle, taking tarps with them. Offer to help by holding down side of tarp; others pitch in. Dudes resume sliding, to better effect and many cheers. Photographers gather. One dude, scruffy and with small beer gut, wears shirt that says, “Free Dance Lessons.” Dudes proceed to disrobe, revealing matching Superman underwear. Hit Slip-and-Slide to loudest cheers yet.

Truly Supermen of the Fairgrounds. A Jazz Fest moment.

3:45 p.m. — Downpour resumes, main stage has moat with knee-deep water. Chocolate Milk, the early New Orleans funk pioneer (and inspiration for Galactic), performs on the main stage for perhaps a few hundred fans. Skies so grim it’s nearly dark. Still, the band gets down to their hometown anthem, “Groove City,” and disco hit “Blue Jeans.” “Everybody out here,” says trumpeter Joe Foxx, “are hardcore Jazz Fest fans.”

4:15 p.m. — In what seems like afterthought, walk upon ringleader George Clinton and his P-Funk circus performing at Congo Square. What else is New Orleans to do in a deluge but TURN THIS MOTHER OUT.

5 p.m. — bowl of crawfish monica, remarkably served hot

5:30 p.m. — rendezvous serendipitously with old friends

6 p.m. — Dancin’ on the Ceiling with Lionel Richie. One of the heroes of Jazz Fest 2006, Richie continues to defy age and again comes through in clutch. Flashes 900-watt smile while busting out many of his Commodores and ’80s hits. Anyone who has ever bumped to “Brick House” at Disco Night must see Lionel in concert. Shake it down, shake it down. Egg is played, drawing smiles, for traditional closer and Jazz Fest theme song: “All Night Long.”

Perhaps some of the last Gulf oysters I'll eat for some time.

8 to 9 p.m. — regroup

9:30 p.m. — oysters at Pascal’s Manale shucked by Thomas “Uptown T” Stewart; Lionel was so hot in the ’80s, T says, “He could burn a hole in the carpet without even dropping a cigarette.”

10 p.m. — Eric Lindell shreds at Mid-City Lanes Rock n’ Bowl. Yes, a bowling alley. One of the best music venues in the city.

11 p.m. — rendezvous serendipitously with old friends haven’t seen since college; toast to Brian Zoubek!

Eric Lindell, one of the Crescent City's finer young talents.

Midnight — Lindell is followed by trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, featured in the premiere episode of “Treme”

2 a.m. — Maple Leaf for Papa Grows Funk; rendezvous with “Papa” John Ross (follow his Jazz Fest updates on Twitter @johndrossjr)

3:15 a.m. — Galactic at Tipitina’s, with Cyril Neville on congas and percussion and Corey “Boe Money” Henry on trombone

4:30 a.m. — Ivan Neville sits in, and Tip’s shakes to the Meters groove “No Mo’ Okey Dokey.” Great to see Tip’s reverberating with Nevillicious funk.

circa 5 a.m. — a brief rest, before doing it all over again

(Fairgrounds frolic photos by Ron Blaylock; Eric Lindell by Jeremy T. Jones; Lionel Richie by Jim Stanford)

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Posted under Food, Music, Religion

3 Comments so far

  1. Norman Pear April 25, 2010 9:10 am

    Is that ALL you got?!

  2. D April 25, 2010 6:49 pm

    Get some

  3. Gray Harley April 26, 2010 8:48 am

    Outstanding work, Jim. I feel like I am there. Hate to miss the fun but I will be back next year.

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