Jazzfest

Fairgrounds

April 28, 2006

I pulled up to Cabrini High School at 1 p.m., just to find out that their parking was already full. That was gonna be my ace in the hole, and I actually broke out in a small cold sweat, because if the pay parking was full, how the hell would I find anything else? After some hopeless riding, I stumbled on a goldmine. Free parking at the Hollywood Video, located at the intersection of Broad and Esplanade. I used the same spot on Sunday, and it's only a couple blocks walk to the Fairgrounds.

There was a long line at the Jazzfest entrance, but I wasn't worried. Normally, it's cash only with many attendees. This year, though, they were accepting credit cards. I got through the line in a decent twenty minutes, but catering to people with good credit has to stop. Cash is where it's at. Cut out the middleman so you won't get evil stares from me at the grocery. Crazy women writing checks for $4. And, what happened to letting people keep a part of their ticket stub? That's a nice souvenir.

Once inside I headed over to see Johnny Sketch and The Dirty Notes. They're a lot better than I remember. For some reason, I thought they were just another white funk band(and we don't need anymore of those), but there's more to them than that. The funk is there, but it's also accompanied by rap, rock, and tinges of classical. How else to describe the presence of a violin?

Johnny Sketch comes straight from the pot and college culture, and at times they're what you'd expect from guys their age--balls-heavy and adolescent. The band's leader/guitarist/vocalist had confidence out the ass, and the rest of the band, especially the drummer(nice jumpsuit!), had great stage presence. Their passion got the crowd involved. They seemed like a professional party band. Hooks and hooks but thankfully not too many solos. My favorite song was "Yerd Me," a rap/rocker filled with local pride.

The band was ambitious. A street team signed people up for their mailing list as the band played. I just hope they don't give up too much of themselves in their quest to take over the world.

After Johnny Sketch I traveled over to the row of food booths to get my ritual--crawfish beignets. But, they weren't there! The sign said they would be back next week, so at least there's that. In years past, I've eaten three servings of crawfish beignets in one day. That can't be healthy, but whatever.

Next I was off to the Gospel tent, and if you ever need a shot in the arm, that's where it's at. That tent, no matter who's playing, never fails to captivate. The music is so jubilant and relentless, and the performers always embrace the handkerchief-waving theatrics of Gospel. Everything is so bright, earnest, and larger-than-life in that tent.

As I walked back to the Blues stage to hand out fliers for a show that night, I stopped at the Fais Do-Do stage for Sunpie and The Louisiana Sunspots. The only other time I've seen Sunpie was when he exchanged blues licks with Jeremy Lyons at an acoustic performance. At Jazzfest Sunpie and his band focused on Zydeco, which was fine. Once I saw trumpeter Eric Lucero in the mix, I knew I'd find favor in the music.

Cowboy Mouth, oh Cowboy Mouth. I can't get with you, but I understand why so many people can. It's the live experience, the church re-creation. People's willingness to put all their energy into a concert if they might get some sort of salvation out of it. I'm not so willing, though. Show me, and then I'll show you. Fred LeBlanc says, "Gimme rhythm," and I say, "I'll give you what I want to give you. Prove yourself."

Also, I can't stand every song being stopped in the middle so LeBlanc can go on some rant about New Orleans being the best blah blah blah. Yeah, we're all here. We love it, too, as you can see. Don't pander. During the set there were many times I thought, "When will this song end?"

This was a relaxing and good Jazzfest day. Hats off to the organizers for pulling off the first day without any noticeable hitch.


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