NOLA JazzFest 2005 – TILL THE BREAK OF DAWN [B.Getz on JamBase]

Some would say this was the year Jazz Fest reached the masses, the year “everyone” came, the year the word got out. But many would also point to the “Superfly during Jazzfest Series” that has been going strong for eight years as the catalyst for more and more folks to flock to NOLA. Regardless of how or why, in 2005 the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival blossomed into an enormous, energetic Second Weekend. A combination of a behemoth lineup, both by day and by night, and three headlining titans of the jam scene brought standard tour types to party alongside the seasoned Jazz Festers. Second Weekend was the highest profile event for the Phish community since its demise in Coventry last August. Certainly different than when Phish was invited to play the Fairgrounds in 1996, but of almost as much interest to the Phanatical Phan base. In addition to Trey, the second weekend boasted a rejuvenated return of Widespread Panic, the massive allure of the Dave Matthews Band, and the superfly Isaac Hayes. Not to mention the added strength of the still sweatin’ Ike Turner, the indie-rock hero Elvis Costello, and the London irie-vibes of Steel Pulse, all of whom added strength to a superb, soul-filled second weekend.


Ceux Qui Marchent Debout :: Jazz Fest 2005 by Zack Smith

Early in the week, the talk was about a couple of Monday shows that featured jazz and jam giants, back to the essence, to the root, and it begins at the ivory eighty eight. A heavenly piano night featuring Alan ToussaintMarcia BallDr. John, and a host of others wowed the Crescent City faithful well into the late hours with a constant rotation of boogie-woogie blues, big brassy bottom end, and the pungent stench of the Quarter. Meanwhile, deeper in the Quarter at the Blue Nile, Blue Note organ maven/breakbeat grandmaster Dr. Lonnie Smith was leading a troupe of today’s stalwarts through the book. The group featured seasoned six-string torchbearers, from both the Big Apple (Soulive‘s Eric Krasno) and the Bay (Will Bernard). Both the Van Gelder and D&D; Studios’ golden eras were fully represented as the good Dr. sweat medicinal magic from his urban turban, washing bop melody atop his Hammond B-3. Smith would be a springboard for these guitarists, commanding them to lay it down all week long. While these cats mined the cherished preserves and yesterday’s passion fruit, the kids were getting down over the river. Levitating within the walls of the Old Point Bar were The Dead Kenny Gs, including JFJO’s Brian Haas and slaytanic saxophonist Skerik. Along with the indescribable, all-percussive guru Mike Dillon, the new conglomerate were a modern day Lewis, Clark, and Smithers, as they waded and waltzed unto unclaimed lands of progressive mayhem and sonic orgy.


Jazz Fest 2005 by Dino Perrucci

Tuesday night was just as thorough, with scattered gems thrown down in some of the cooler little rooms throughout the Crescent City. White-hot local warhorse Brotherhood of Groove continued to sizzle thru their most impressive Jazz Fest to date. On the heels of a cooking Sprint Stage performance, the BOG invited a slew of guests throughout the second week. This evening’s performance at One Eyed Jacks would feature both baritone maven Henly Douglas (Boston Horns) and KDTU’s Brian Jordan on guitar. The Brandon Tarricone/Brian Jordan guitar duels (“Windjammer”) were lightsabers playing capoeira, channeling the spirit of Grant Green; the brass and reeds of Douglas, BOG mainstays Geoff Vidal, Slammin’ Sam Kininger, and the incredible Jeff Watkins pumping the funk to a bulbous range. Drummer John Massing, a veteran of second lines galore, has really pushed the BOG’s backbone to soaring levels. Later in the week, performances at Le Bon Temps Roule, and again all night Saturday at One Eyed Jacks, further embedded the BOG in Jazz Fest’s collective conscience. This inflated version included the welcome additions of Dave Grippo on alto sax, and Michael Ray on trumpet, pushing the sonic gumbo even further towards the stratosphere. The weekend throwdowns, choc full of spirited originals like the brand new “Ready to Roll” and the title track to BOG Style, also mixed in obscure covers from Frank Zappa and Outkast, as well as a bouncing, brassy “Shakedown Street.” The BOG could also be found outside of the fairgrounds in the backyard of a neighboring house, throwing a party for revelers leaving the fest Saturday.

The House of Blues hosted a Tuesday evening of pop/punk featuring Unwritten Law‘s bassist proposal to his girlfriend just before Sum 41 took the stage. Truly a TRL moment. Robert Walter, ably assisted by saxophonist Cheme Gastelum and RW20 veteran drummer George Sluppick, held things down with boogaloo grooves at D.B.A., setting the tone for a week of phenomenal performances, both from Walter and at D.B.A. (The bar also has one of the best drink menus I have ever seen!) Signifying the true arrival of Second Weekend, Skerik and a revolving door of heavy hitters (including Watkins, Dillon, Kininger, Krasno, Haas, etc) drove a’hundred miles an hour in the middle of the road down a one-way street screaming obscenities, rocking and rolling well into the night at the Dragon’s Den. Musician and fan mingled about, welcoming the stretch run.


DJ Medi4 at Tipitina’s :: Jazz Fest 2005 by Dino Perrucci

Wednesday night the people began to arrive in NOLA in droves, on the menu of music something for each and every fancy. Signal Path raved til’ dawn at Shiloh, but Garage a Trois is always the ill throwdown at Tipitina’s Uptown. After a dope set from DJ Medi4, the eclectic foursome born from a Superjam took the stage for their annual Wednesday night sadistic foxtrot. Before launching into a bevy of new songs from their recent sophomore effort, Skerik let loose a grindcore bellow into the microphone attached to his black saxophone, a Norwegian shofar sound by way of Seattle, announcing the jump-off, the beginning of a devilish dance through New Orleans. GAT kept the energy high and the beats mighty with an aggressive two set tour de force complete with a Charlie Hunter-led drum jam and some local percussive assistance. The band sounded tight, yet loose and relaxed, the jams opened up into a carnival of galloping madmen – Stanton Moore‘s metal fetish breaking through to his other side, rearing its punishing dome beneath the Pacific Northwestern Critters straight buggin’ out. Hitting just after 2 a.m. over at the Howlin’ Wolf, a fully loaded Lettuce were tearing through the fusion funk songbook til’ the sun came up. Mixing classic vamps and melodies, relentless Adam Deitch helmed funk missiles, purging the blaxploitation soundtrack as Ryan Zoidis, Kininger, Krasno and guest Ivan Neville delved deep into the annals of groove. A vicious take on the Headhunter’s workout “Hang Up Your Hangups,” given the Lettuce treatment, paid astonishing homage, and embodied the precision and fury with which these Bostonians play. And the boy Young Deitch is truly a RZA-in-waiting. All kick and snare and a punishing snap, the drummer brings boom-bap to anything he touches. Chuuch!


New Orleans Fairgrounds :: Jazz Fest 2005 by Zack Smith

Thursday’s sun and breeze brought with it a first day at the Fairgrounds, something I look forward to all year long. Along with the crawfish bread, Crawfish Monica, and mango freeze, The Coolie Family were treating folks to some good ol’ Southern gospel. Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, and later B.B. King, delivered differing, riveting interpretations of the blues. Rocking soul surfer Donavon Frankenreiter and the chart topping Jack Johnson winked at the women with their catchy sing-along surfer folk. Papa Grows Funk introduced Fest to their new drummer with a sun-drenched high energy burst of the ragin’ Cajun funk-rock led by guitarist June Yamagishi and rotund organist extraordinaire John GrosThe Heath Brothers performance in the Jazz Tent turned into an impromptu tribute, with Percy Heath‘s untimely passing that morning.

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of The Mars Volta
Orpheum Theater :: Jazz Fest 2005 by Zack Smith

Thursday evening, Jazz Fest stepped out of the box with a brilliant Superfly booking at the Orpheum Theater, an evening with The Mars Volta. Mixing up their setlists with choice selections from their debut record and their most recent Frances the Mute, the Volta displayed a ferocious energy and collective sonic psychosis, bringing down the Orpheum with the multi-faceted guitar work of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. The prog-rock punks are a genre all their own – their sound cannot be pigeonholed. There is an inherent heaviness to their riffing; however, the music is dynamic, and they stop on a dime. A crooning, acrobatic vocalist further separates them from the crowd. Their performance was the most daring, albeit contrived, that I witnessed during Jazz Fest. These guys will be critics’ darlings for a while. For a taste of the NOLA flavas, Henry Butler could be found whipping up a veritable frenzy at the Blue Nile. Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes fame was spotted boarding the Mothership uptown at TwiRoPa, as George Clinton and his P-Funk were warming up the freaks. After the room reached a fevered pitch and temperature, Les Claypool took the stage and delivered his now-annual redneck revival – a tour through his tortured mind, calloused hands, and tobacco spittin’ gums. Delivering a nearly four-hour odyssey, Claypool shook things up a bit, with contributions from Skerik, Mike Dillon, and an appearance from the formerly dreadlocked Frog Brigade guitarist Eenor. They even dusted off the King Crimson anthem “Thela Hun Ginjeet” for this heated routine.


Friday afternoon was a slower one at the Fairgrounds, but there were still many treats to be sampled. Henry Butler continued to represent New Orleans and to attract many new listeners, and Tab Benoit continued to hold things down in a similar local vein. Randy Newman pleased a contemporary crowd, and Zion Trinity delivered a Rasta sermon at the Congo Square Stage. The featured slot belonged to the recently rejuvenated Widespread Panic, whose Friday afternoon set was solid from start to finish – two plus hours of psychedelic southern flare, JB‘s guttural moans, and some fine guitar work from George McConnell. In the Jazz Tent, a fiery woodshed trumpet/trombone duel between a youthful Marlon Jordan and the local elder statesmen Maurice Brown was the best kept secret all day.

Late night at The Parish, the Benevento/Russo Duo were opening up their weekend-long can of whoopass. A star-studded crowd crammed into the space above the House of Blues to see what all the fuss was about. It was just a taste of things to come. The Parish show was definitely a showcase for the new album Best Reason to Buy the Sun, but it was also an ill display of Duo fireworks, chemistry, and the supernatural connection that creates the incredibly evolved Duo sound.The evening was again crammed with different first-rate shows, by far the most difficult night to decide what to see and what to skip. This writer ambled over to the Umphrey’s McGee/Gov’t Mule gig at the Orpheum. An elongated two set show from the Mule was in true Jazz fest fashion – long and emotional, and full of special guests. Brendan Bayliss (Umphrey’s McGee) appeared in the first set for a blistering “Sco-Mule,” and later bandmates Jake Cinninger, and percussionists Andy Farag, joined Warren and co. for “Lively Up Yourself” delivered in a chunky, metallicized arrangement. Les Claypool appeared to dig deeper into the deliberate “Spoonful.” Sandwiched between the Umphrey’s guests was the true jewel – an inspired blues guitar duel between Haynes and Los Lobos‘ David Hidalgo. The following evening, several more musicians sat in with the Mule, most notably Karl DensonIvan Neville, and Dave Matthews, who was reading “All Along the Watchtower,” a song he performs with DMB, from a napkin. Classic.

Friday night was definitely ‘the night’ to catch Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, who dropped three late night shows at the House of Blues. Always at the top of the priority list at Jazz Fest, KDTU can be counted on for throwing down endless dance romps well into the morning hours. Thursday’s show, highlighted by a guest spot from Melvin Sparks and a punishing JB’s jam with Adam Deitch, was marred by the pulling of a fire alarm, which cut power to the stage, and a brawl in the crowd that killed the vibe. Friday, the band more than made up for the previous night’s buzzkill. Opening with a firing “New York City,” KDTU delivered one of their patented R&B; funk marathons, debuting new rock-oriented songs alongside the acid jazz that put them on the map. “Everything Will be Alright” “Bag of Funk,” “Trampled Under Foot,” “Soul Vibration,” and the exploding jam out of “Chance With You” showed the Tiny Universe in top form.

TwiRoPa offered a little different flavor Friday, going well into Saturday morning, with a lineup that embraced beats, rhymes, and the spirit of Jazz Fest. Early in the evening, the DAKAH Hip-Hop Orchestra, which boasts over sixty players, mined the annals of classic beat production with an approach like none other. An ensemble of strings, percussion, reeds, brass, and a plethora of other classical-leaning instrumentation delivered neck-snapping evidence that hip-hop ain’t just for DJs. Geographically, no city, style, or set was left untouched. From Bronx boom-bap to blunted Brooklyn steez, to West Coast G-Funk, to the crunk of the derty-derty. Reports from many Festers crowned DAKAH the best of Fest 05. With originality, the passion, and the new style, DAKAH is a force to be reckoned with.The dynamic ensemble’s “Band of Gypsies meets Earth, Wind, and Fire” magic had the crowd blissin’ out, whoring it up on the dance floor, their bodies slithering in-between one another in a torrid tango with the seductive instrumentation. There is nothing quite like the center of the acoustically superior House of Blues, past 5 a.m., sensually moving to the lustful sounds of the Tiny Universe. Theirs is the sexiest music being made today – the grittiest, deepest funk. Friday was a treat, with percussionist Mike Dillon rejoining the band for an otherworldly show, assisting the monster tandem of bassist Ron Johnson and drummer John Staten. Friday also brought Warren Haynes and Danny Louis from the Mule into the Universe, as well as Ivan Neville, whose guttural vocals and sultry organs fit in the mix with ease. Saturday, more guests came along to share in the groove. Big Sam and his trombone added local spice to “Front Money,” and Eric McFadden and his Bay Area psychedelia turned the song on its axis. As the Saturday show blazed along, Eric Krasno appeared to lend hollowbody and help manifest the destiny. “Apparently Nothing” was a wet dream. It drove the crowd mad with deliberate ascending climaxes, harmonic vocal tension and release. Each night was peppered with KDTU classics: Thursday brought “Fallin,” Friday the ageless “Groove On” was the money shot, and strictly for the hardcore, Saturday’s encore “Walt’s First Trip,” a rare chestnut from the KD songbook. Despite the drama on Thursday, Karl D solidified his rep as the King of the Jazz Fest Late Nite with another raucous weekend at the House of Blues.

Meanwhile, Bernie Worrell and some local cats were freakin’ people out in the Quarter at One Eyed Jacks, mixing dissonant funk grooves with avant-garde violin and some heavy Hammond B3. Michael Franti & Spearhead delivered a passionate, high-energy sermon of reggae, funk, folk, and hip-hop to an overstuffed Tipitina’s Uptown. With a lengthy, sweat-drenched set of the patented Spearhead amalgamation of all things irie, Franti further nailed down his rep amongst Festers’, and people didn’t leave Tips until the rain finally came Saturday morning. Robert Walter’s 20th Congress delivered a star-studded throwdown a night early this year, tearing down the walls of the Maple Leaf till the wee hours with the help of Cheme Gastelum, his saxophone sideman who seemed ubiquitous at Jazz Fest.TwiRoPa kept that vibe aflame with Blackalicious, the Quannum duo of Chief XCEL and Gift of Gab. The Bay Area rap team dropped flows over psychedelic-tinged beats and obtuse soundscapes. While Chief XCEL kept the beat raw and set the proverbial table, it was Gab who was “putting it down on ’em.” An original, styled, uniquely thought-provoking yet playful, Gab is a talent whose rhymecraft is as progressive, daring, and informed as it gets. Paired with the Chief XCEL, who grounds Gab and keeps it thorough and decidedly street, the Blackalicious team continues to be a Jazz Fest favorite and a great non-jam booking. Soon after the Bay Area boom-bap, Soulive jumped onstage and delivered a solid two-plus hour performance of their hip-hop fused, New York jazz. The Evans brothers, Neal and Alan, held things down with authority, making the room bounce along with their syncopation. Guitar wunderkind Eric Krasno, seemingly everywhere this Jazz Fest, further solidified his reputation as a smooth criminal with tasty hollowbody leads. As the show blazed along, the Abbot, aka Young Deitch, hopped on the kit and welcomed backpacker favorites C-Rayz Walz and Breeze Everflowin’ onto the mic for some true-school b-boy shit. Mixing off the wall verses with classic breaks (the O.C. jawn was bananas!), this new jazz/rap conglomerate brought out big things for the insatiable Jazz Fest massive, and the hip-hop night at TwiRoPa went out with a bang.


Clint Maegden with Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Jazz Fest 2005 by Zack Smith

The Fest was threatened with a washout again this year, torrential downpours casting doubt on whether or not the Fairgrounds could be held Saturday in such wet conditions. However wet the grounds were, the show went on, and the masses came out to see Dave Matthews Band, amongst a myriad of phenomenal performers including funk piano pioneer Allan Toussaint, new-school local giants Galactic, cagey veteran Walter “Wolfman” WashingtonThe Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and drummer extraordinaire Johnny Vidocavich‘s Astral Project. The Sprint Stage had a truly special gift with an hour and a half of Elvis Costello, and Festers got irie with Toots and the Maytals on the Congo Square Stage.

Trey & Mike :: Superjam at State Palace
Jazz Fest 2005 by Dino Perrucci

Saturday night brought with it an enormous event in the jam band community – the Superfly Superjam featuring Trey Anastasio. In the midst of his first post-Phish solo outing, Trey stopped into New Orleans with his new band in tow to head up the high profile jam at the State Palace Theatre. The first set of the jam was primarily a Trey/70 Volt Parade show, augmented by horns that once assisted Anastasio’s former band including Dave “The Truth” Grippo and New Orleans wayward trumpeter Michael Ray. Highlights included a passionate and soaring, melody-infused “Drifting,” a guest spot from NOLA’s zydeco accordion specialist Sunpie Barnes for “The Tomato Song” (Mike and Trey appeared with Barnes at the 1996 festival) and a spirited take on the Beatles’ “I am the Walrus.” The second set is already well known (and traded) throughout the (post)-Phish community, as bassist Mike Gordon appeared with Trey and company. Indeed, it was a joy to see Mike and Trey onstage making music together and smiling at the girls in the front row. The crowd was ecstatic at the sight of Mike and Trey together again. Let it not be forgotten that Cyrille and Ivan Neville also joined in on the fun, and the ensuing Allan Toussaint-penned, Meters-backed, Robert Palmer-sang, Phish-covered “Sneaking Sally Through The Alley” was a joyous Jazz Fest celebration and filled the theatre with smiles from dancing hippies. Though enjoyable, this rendition lacked the punch and funk of its predecessors.

Trey :: Superjam at State Palace
Jazz Fest 2005 by Chris Goodyear

“46 Days,” Phish’s best Stones cover not written by Jagger/Richards, allowed Trey to get vicious with it, just like old times. Warren Haynes, on setbreak from his own gig, was waiting in the wings for a moment to step onstage and join his friend Mike, but the opportunity did not arise. The most touching moment of the evening came when, after some confusion as to whether or not Mike would stay onstage, he and Trey appeared armed with acoustic guitars and delivered an emotional take on Hank Williams Jr.’s “Old Habits are Hard to Break.” Never have the lyrics to a song seemed more appropriate, and the greener folks in the audience might have thought for a minute that this was a new Phish ballad because the lyrics seemed to fit so perfectly. For a little extra fun, just before he was to “sing” with Gov’t Mule, Trey’s good buddy Dave Matthews, knee-deep in Jazz Fest, was helped to the stage to sing “Three Little Birds,” and the guy gets an ‘E’ for effort. So does Trey.

Knowing how much everyone loves to read up on Trey, we offer you Jen Katz’ Trey Anastasio Super Jam :: Take Two.

Saturday evening was packed full of even more options. Umphrey’s McGee would take the crown of late night this Saturday with a barnburner at Tipitina’s Uptown. The show delved deep into their ever-growing songbook, and revelers didn’t get out of the room til well after 7 a.m.. Prog-rock, G-funk, and metal wrapped around blissed-out jams, Umphrey’s have got a great buzz going, and talk of the band could be heard everywhere all week long. [Click here for UM Late Nite Photos.]

The Duo with Gordon at TwiRoPa
Jazz Fest 2005 by Dino Perrucci

The Benevento/Russo/Gordon trio was a heavily attended throwdown at TwiRoPa, with much of the Superjam crowd migrating uptown. Fans were treated to Miles, Coltrane, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Radiohead, and Led Zeppelin, amongst others, with a deeply psychedelic three hour show that also welcomed RANA guitarist Scott Metzger into the fold for an extended period. The Duo is usually at their best as a twosome, however Gordon and Metzger are rare examples of a guest actually strengthening the performance and freeing Benevento of his rhythm duties and allowing him to wander skyward with his keyboard virtuoso. The Trio covered itself, and wove “On the Corner” and “Roundabout” into their Crescent City tweak. TwiRoPa was a dark and foreboding dojo, the packed room of pranksters rode the celestial ghost atop downtown New York vehicles, greasy grooves drippin’ sweat like a naughty lil’ po’ boy. Mike Gordon’s unique bass work thumped and bumped along, dead center between the two young mad scientists, modern day Daniel-Sans to Cactus Miyagi.

Sunday’s lineup at the Fairgrounds may be the strongest I remember. The weather was perfect, with a slight breeze coming through every so often, for the final day to chow the local delicacies and sample different flavors of New Orleans life. The day began on the Acura Stage with KDTU, who, clearly exhausted from the previous three nights, gave a half-hearted, hour-long, mailed-in set. The same could not be said for Trey Anastasio, whose mid-afternoon set at the Acura Stage was a fairly good dose of rock and roll, Beatles nostalgia (“Walrus”), and even the obligatory Phish song “46 Days,” all delivered with authority by the 70 Volt Parade. Meanwhile, over at the Congo Square Stage, legendary British reggae stars Steel Pulse were wowing an enormous crowd with an hour-long set of hits and dub styles, including a bright and stirring “Chant a Psalm.” After a lengthy delay, Isaac Hayes appeared in full-length, bright yellow, traditional African garb, much to the delight of the packed stage area. His band worked funk, soul, and the smoothest R&B; into a shortened set, and the superfly actor, long past the Shaft days, basked in the adulation of New Orleans. The Radiators, the world’s greatest bar band, closed out the Sprint Stage with their patented bar-room blues and boogie. McCoy Tyner closed out the Jazz Tent with a spiritual, mind-bending tribute to his late bandleader John Coltrane, pillaging the Coltrane catalogue and revisiting classics like “Impressions” and “My Favorite Things.” As tradition dictates, the Neville Brothers finished things out on the Main Stage, welcoming Trey Anastasio to the fold for a few numbers. The Brothers, aided by the fierce riffing redhead, seemed to rediscover their funk this year, skanking grooves and meeting for luscious vocal harmonies, always a Neville strength. It was a perfect finale to a fantastic Fairgrounds lineup.

Funky Meters at Tipitina’s
Jazz Fest 2005 by Chris Goodyear

The evening continued onward with Jazz Fest tradition, beginning with a fiery, high-octane Funky Meters performance at Tipitina’s Uptown. This gig is always high energy, however, this year, given the fireworks of the Neville’s finale, the show burned with determination, bassist George Porter Jr. leading the quartet in barnstorming through their funk revue. Meanwhile, the best kept secret of the entire Fest was the Stanton Moore Trio at D.B.A. Robert Walter and Will Bernard assisted the NOLA skinsman in a three-hour throwdown that was unbelievable. Fans packed into the tiny bar to see a no-holds barred, alcohol-fueled party that exploded during the choice cover of Judas Priest’s “Another Thing Comin’,” which Walters reworked into a punishing groove. Different NOLA classics, as well as Moore and Walters’ songbooks, were given the wildly aggressive trio treatment with incredible results. Later that night, the Zigaboo Modeliste show at Howlin’ Wolf put an exclamation point next to the end of Jazz Fest with a performance that extended well into Monday morning. The Meters original drummer welcomed a bevy of performers to the stage, including Mike Gordon, Ivan Neville, and Meters guitarist Leo Nocentelli. A truly raucous gathering where the crowd spilled into the street, this was the perfect ending to a brilliant festival week. It was a prime example of the Jazz Fest spirit, where too much is never enough!

B Getz
JamBase | Jazz Fest
Go See Live Music!

Published May 2005