Browsing Category 'New Orleans'

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Soyprensa’s adventure to cover the world famous Jazz Fest in New Orleans began as soon as we stepped out of the airplane that took us from Florida to Louisiana. Not knowing much about the city of New Orleans, other than that it had been hit by one of the worst natural disasters in recent history, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. One of the first things we found at the Louis Armstrong Airport, probably the coolest name an airport can have, was a huge painting of Armstrong playing among some of the other jazz greats such as Fats Domino and Thelonious Monk. The sight of this work of art showed us how this city perceives the art of music. Coming from a town where our home musicians are Latin pop-stars whose music is continuously looped through soap operas, this kind of respect was overwhelming and beautifully appropriate.

We got there on Thursday, May 5th, and tried to immediately make our way to the festival-I didn’t want to miss Lucinda Williams, who was scheduled to perform at 1:40 pm. By the time that we dropped off our bags and registered at the press tent, it was already 2. It was very discouraging to see all the people leaving the stage where Williams was supposed to be playing until 2:55. Forgetting that Louisiana is an hour behind Florida time, I erroneously concluded that she finished her set halfway through and that my chance was gone. With that feeling of a bad start, we went for a walk and ended up at the Gentilly Stage on the other side of the park. On that stage, halfway through their set, we found the local band The New Orleans Bingo! Show. With faces full of makeup, beautiful dancers, and great music, they made a fan of me almost instantly. I immediately picked up a copy of their latest album when they were finished. Next stop was the Original Royal Players Brass Band at the People’s Health Economy Hall Stage. This was a very traditional act. As the band played on the stage we saw several men in suits weaving their way through the tent and pulling up people to dance in the ever-growing line snaking its way through the tables and chairs scattered throughout the tent.

Our next move was to go and check out Galactic. As a general rule, I am not a big fan of jam bands. I usually find them boring and repetitive, however, Galactic put on a great show and pumped the crowd up to see the headliner, Wilco. Wilco took the Stage at 5:20 and played for close to two hours. Frontman Jeff Tweedy was in a good mood as he joked about the background of the stage (the silhouette of a group of people dancing), made fun of their drummer (saying that he was the only one who wanted to play You Never Know, simply because the song starts off with the drums), and playing a lot of their legendary album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Further highlights of the show included a sing-a-long rendition of Jesus Etc., a rousing tribute to New Orleans through Hoodoo Voodoo, and a stellar set-closer with Heavy Metal Drummer.

On Saturday, our second day in New Orleans, and first day with the correct time, we decided to do typical tourist things in the morning before leisurely making our way back to the festival. We opted for 11 am drinks in the French Quarter and watched a great band, The Smoking Time Jazz Club, perform in the street. This little ensemble played without microphones or light shows, but easily rivaled many of the official Jazz Fest acts and ended up being one of my favorite performances of the whole weekend. Accompanied only by their instruments and a couple dancing (I fell in love with the female dancer), they drew a big crowd that sat quietly listening to their music and watching the show.

Stimulated by the spectacular street performances, we arrived at the festival with our spirits high, thanks in part to alcohol and in part to the beauty of the city. The first thing we did was grab a beer and head back to the Gentilly Stage to check out country music’s Jamey Johnson. With wild hair that made him looked more like a roadie for White Zombie and less like a guitar hero of country music, he dazzled the audience and put on a really great show. Johnson finished his set around 5 pm, but we had already left to catch the last twenty minutes of the local boys Better Than Ezra. Better Than Ezra has been kicking around for some years and I’ve seen them on festival lineups before, but never quite made it over to check them out. I was grateful that we decided to catch the end of their show because I really liked what I heard. With a sound very much in between indie and mainstream, the Louisiana band had people dancing and singing along. After they were done, the crowd stayed put and began to increase in volume. The reason for this was that the Grammy award winners Arcade Fire were schedule to perform next. The Canadian band took the stage at 5:35 pm on the dot and, as now is customary, opened the show with the aptly named Ready to Start. After that, it was an hour of complete bliss as the band played their way through their catalog. After the crowd exploded with Rebellion (Lies) the band left the stage for a few minutes only to come back with a special guest, Cindy Lauper. The surprise guest was well-received by the audience as they went into an Arcade Fire-ish rendition of Lauper’s infamous Girls Just Wanna Have Fun followed by Sprawl. After they thanked the pop legend, lead singer Win Butler led the band to close the show the best way they know how, playing the now timeless Wake Up, and sent us home with a rejuvenated love for them.

We finished our trip filled up with great food and delicious drinks from unparalleled bars. We met the nicest locals and enjoyed conversations with some of the most pleasant and charming people we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know in a long time. We had the great fortune of seeing fantastic local bands performing for tourists and locals alike, and we even got to meet some of them. All in all, we had a great time at the festival and roaming around the city. This is a festival that everyone who loves music can go and enjoy, one that goes hand in hand with the city’s spirit of love, respect and protection of their heritage and music in general.

Here are some pictures taken by our staff photographer Nancy Florian: