Thursday, May 3, 2012

WOW: Jazz Fest - Part 2

Attending our second day of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival called for a specific strategy. Arrive about four hours before the gates opened, work as part of a team so that one could run the length of the Fair Grounds Race Course to claim a viewing area at the Acura Stage while another carries all the equipment, apply sun screen, and wait for the last performance of the day--Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

We found a spot at a point that offered a view of a corner of the stage (in the distance on the left), but a direct view of one of the giant video screens, between the grandstand and a tower of speakers. Not bad considering that there was a chain link fence behind us so we could have our umbrella up all day--a welcome relief from the brilliant sun (temp in the mid 80s with a few welcome clouds).

So, this was our location for the day, set to hear four acts and missing some 50 other performances on the 11 other stages. Waiting for the Boss.

But to imply that waiting period was merely a time-filler would be doing a great disservice to the performers who preceded THE

What a lineup.

Beginning with Jumpin' Johnny Sansone. His music draws from swamp-rock, blues, zydeco and had the crowd on its feet with an enthusiastic response.

Then began a series of emotional performances.

We had heard of Trombone Shorty, but had not heard him perform.

"Seventeen days after Hurricane Katrina, Troy 'Trom-bone Shorty' Andrews stood in the middle of Jackson Square, trying to bring some life to a city facing widespread destruction. Lit up by a few news cameras, Troy and his brother James played their horns to
let the city, and the rest of the country, know that New Orleans—and New Orleans’ music—was here to stay.

“New Orleans,” Troy says, “is everything to me.”

Brought up in Treme, the New Orleans neighborhood known as
the true birthplace of jazz, Troy comes from a long line of musicians. He has been playing brass instruments for about as long as he could walk, earning his nickname because the trombone he played was twice as long as he was. At six, he was playing the trumpet and trombone in his brother James’ jazz band.

We listened in awe of this 26-year-old master of the trombone.

And then he picked up the trumpet. His exuberance and mastery of this instrument were simply amazing.

And then to top off his perfor-mance, he played the drums on one of his final selections.

(The photos of the crowd were taken off the screens adjacent to the stage.)

A break between perfor-mances gave me the opportunity to begin the search for food. Looking toward the only open route from our fenced enclave, I told Kate I loved her, set out with a two days supply of water and cash, and urged her to return to the campground if I did not return.

The trail to food sources was not visible and any attempt to mark my route to insure an easy return to our settlement at the Fair Grounds was unsuccessful.

As you can see from the photos, several people had brought flags and banners that marked the land they had claimed for the few hours of their residence this afternoon.

I finally made it to this oasis that offered a choice of crawfish or alligator. I ordered two sandwiches--both crawfish, since I didn't want my last meal to be alligator in case I did not make it back to our umbrella temporary residence.

With the help of a trained guide, I made it back just in time to hear Dr. John (aka Mac Rebennack) and the Lower 911.

Of all the selections, his "Save Our Wetlands" had the most
impact. He railed against oil companies and strongly urged his audience to call or e-mail members of Congress "to let 'em know you give a damn about what is happening."

And then--at three minutes past the scheduled start time--the crowd began calling for Bruce. What followed over the course of the
next two-and-one-half hours seemed to be an extended exclama-tion of gratitude from the crowd and an energized expression of pride in where the city is today.

This impression is based on the following article: "On (April 30, 2006) Bruce Springsteen and his Seeger Sessions Band presided over a mass wake/therapy session/group hug/house party that touched nerves still raw eight months after Hurricane Katrina and its levee breeches rendered New Orleans a sudden ghost town.

"Against long odds, festival staffers, sponsors, musicians, and fans came together to stage a Jazz Fest for the ages, a shining signpost on the road to recovery. And the consensus highlight of that first festival after Katrina was Rev. Springsteen preaching to his hot, dusty, newly converted congregation as only he could" (Keith Spera, Times-Picayune, April 29 2012).

Springsteen mixed lighter moments (surfing the crowd, above, and pulling one lucky audience member to join him in "Waiting On a Sunny Day," left) with some lump-in-the-throat, watery-eyes moments with "We Take Care of Our Own," "Wrecking Ball," "O Mary Don'tYou Weep," and "My City of Ruins."

The almost defiant "We Are Alive" gave voice to the spirit of many in the crowd, estimated to be near 100,000.

We left with an understanding of the ability of Bruce Springsteen to connect with the emotions of the audience. We were exhausted, but left singing "Pay Me My Money Down."

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