|Toast to Johnny Gumbo|
One of the Jazz Fest lunch staples is a trip to Emeril's Nola restaurant for Miss Hays' stuffed chicken wings. "These wings are deboned, stuffed with a mixture of ground pork, chopped shrimp, mushrooms, onions, celery, cilantro and fish sauce. They're baked, then fried and served with a garlicky homemade hoisin dipping sauce." We do a couple orders with BloodyMarys/Abita Ambers to start, then on to an entree of Shrimp & Grits. Now THAT'S a lunch!
It's Saturday in the park. No, that doesn't work, Chicago was yesterday. Saturday's lineup includes Marcia Ball, Jerry Lee Lewis, Aaron Neville along with closers Elton John, Ed Sheeran, TI, Terence Blanchard, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Rockin' Dopsie. We arrive at the Gentilly end of the Fairgrounds around 2. The line for tickets goes on seemingly forever. Good move to get all tickets on Friday. We find Marc Broussard (he'll be at Hartford's Infinity Hall on June 7) sounding great on the Gentilly Stage. Next stop is Kermit Ruffins at Congo Square Stage viewed from the side on the track. Hey, it's getting REAL crowded in here today! Combo of perfect weather, a Saturday (always the biggest day) and Elton John on the bill spells massive crowd! We find the Jersey boys & girls in the Blues Tent for the Royal Southern Brotherhood, Cyril Neville's southern rock supergroup (“They are not a band – they are an extravaganza” – John Hiatt) that includes Devon Allman (Gregg's son), drummer Yonrico Scott, bassist Charlie Wooten and guitarist Bart Walker. Really good.
A brief trip to the Lagniappe Stage in the Grandstand for the Radiators' Ed Volker's Trio Mollusc, then I split from the others to go back to the Blues Tent for my pick of the day, Aaron Neville. I missed his 2012 show where he debuted his doo wop stuff, so I want to hear it now. It's hot as hell, so a seat inside and a few drops from the mist lines feels like heaven. Aaron does not disappoint, running through a bunch of old Neville Brothers, Wild Tchoupitoulas and his solo stuff. Curiously, after a rousing When the Saints Go Marching In, he chooses to do Tell It Like It Is - diffusing the energy in the room. On to Amazing Grace, which was the Nevilles' Jazz Fest closer for many years. For me, it has lost some of its punch. In any event, loved Aaron.
Just up around the bend in the track to Acura. As I make my way, I can hear Elton launching into Rocket Man. The crowd is immense, solid wall of people, but I make my way through until I can see the stage from the track (but, in reality, I see the large screens showing the stage!). Again, I was skeptical of booking aging rockers for Jazz Fest, but again I am proven wrong. He sounds in top form, his piano playing is strong and energetic. And it's really weird to see 20-somethings walking along singing Rocket Man, burning out his fuse up here alone. Parents' record collection? I stay for about 45 minutes, then head back to the Jazz Tent for the end of Terence Blanchard's set (and to rest my weary legs). Out the front gate over to the Seahorse to reconnect with the Pool Hall Studs, who have found yet another private source of transportation back to the Staybridge.
A quick cleanup and we're out to Root over near the Convention Center for dinner, where our somewhat pompous barkeep tells us all about expensive tequilas. Hot and Sour Lemonfish (Coriander Seared Lemonfish, Fried Glass Noodles, Red & Green Curry Paste, Horseradish “Snow,” Hot & Sour Soup) is very good.
Tired, but no longer hungry, I bid the Studs good evening. They continue on to Manning's where they bump into Allen Toussaint, dressed to the nines, just exiting from the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight. They also run into the Jersey crowd and accompany them to Kangaroo Vic's on Tchoupitoulas for a nightcap. I am fast asleep. Another good day at Jazz Fest.
|Lagniappe Stage in the Grandstand|
|Aaron Neville at Blues Tent|
|Back of beer tent, near toilets for Elton John. Insanely crowded!|
|Seahorse Saloon, post-Fest meeting place|