I passed a guy today at Jazz Fest, who wore a T-Shirt that said, "Braving the Elements." Many others wore knee-high vinyl rain boots in designer patterns to tread fearlessly through mud and be closer to the stages. I had to give them credit because their feet had to be awfully hot with the noonday sun bearing down. After a full day of torrential rain, followed by another one overcast, throngs of jazz lovers flocked to the Fairgrounds to enjoy a a cloudless afternoon, milling from one fabulous musical act to the next. The grounds smelled like a pig farm.
The folks who compose the worst-dressed lists would be working overtime at the Fest. Everyone who's been before knows to dress for comfort, though they all have exceptional personal style. Pulling from their hiking gear, Burkina Faso straw hats, bikini tops, sarongs, Crocs, cargo pants, backpacks, tattoos, matted hair and past years' signature Fest attire, music lovers dress to survive hours of trudging from one stage to the next, often to catch more than one act taking place in the same timeframe. Food and beverage stations alleviate any pain and weariness that might interfere with the bliss.
We started with the Levon Helm Band led by the man himself at 70 years of age. To temporarily escape the heat, I sat a while in the Blues Tent, listening to the Radiators playing pre-WWII blues, before heading over to the Gentilly Stage for Marcia Ball. After slurping down a frozen margarita, I stopped briefly at the Fais Do-Do stage to hear Shawn Colvin. While trying to decipher the band schedule on a bulletin board, I was informed by another Fest Goer that Colvin has won three Grammy Awards and was nominated for seven others! No wonder so many people were sitting on the grass listening to her sing and strum her guitar.
I waited a long time for Anita Baker to get going and kept hearing the Allman Brothers on the Acura Stage. First, though, I sampled a Shrimp Remoulade, despite the guy in front of me begging to try his Cajun Tamales, which he claimed were the best. Hedging for more time, I heard a few tunes in the WWOZ Jazz Tent sung by Keely Smith and her big band. By the time I got back to the Acura Stage, the sun had finally lowered and I found a patch of grass to enjoy the coolness, at last.
The Allman Brothers looked worse for wear but played as well as I remember them from the 1970s. The sound was pure testosterone, reverberating across half the Fair Grounds. I was surprised to note the multigenerational crowd, so all those kids must have grown up listening to their parents' tapes or gone to revival concerts. The band played two encores and the crowd left regrettably, still shouting for more.
A bit of a breeze made the long trek back to the car refreshing. Another weekend of Jazz Fest still to go.