|Robert Plant performing with a plume.|
If nothing else, the 2011 New Orleans Jazz Fest will go down as one of the best ever, weather-wise.
It also boasted its share of memorable moments both on- and off-stage.
A few more final thoughts on Jazz Fest 2011:
A feathered friend: Both Jon Bon Jovi and Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler spoke about visiting other stages at Jazz Fest. Robert Plant did more than visit. He dove in like an anthropologist.
He knows New Orleans. Back in the day, he and his Led Zeppelin cohorts hired the likes of Professor Longhair to perform at local parties. Plant also is a knowledgeable collector of Louisiana vinyl. Whenever he comes to town, he haunts music clubs and record stores, eager to tap into the musical gestalt.
In the hours before his April 29 headlining set on the Acura Stage, Plant made the rounds at the Fair Grounds in the company of bandmates Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin. They stopped in the Gospel Tent, and perused the craft area.
But what Plant really wanted to see was Mardi Gras Indians. And he didn't want to experience them from the side of the stage, or backstage. He wanted to be out front, among the crowd. Few recognized the tall, weathered guy with his long hair hidden under a knit cap as he pressed up against the barricade in front of the Jazz and Heritage Stage, taking it all in.
As he headed back to the Acura Stage to prepare for his own show, Plant asked Jazz Fest staffers to procure an Indian feather for him.
In the parlance of the Mardi Gras Indians, he was told, they are referred to as "plumes." Good enough - how about a plume?
The staffer returned to the Jazz and Heritage Stage and, with permission, collected a long green plume that had fallen off an Indian "suit." The plume was delivered to Plant backstage at Acura.
As the show began and Plant and company remade such Zeppelin classics as "Black Dog," "Gallow's Pole" and "Ramble On" as spooky Appalachian meditations, fans might have wondered about the green feather jutting from a pocket of his jeans. It was his New Orleans talisman.
Life in the fast lane: The drama with Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora entering rehab days before the band's April 30 headlining appearance on the Acura Stage caused some anxious moments for Jazz Fest staffers. Unlike a stand-alone concert, a festival date can't be rescheduled. Finding a fill-in as popular as Bon Jovi on two days' notice would have been tricky.
The irony is that, initially, the slot wasn't meant to be Bon Jovi at all. Reportedly, it was going to be the Eagles. Two weeks before the Jazz Fest lineup was unveiled, the Eagles fell through. Enter Bon Jovi, with substitute guitarist Phil "X" Xenidis.
Cross-pollination: Surprise appearances abounded. The Blind Boys of Alabama backed country outlaw Jamey Johnson, co-producer of their new album, at the Gentilly Stage. Cyndi Lauper stuck around an extra day to sing "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" with Arcade Fire.
Jimmy Buffett turned up with Allen Toussaint. Amanda Shaw guested with Michael Franti. The Radiators' Jazz Fest finale featured Warren Haynes, Little Feat's Paul Barrere, BeauSoleil's Michael Doucet and the Bonerama horns.
Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews bookended his Jazz Fest with two high-profile pop-ups. He rocked Sly & the Family Stone's "Take You Higher" with Jeff Beck on the festival's opening day and then goosed Kid Rock's "All Summer Long" on closing day.
Drinking it in: The strawberry lemonade ... never was quite right, in the opinion of this connoisseur. Jazz Fest switched vendors last year under mysterious circumstances, and the popular stuff just hasn't tasted the same. Lines were long, if not as long as in years past, nonetheless.
I thought I'd found an acceptable, easy-access substitute in the Kids' Area lemonade vendor. Unfortunately, I wasn't the only person to make this discovery - the supply ran dry this weekend. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, however, were in abundance.
Defining multi-talented: There are many, many examples of the versatility of local musicians. One of the most obvious? On Friday, George Porter Jr. navigated modern jazz titan John Coltrane's "Equinox" with keyboardist David Torkanowsky in the WWOZ Jazz Tent. On Saturday, Porter anchored the Voice of the Wetlands Allstars for the Cajun romp "We Make a Good Gumbo." He certainly does.
Who will it be in 2012?: Glen David Andrews may have established a new Jazz Fest tradition by closing the Gospel Tent. But the Radiators' retirement leaves the Gentilly Stage without its traditional closer.
Suggestions on Nola.com for the Rads' replacement include Cowboy Mouth, Galactic, Deacon John, Irma Thomas and Dr. John - all worthy options.
Regardless of who it is, 2012 will boast a new finale. Here's hoping the weather remains the same.
Music writer Keith Spera can be reached at email@example.com or 504.826.3470.
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