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First Weekend of the 47th New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

First Weekend of the 47th New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
New Orleans, LA, Fair Grounds Race Course
New Orleans, LA
Photographer/Writer: Mark Robbins

The aromas of boiling crawfish, sweet beignets stuffed with pralines, curry, pecan catfish meuniere, fried soft shell crabs and so much more blew over the fairgrounds pulling you in along with the music of Alex McMurray and His Band playing on the Gentilly Stage. The 47th New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival was underway!

Running for two  consecutive weekends (always the last weekend of April and the first weekend of May) the festival offers up a gumbo of musical genres, cultural activities and mouth watering dishes that help make New Orleans one of the top food destinations in the world. This year welcomed a thirteenth stage to the festival, the music of Cuba. With the easing of political tensions, Quint Davis (CEO of Festival Productions) welcomed Cuban Ambassador, Jose Ramon Cabanas, to the festival along with New Orleans Mayor, Mitch Landrieu; former U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu; and Jazz and Heritage Foundation President Donna Santiago. Continue reading First Weekend of the 47th New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

Fourth Lockn’ Festival as Hot as the Weather

Fourth Lockn’ Festival as Hot as the Weather
Oak Ridge Farm, Arrington, VA
August 25-28, 2016
Photographer/Writer: Mark Robbins

The 4th installment of the Lockn’ Festival at Oak Ridge Farm in Arrington, VA proved to be a sizzling hot weekend. Not only was the music a blistering blur from well known to not so well known bands but the temperature held in the high 90s all 4 days (actually 1 night and 3 days) with the only relief given by the mist machines placed throughout the festival grounds. The festival, started by Peter Shapiro and Dave Frey, not only offers the best jam bands, as well as other genres, but also the best in local farm to table eats and craft beers and wine. New this year was a raised main stage which had a rotating center so when one band was finished with a set the center would rotate with the next band already in place.

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THURSDAY HIGHLIGHTS

Thursday night’s lineup kicked off with Vulfpeck, a funk band who had a great time on stage with Jack Stratton constantly running back and forth between turns on the keyboard. Antwaun Stanley, billed as a”special guest” has a powerful voice that filled the festival grounds and would be at home singing R&B, funk or gospel.

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Umphrey’s McGee’s music was only surpassed by it’s outstanding light show. This band was the VIP for the weekend playing non-stop glory. It’s genre hopping, time and key changes may be off-putting to some but Umphrey’s McGee was non stop glory.

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Finishing the night was Ween. Known for their unusually goofy lyrics, distortion and abrasiveness they more than lived up to their reputation. This is not a jam band and they don’t try to be.

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FRIDAY HIGHLIGHTS

Friday was the first full day of music with Phish, Ween, Peter Wolf of the J. Geils Band, Charles Bradley and the Extraordinaires, White Denim, Vulfpeck, Turkuaz and Moogatu.

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Phish played two 2 hour sets Friday and Sunday nights. It’s hard to believe this band has been killing it for some 33 years now. With a set list that included “555”, “Ghost”, “Punch You in the Eye”, “Wing Suit” and much much more from the Phish song book the highlight was an a cappella cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”. Those who paid for super VIP tickets were treated to a private show by Anders Osborne between Phish sets.

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Charles Bradley survived a difficult childhood and early adulthood to finally getting the praise he deserves. Strongly influenced by James Brown, Bradley is a true showman and has the soul and R&B chops to go with it. Whatever emotion he is feeling, joyfulness or sadness, the audience feels it as deeply. Bradley is one of those performers who has to be seen live to really appreciate how great he is. Turkuaz is big band funk. This nine piece band would have raised the roof if there was a roof to be raised. White Denim has been around since 2008. From their opening song, “Real Deal Momma” the band kept a soulful vibe going throughout their entire set.

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SATURDAY HIGHLIGHTS

My Morning Jacket, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Hard Working Americans, Galactic with Lee Oskar, Twiddle, Moon Taxi, DJ Williams Project, Phil Lesh and Friends.

My Morning Jacket is not only a great indie band but Saturday night they put on an outstanding Rock and Roll Show. Front man Jim James is an unstoppable force backed by an equally dynamite band. Originals mixed in with covers, a particularly moving “What the World Need Now” (Burt Bacharach and Hal David), made their set one of the more memorable of the weekend.

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Tedeschi Trucks Band is all that needs to be said. From the rapid fire guitar of Derek Trucks to the sublime voice of Susan Tedeschi as well as a great band, this is as good as it gets. Their cover of “Bitches Brew” was so smokin’ that Miles Davis even smiled.

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Hard Working Americans is a Neo Southern super rock band. “Mission Accomplished” should have been their closer instead of opener because when their set was over, judging from the crowds reaction, it was mission accomplished. With Todd Snider in front with vocals, dancing, and mugging for the crowd, the rest of Hard Working Americans cook with such intensity flames should be covering the stage. This band’s pedigree is second to none with Dave Schools (Widespread Panic), Neal Casal (Chris Robinson Brotherhood), Chad Staehly (Great American Taxi), and Duane Trucks (King Lincoln).

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Galactic is the quintessential New Orleans funk band. With Stanton Moore on drums this band can do no wrong. Together for 20 years,Stanton Moore Ben Ellman, Robert Mercurio, Jeff Raines and Rich Vogel have visited every genre of music and conquered them all. For their Lockin’ set special guest harp player Lee Oskar, founder of War, joined them for “Slipping Into Darkness”, “Like a Rolling Stone” and a few others. Add vocalist Erica Falls to the mix and an extended set (Brandi Carlile could not appear due to illness) and there were a lot of happy campers.
Phil Lesh has a lot of good friends. With members of the Dead, Phish (John Fishman, Page McConnell, Anders Osborne, Joe Russo) and The Infamous Stringdusters, this group could have had their own festival. Getting a late start, travel problems for Lesh then a blown amp, the fans patiently waited as the new rotating stage turned to the opening strains of “Scarlet Begonias”. Through a set of Dead covers and an extended jam, Phil Lesh and Friends were welcomed back anytime.

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SUNDAY HIGHLIGHTS

Phish, Gary Clark, Jr., Phil Lesh and Friends, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, The Wailers, Twiddle, Doobie Decible System, The Dharma Initiative, Keller Williams’ Grateful Gospel

Keller Williams has a good time and so does everyone else who is there to hear him. Dressed in a dark suit, white shirt, white tie, and no shoes, Williams comes to preach. “Palm Sunday”, “Who Was John”, “St Stephen”, “Sampson and Delilah” and more made this set a must hear for the weekend. Performed on the much smaller Blue Ridge Bowl Stage and earlier than the normal starting time (10 AM) it was still wall to wall people (if there were walls) who knew this was not a set to miss. Williams was backed by his three piece band and 4 singers who preached to the heavens.

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Phil Lesh’s friends today were Chris Robinson Brotherhood (who had their own set) and Gary Clark, Jr.. Sunday’s show went off without a hitch with more Dead covers and Gary Clark, Jr. showing his blues licks on “Good Morning, School Girl” and “Wang Dang Doodle”. Lesh and friends, no matter who they are, can do no wrong.

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Gary Clark, Jr. is not as famous as he should be. His style encompass fuzz rock, blues, r&b, hip-hop, soul and even a little jazz. His crackling “Bright Lights” set the tone for the rest of his rock blues appearance.