Ya’all know that we went to the NOLA Jazz & Heritage Festival this past Friday through Sunday. So many emotions washed over me during that three day experience. I certainly haven’t taken it all in yet, AND I hope I’ll continue to let it settle.
Like much of the South, it is all about pace. In order to be in harmony here, I believe one needs to learn to slow down and take it as it comes. Many people, me likeliest to be included, struggle and perceive this as less. I’m now learning it isn’t less. AND it isn’t more. It is just different. No JUDGEMENT.
We wrapped up our three days early Sunday evening. After two days of experimenting, taking it in and learning what we could, we created a plan for day three – Sunday. In talking with fellow festivalers, we learned that Jazz Fest builds and peaks. WOW, that was the case Sunday evening. AGAIN, the pace thing. Friday was really mellow! And try as CeeLo Green and Lionel Richie might, there just wasn’t any of my past experiences with THE festival like experiences. In the 70s and 80s I attended soooo many Days on the Green at the Oakland Coliseum. Each of those (Led Zeppelin, Eagles, The Clash, The Who, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tower of Power, and yes even Peter Frampton, to name but a few) brought their own unique “energy”. Even into Saturday, with disparate acts like The Soul Rebels and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. Side note, try as I might, I just don’t get the Country thing. It rained (a real gully washer) Sunday morning – a good sign. Our plan, leave our place at 12:30 and arrive just before the 2:00 show at Festival Stage. Well, this is a terrific time to travel and enter Jazz Fest. Accordingly we got there right at 1:15, which was just before halfway through Cowboy Mouth – a very high energy, wonderful NOLA based live act. AND the feeling was just different. I was beginning to get excited. A short intermission later led to Anders Osborne – another NOLA based, terrific musician. While not the same showman as Fred Leblanc – Cowboy Mouth, the music was hard driving and soulful. Another intermission (these are things you learn to enjoy) and on came Dumpstaphunk. I have such joy associated with the Neville Brothers in the early 80s. So soulful and THE real NOLA sound. Well, the lead man of Dumpstaphunk is Ivan Neville – son of Aaron Neville. Go ahead Wikipedia him. You’ll see his image and say, “Oh yeah, I know him.” At least you will if you listened to any of this genre in the late 70s and 80s. He’s a founding member and “voice” of the Neville Brothers – so soulful. DUMPSTAPHUNK WAS AMAZING. To me it is the best of the NOLA sound, at least of the 1990s and 2000s. Incredible musicians. Incredible funk! AND they were the “warm up” (and my how they warmed up the crowd) for Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was really curious how this would go over. Yes, at their best they are a funk band. I fell in love with them through Blood Sugar Sex Magic. Yet, they are not a NOLA band. They are quintessential LA. No, not Louisiana, Los Angeles. Not to worry.
My approach (a bit less Joyce’s) was to sit in the bougie Big Chief seats. First, they were seats. Second, they were in a covered area up a bit that exposed us to the most glorious cooling breeze. My days in the 70s and 80s of moshing it up in front of the stage are well behind me. It is unfortunate, true, sad and frankly the way I as a recently 64 year-old man am not able behave any longer. However, half way into intermission I asked Joyce if it was OK if I went exploring. She gave me a bit of a sideways glance and said sure. So, I spent the next ten minutes traversing about 100 to 150 feet and realized, at about 200 feet from the stage I was going to struggle to get much closer. Sooo, I turned around and went back to the safety of my bougie seat. Me and about 1,000 of my closest friends. I told myself to imagine being in Cabo’s (a really small 200 seat wonderful music venue in late 70s Chico) 25 feet from Tower of Power. AND, it mostly worked.
RHCP’s opening song was quite appropriate – Can’t Stop. It speaks to transformation. Like many artists of the 80s, Anthony is a recovering heroin addict. Blood Sugar Sex Magic was created as he was coming out of a relationship he destroyed with his drug use and his “final stages” of his long struggle with rehab. AND Anthony, Flea and Chad are just turning 60. That in itself is a huge transformation. They and Ivan Neville and me and Joyce are all about the same age. It is impossible not to see and thoroughly appreciate the incredible energy they bring to RHCP shows.
Part, I believe at least 50%, of a great show is the audience. RHCP had that audience in the palm of their hands. I’ve seen it maybe a half dozen times, but not since the 80s. Those shows (The Clash, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, etc.) left something with me that wasn’t experienced again until this show. Thank you RHCP!
RHCP closed the show with Give It Away – again an appropriate theme for the festival. A huge part of Jazz Fest was the environment of gratitude AND giving. Each and every performer spoke to the moment. Their approaches were individual and unique, AND each spoke to how great it was to be back after two years of cancellations due to COVID-19. Anders Osborne said “I have been invited for 32 straight years.” Amen!
AND . . . the encore was Under The Bridge. I believe it to be the best song ever about LA. Its’ “anthem”. It purportedly is Antony’s love song to los Angeles. Remember, love is complicated. (RHCP also wrote and perform Californication.) I have my own complicated relationship with the Southern California basin. I got married there and it birthed my wife. I spent 5 years living there and learning to “hate it”. My son was born there. Just complicated! So, while I was incredibly inspired by Flea (as he came out for the encore he did a handstand, “walked” across the stage and held it for a good 30 seconds.), Ivan and Anthony, I was also moved by Jazz Fest in that life is precious and to be grateful for all of our blessings.
And, to Give it Away (NOW!)