Jazz Fest 2010: We Hardly Knew Ye

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Jazz Fest is akin to a marathon, not a sprint. Get too crazy in the first weekend and you may not make it to the second, and if you go for both weekends, you best hope your feet don't fail you.

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dirty dozen

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Mine didn't fail, though the credit goes to the amazing bands that gave crowds such a lift all weekend long. Jazz Fest gave us so much this year that it's hard to keep track of all the highlights. This last weekend was no exception. The quality of artists exceeded any and all expectations. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band was one such example (pictured above during) and though we didn't make it until halfway through their set, they showed us why they are the originators of the contemporary form of brass band music you hear so many bands play today.

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dead weather

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But who doesn't know the Dirty Dozen? They're legends and yet they - along with the Allman Brothers, Pearl Jam, B.B. King, Simon and Garfunkle - drew the headlines but didn't claim the whole Fest for themselves. There was just a high quality of music playing everywhere and sometimes from unexpected places. Many times I'd glance at the schedule and think that there was no one worth watching (mostly because, as much as I love music, I didn't recognize a lot of the bands) only to be blown away by a band I had never seen before. The Dead Weather was one such band.

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Though I know Jack White, I'm not the kind of fan that follows his every move and this side-project band was just incredible to watch (and almost cosmically appropriate that we saw them in a light but constant rain). Lead singer Allison Mossheart seemed like a throwback to 70s punk singers, smoking a cigarette on stage as she sang a duet with White, I joked that it probably wouldn't have surprised anyone if she just tied up right there on stage. Not that she needed to, she was clearly getting high of her band's music and danced like a woman possessed.

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kenny wayne sheppard

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Kenny Wayne Shepherd, who anyone who follows Southern Rock was quick to point out to me, was a sight to behold, though surprising for me. No, I didn't know who Shepherd was before we caught him and his band closing out their Blues Tent set with a 25-minute rendition of Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child". But after watching what was by far some of the best guitar playing all weekend, I won't soon forget who Shepherd is.

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shorty and galactic

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And, of course, we had highlights from bands that everyone expects to bring fire on their sets. Like when Galactic brought out Irma Thomas and Trombone Shorty to perform songs on which they collaborated on "Ya-Ka-May". While Thomas killed it with her voice, Shorty roused the crowd by playing trumpet and trombone, almost hijacking Galactic's set for about 20 minutes (not that anyone complained).

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TBC

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And with the rain pouring down on Sunday, it seemed so appropriate to go watch To Be Continued Brass Band play in front of a couple of hundred people, dozens of which were sporting umbrellas they were dancing with (and also, presumably, using to keep dry). And as the rain only got harder as we left the Fairgrounds, you couldn't help but be thankful that the skies didn't completely open up until after the last set was finished. As if God himself was weeping for the end of Jazz Fest. Aren't we all?

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