On a beautiful Saturday, Jazz Fest crowds were not what one might have expected, even with the mighty Bon Jovi nation in attendance. (No word yet on whether Jovi's fans booed Irma Thomas like some did Dr. John during the ’80s rockers last visit.) But Jovi nation showed up. When asked to sing parts of "You Give Love a Bad Name," the infield crowd had no problem supplying the lyrics.
There were crowds spilling out of tents for Robert Cray's closing set in the Blues Tent and for John Boutte in the Jazz Tent. Boutte's set was a not so jazzy mix of R&B and hymns, and he also sang "The City of New Orleans," popularized by Arlo Guthrie, who has his own set tomorrow in the Blues Tent. Boutte made the crowd wait for "The Treme Song," which he closed with, and that he jazzed it up with help from Wendell Brunious on trumpet.
The crowds weren't bad at most stages, but it was the fences that had Fantasia distressed. Her career has been bumpy since winning American Idol, and so was the beginning of her set on the Congo Square Stage. In front of the stage there are areas fenced off for various VIP package ticket holders. Fantasia told the crowd it made her fell like her people were in jail, and she refused to start singing until something was done to help her connect with her people. I'm not sure when she started singing. Earlier on the Congo Square Stage, Emeline Michel of Haiti had less issues with the set up and made appeals for the peoples of Haiti and Japan. She has a beautiful voice and a warm and serene stage presence.
Big Freedia also had a fun time at the Congo Square Stage and performed new material and closed with "Rock Around the Clock," complete with air guitar from one of the stage dancers. Bill Haley and His Comets probably never saw stage dancing, or popping, like this stage show included, but the song works in the bounce format.
Anyone scrutinizing the Jazz Fest stage feng shui had a lot of flow to consider today. Acura's final three acts were: Wayne Toups and Zydecajun - Irma Thomas - Bon Jovi. Uhhh, interesting. But perhaps more interesting was the Gentilly Stage. Low Anthem - Amos Lee - Jason Mraz. That's a more harmonious bill that would sell tickets in New Jersey.
Some of the sure things today were small stages. Quantity mattered. With its collection of 9 violins, 8 guitars, accordion et. al., the Savoy Center Jam on the Fais Do Do Stage was a fun orchestral hootenany. On the Jazz & Heritage Stage, the Midnite Disturbers brought together Ben Ellman and Stanon Moore of Galactic, Shamarr Allen, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Big Sam Williams, Mark Mullins, Matt Perine, Roger Lewis of the Dirty Dozen, Kevin O'Day and many more. They took 15 minutes to funk through every song, but it was a great set. Also fun on a smaller stage was Hurray for the Riff Raff on the Lagniappe Stage.
Closing the Jazz & Heritage Stage was Dja Rara (pronounced Jah-RA-ra). The percussion and horn group performed various types of Haitian parading music. And after the set, the ensemble exited the stage and continued playing in the midst of the crowd in front of the stage. Apparently they were able to connect with their people. No word on whether Fantasia ever did.