The Driscoll Mountain Boys perform at Jazz Fest.
Prince’s “When Doves Cry” has long been a part of Gov’t Mule’s always-interesting set lists. Guitarist Warren Haynes masterfully wove the cover choice around his tender tune “Beautifully Broken” for a thrilling, chilling effect Friday on the Gentilly Stage. He closed the set with his never-gets-old, feel-good anthem “Soulshine.
Opening day at Jazz Fest was full of covers and homages to Prince, and there was plenty to enjoy on a host of stages.
Grace Potter gripping a Gibson Flying V guitar and ripping solos on slide with sweat-matted blonde hair covering her face is certainly a sight. Showcasing her considerable talents, Potter deftly switched to Hammond B-3 organ with ease and danced with
abandon while singing Prince’s “Kiss,” one of many tribute covers to the late, great Purple One — one of many sure to mark Jazz Fest 2016.
With Steely Dan guitarist Walter Becker describing them as “the best band we’ve ever worked with,” a massive backing band took to the Acura Stage minutes before Becker and singer/pianist Donald Fagen. The horn section welcomed the two legends with a long, jazzy introduction before starting the set with “Black Cow,” a gem from the Aja album (1977) and ushering in an unabashed greatest hits parade that found all players in full command of Steely Dan’s considerable canon.
The sight of spinning, twisting and two-stepping lovers of zydeco basking in the light of the Fais Do Do stage — where dancers address each other as “cher” with no register of cliché — will bring a smile to the saddest of faces. Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band pushed the crowd into high gear with “Zydeco People,” highlighted by Carrier’s infectious accordion and smooth vocal delivery of lyrics about “proud Creoles dancing” and the washboard player’s frenetic style.
After Eric Lindell canceled a week of shows, including his Blues Tent appearance, due to health concerns for his young child, Alvin Youngblood Hart stepped up and extending his opening set to fill the gap. Though capable of pristine acoustic work, Hart was backed with his electrifying power trio Muscle Theory and loomed large on the stage, laid-back in a red-yellow headband. He unleashed wailing guitar and deep, rich vocals all the raw emotion that defines the blues at its best.
Old-timer purveyors of old time music, the Driscoll Mountain Boys — a quintet dressed in matching black pants, purple shirts, grey jackets and white Stetson hats — cracked corny jokes and told stories from a long, legendary career. They also served notice to the crowd at the Lagniappe Stage: “We’re still here pickin’ and grinnin'.” Indeed, the all-acoustic band expertly delivered on country/bluegrass classics such as Jimmy Rogers’ “No Hard Times” and the traditional “Darling Cory.”
The subdudes were in fine form at the Blues Tent. No matter that the long journey begun in New Orleans in 1987 and weathered turns friendships and the 2014 death of original bassist Johnny Ray Allen, the band still shreds. Tommy Malone took a guitar solo deep into sonic space atop a funky piano roll by John Magnie during “It’s So Hard.” The bouncy fan-favorite “All the Time in the World” to close the set.
A thunderous drum roll started Cowboy Mouth’s set on the Gentilly Stage, with hard-hitting frontman Fred LeBlanc grooving into a stream-of-consciousness invocation for good Jazz Fest vibes, wishing “nothing but joy and happiness for the next two weeks.” Engaging and entertaining as ever from his seat behind the drums, LeBlanc then launched the band into its signature Louisiana rock ’n' Roll style with the raunchy romp of “Tell the Girl.”