The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival engaged Mother Nature in a high-stakes game of brinksmanship on Sunday, and won. Pitbull, however, lost.
With a severe storm system bearing down on the city, the festival’s producers announced at 9:30 a.m. that the opening of the Fair Grounds gates would be delayed. As predicted, the storm, with heavy rain and lightning, hit hard at midday. Fortunately, the festival grounds were empty at the time.
But rather than call off the day entirely — it would have been the first time the plug was pulled on a whole day at Jazz Fest since 2004 — organizers waited to see what the weather and grounds looked like.
Finally, at 3 p.m., after canceling dozens of acts earlier in the day, the gates opened for thousands of determined attendees to see almost everyone scheduled for the final two time slots on the various stages.
Everyone except a certain Cuban-American superstar from Miami. Pitbull learned the pitfalls of scheduling your flight to New Orleans on the same day as your show. He issued a statement blaming his cancellation on travel-related safety concerns.
By all accounts, Gente de Zona, the Cuban band that Pitbull would have followed at Congo Square, went a long way toward making folks forget he wasn’t there.
The other acts that performed seemed determined to reward fans who braved the weather.
Dr. John, fronting a revamped and much-improved band of New Orleanians that included drummer Herlin Riley, bassist Roland Guerin, guitarist Eric Struthers and guest saxophonist Charles Neville, followed an epic “Big Chief” with his salacious “Such a Night.” He then strutted offstage, grinning, surround by a trio of scantily clad young ladies.
At the Jazz & Heritage Stage, Mardi Gras Indian Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, resplendent in orange and crimson feathers unsullied by the storm, led a gang of equally pretty singers and percussionists in the traditional “Indian Red.”
At suppertime Saturday, the lines at the 2017 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival’s food …
Plenty of open green space remained at the rear of the Gentilly and Acura stage fields, but thousands of fans packed in tight for the day’s two biggest names.
The unbroken ceiling of gray clouds that hovered overhead actually worked to Lorde’s benefit, and not just because they matched the mood of the young New Zealander’s goth-pop.
Had the sun been shining, she might have melted in her black velour pants. “It is so hot in this town,” she said at one point. “I am roasting.”
Roasting aside, she was pleasant and personable as she fronted an ensemble consisting of a small string section, keyboards and drums. She sat on the edge of the stage to introduce “Liability,” a song about how “you have to learn to be your own best mate. You’ll always be there for yourself.”