By Jenny Peters and Andy J. Gordon
Thousands of tourists (like us) joined area residents in the ongoing celebration of the 300th birthday of New Orleans, by heading to the four-day, second-weekend extravaganza that was the 49th Annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
But it isn’t only about the fest, actually; for if visitors and locals haven’t gotten enough during the 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily music celebration, there’s lots more going on every night. With so many festgoers also looking to extend their partying late into the night, many of NOLA’s favorite bars, nightclubs and other venues offered up amazing shows, some that went on until 7 a.m. the next morning! Most took place after the conclusion of the festival each day, so from Thursday, May 3, 2018, to Sunday, May 6, we went all over town to enjoy a few more shows that featured a diverse mix of music.
On Thursday we heard some incredible music and got a warm feeling in our hearts as Troy Andrews hosted his Sixth Annual Shorty Fest at The House of Blues. That’s the yearly fundraiser for his Trombone Shorty Foundation, an organization that supports New Orleans’ young musicians with music education, instruction, mentorship and performance opportunities. There were bands on two stages including Tank and the Bangas, Soul Rebels, Water Seed, Khris Royal & Dark Matter, Darcy Malone & the Tangle, New Breed Brass Band, Big Chief Juan Pardo & the Golden Comanches and the Trombone Shorty Academy students. (Our full recap of the festive night is available here.)
On Friday we saw a blues-rock show that brought together the second generation of two of the most famous names in Southern Rock history. Devon Allman, Gregg’s son, and Duane Betts, Dickey’s son, are both prolific musicians following in their respective fathers’ footsteps. Allman, an accomplished vocalist and guitar player, has recorded and toured with Royal Southern Brotherhood and Honeytribe, and has done a number of solo projects as well. Betts has toured with Great Southern (his dad’s band), as well as with his own bands. He also does frequent sit-ins with a variety of performers.
The Devon Allman Project, Allman’s latest group, is getting a lot of buzz. They are on a 40+ date tour with Duane Betts as special guest and so made a stop at New Orleans’ famous Tipitina’s bar for a raucous Jazz Fest show. The fantastic performances featured an opening set with Duane Betts and his frequent go-to guitar player, Johnny Stachela, supported by Allman’s rhythm section. Betts and the band played a few of his tunes and did a great version of The Allman Brothers Band’s “Hot ‘Lanta.”
After a break, the Devon Allman Project played a set that included songs from Honeytribe, Royal Southern Brotherhood and The Devon Allman Band, as well as banging out a few covers of classic rock songs. During a seated, acoustic section of the show, Allman brought out Betts for the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil” and The Allman Brothers “Melissa.” After a brief break, the entire combined eight-piece band came back and went full electric for more Allman Brothers Band songs.
Duane Betts sang lead vocals that sounded eerily like his dad Dickey for “Blue Sky.” After a touching version of Gregg Allman’s “Multi-Colored Lady,” the band blasted through “Seven Turns” and “Dreams.” Both Betts and Allman played blistering solos, traded licks and shared wide grins. The show ended with loud applause from the audience and hugs among the musicians.
By Sunday May 6 we were running on fumes but had to catch two of the amazing shows taking place in town. The first was a birthday celebration for Malcolm Welbourne, known as Papa Mali. Mali has played with many of the area’s artists and he pulled together an all-star lineup of talent for his multi-set party.
Wake of the Dead featured Mali with friends playing Grateful Dead covers. Sam Price & the True Believers played a set of soulful, funky tunes. The Electric Company featured Mali with friends including sit ins by The New Mastersounds’ Eddie Roberts, The Revivalists’ Ed Williams, The New Orleans Suspects’ Jake Eckert and Baltimore-based guitar wizard Cris Jacobs. They played a set of blues and rock that had the audience dancing.
A DJ set followed Electric Company as Mali promised to be back on stage with another group of guests for a set that would go past 3 a.m., but we had to move on. Over at Rock ‘n’ Bowl, the Jazz Fest closing show (for over ten years) has always been Sonny Landreth followed by Tab Benoit. We arrived in time to catch Benoit with his band and a few friends as they were rolling through some bayou blues tunes. The night ended with Tab Jr., the blues man’s son, playing guitar and Evelyn Benoit, the artist’s mother, dancing and playing tambourines.
The second weekend of Jazz Fest may have ended, but the clubs in New Orleans always have great live music. We highly recommend that you come for the festival in 2019, when Jazz Fest celebrates its 50th anniversary. However, anytime you get the chance to see New Orleans, be sure to hit some of the clubs in town and experience the artists that make the area such a mecca for great live music.
Our recap of the second weekend of the festival is available here. Our recap of Shorty Fest is here. Our recap of the NOLA Crawfish Festival during the days in between Jazz Fest weekends is here. Our recap of the first weekend of Jazz Fest is here. Our recap of shows that took place during weekend 1 is here.