Yes, John Mayer was the headlining act at Acura Stage at the 2013 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, but the guitar virtuoso wasn’t the only capable axeman to turn in an epic performance.
There were several other players who nearly brought down the house with their incredible showings.
Here are a few other guitarists of note who stood out:
Guitar Slim Jr.
Guitar Slim Jr, otherwise known as Rodney Armstrong, is a Crescent City staple, so it was only fitting that his early-afternoon set at the Blues Tent was packed to the gills with adoring fans of the artist and his impassioned guitar work.
Slim, whose first album Story of My Life was nominated for a Grammy in 1988, ran through a who’s who of blues legends during his set, much to the delight of the crowd.
Early on, Slim was even joined by legendary Bayou musician Allen Toussaint for a version of a song his father, Guitar Slim Sr., made famous, “The Things That I Used to Do,” and “Trouble Don’t Last.” As the surprise guest walked off the stage, the guitarist urged the audience out of their seats for a well-deserved standing ovation.
Slim, sharply dressed in a pristine white tuxedo with a bright pink vest and tie, also paid homage to a few great bluesmen who have passed.
Ray Charles got a nod with a hand-clapping version of “Feel So Bad,” and it was fitting that Slim tipped his cap to his longtime friend Stevie Ray Vaughan to end his show.
Slim did Vaughan proud, wielding his Stratocaster with tone that could have passed for SRV’s on a searing “Pride and Joy.”
Annual Jazz Fest attendees have come to expect a solid weekend of blues in this Blues Tent, and Slim more than delivered.
When Sweden-born, New Orleans-aged singer/songwriter Anders Osborne took the Gentilly Stage around 2:30 in the afternoon, he brought several years of Jazz Fest experience with him.
And all of that knowledge – how to give that particular crowd what they wanted, even if they didn’t know it – came through during his entire set.
Want to hear the classics? Osborne had that down with a fuzzed-out version of “Almost Cut My Hair” from Crosby, Stills and Nash. Want to jam out under the sun? The Grateful Dead-inspired “Burning on the Inside” from his 1995 album Which Way to Here fit that bill.
Osborne took more of a grungy road with “On the Road to Charlie Parker,” which came off his 2010 effort American Patchwork.
But through it all, Osborne oozed rock and roll, along with free-wheeling bassist Carl Dufrene. Wielding his multiple Fender Stratocasters like weapons, with or without a slide, Osborne held the rapt attention of his fellow New Orleanians, but it seemed that he also gained more than a few new fans with his fiery fretwork.
The Blues Tent almost wouldn’t have felt right without the presence of slide-master Sonny Landreth.
The Lousiana-bred guitarist got things going early with an amazing take of “Cherry Ball Blues” for his second song, and he kept the energy going all day with hits like the shred-tastic “Milky Way” and road-tripping “Blue Tarp Blues.”
Landreth’s last was “Pedal to the Metal,” and to watch him play it is a lesson in guitar wizardry with the way he seems to get so many notes out of each pluck of the finger.