There weren’t the most ideal conditions for the Dave Matthews Band when they took the Acura Stage on Sunday.
Earlier in the day, there was an epic storm that caused many to wonder where Noah’s ark was accepting passengers.
By the time they walked out at 5 p.m., the Crescent City skies were growing ominously dark, and by the time the band struck their first notes, drops began falling, only to have the heavens open with a downpour of rain.
“I guess we just have to enjoy it,” Matthews quipped during his set. “I wish I could come out there, but I can’t so I’ll have to stay dry.”
Ha. With the rain slicing in sideways, Matthews’ black shirt was soaked three songs into the show. And he seemed to relish the challenge, pulling out a growling version of “Don’t Drink the Water” early.
The expanded band was definitely tight, as Matthews added saxophonist Jeff Coffin, trumpeter Rashawn Ross and guitarist Tim Reynolds (a longtime collaborator with Matthews) after the 2008 death of saxophonist LeRoi Moore.
They all played back and forth with each other, especially violinist Boyd Tinsley and Matthews, who traded several licks on their respective instruments.
Drummer Carter Beauford signaled a return of the rain by slowly building up the epic intro to the DMB standard “Ants Marching,” an anthem that elicited a euphoric dance party among the falling drops.
Earth, Wind and Fire
Once Earth, Wind and Fire took the Congo Square Stage at 5:40 p.m., Jazz Fest was officially washed out by two deluges.
But even after taking an extra few minutes to make sure all the equipment was dry and in working order, it was time for the seasoned performers to do their thing.
And mere showers could not hold back the ardent fans of the funk, soul, jazz and R&B pioneers. The audience was made up of a diverse swath of ages and races, but the one unifier was that everybody was soggy in some form or fashion, poncho or not.
Ok, perhaps the other unifier was a love of Earth, Wind and Fire’s infectious hooks, harmonies and showmanship.
Led by three founding members Philip Bailey, Ralph Johnson and Verdine White, Earth, Wind and Fire brings over 40 years of performing to the stage, and it showed with choreographed dance moves, spot-on musicianship and just enough surprises to delight the crowd.
The band began the festivities with a rousing version of “Boogie Wonderland” that immediately got the crowd moving.
The irrepressible White, resplendent in a white ruffled shirt and glimmering silver and purple pants, took center stage at one point to offer an impromptu booty shake while Bailey and Johnson went to their respective percussion stations.
And it was impossible not to join White during the ensuing smashes “Sing a Song” and “Shining Star.”
No doubt, the conditions were not ideal to groove the evening away, considering what was once beautiful grass around Congo Square had given was to slogging mud, but the real elements prevailed over rain.
Even though he is 87 years old and must sit in a chair to perform, B.B. King still commands a capacity crowd – like the one that overflowed the Blues Tent on Sunday – like royalty.
He was greeted as such when New Orleans piano legend Allen Toussaint joined him onstage, kissing his hand and serenading King with some a cappella blues.
The assembled masses also acted in kind by their impassioned reaction to King’s mastery of his instrument, bending his guitar strings to elicit plaintive wails that spoke to his decades-long tenure as the face of the blues.
King broke out classics such as “The Thrill is Gone” and “Every Day I Have the Blues” to much audience delight.
And he left with a heart-wrenching version of “You Are My Sunshine,” which properly combated the wet conditions.
Raw Oyster Cult
Earlier on Sunday, the Raw Oyster Cult visited the Acura Stage to feature their supergroup of New Orleans artists, namely Dave Malone, Camile Baudoin, John Gros of Papa Grows Funk, the radiators’ Frank Bua Jr. and Dave Pomerlau of Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes.
Dampened by the first wave of showers, the ground was swampy, but the Cult’s growling vocals and bluesy rock was a solid way to keep the feet moving.
Honey Island Swamp Band
The Honey Island Swamp band are mainstays at Jazz Fest, and they took their brand of jammy “Bayou Americana” to an enthusiastic collective of listeners to the Sheraton Fais Do-Do Stage. The grooves were highlighted by guitarist Chris Mule’s searing guitar and four-part harmonies. During a respite from the rain, the Honey Island Swamp Band was a good way to dance the droplets off your poncho.