Wednesday, May 22, 2024

New Orleans Jazz Fest Opens With Widespread Panic, The Beach Boys And A Celebration Of Colombia

The Jazz & Heritage Fest in New Orleans started out strong on Thursday on Day 1 with breezy weather, temperature in the low eighties and lots of sunshine. Crowds of excited fans poured in when the gates opened, excited to experience the hype of Jazz Fest. This year Jazz Fest expanded to eight days and everyone was ready for the special food, music and fun that only Jazz Fest can offer.

New Orleans Jazz Fest
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

This year, Colombia is the featured country in the Cultural Exchange Pavilion and throughout the festival. A new art piece, a large yellow umbrella was installed outside the Pavilion, made by New Orleans-based Colombian-American artist Basqo Bim. 

New Orleans Jazz Fest
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

Seventeen different Colombian bands will perform across the Festival’s many stages and inside the Cultural Exchange Pavilion. Salsa legends Grupo Niche and electro-roots band Bomba Estéreo will headline the celebration of Colombian music and cultural heritage. The daily parade featured Colombian dancers wearing feathered and vibrantly colored outfits in the spirit of Carnival.

New Orleans Jazz Fest
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

With such amazing headliners as Widespread Panic, The Beach Boys and Stephen Marley, guests had to choose which performance they would attend because they all performed at the same time. 

The first musician we decided to check out was Cimafunk on the Festival Stage. The Afro-Cuban funk artist drew in a large crowd on a bigger stage than the one he performed on in 2022. This was our second time seeing Cimafunk this year following up from his amazing performance at Coachella. His band’s irresistible rhythms left the crowd wanting more once again.

New Orleans Jazz Fest
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

Day one was Locals Thursday, a day where Louisiana locals get general admission for only $50. The tradition of a Widespread Panic (WSP) performance continued to the delight of all jam band fans. During their 2.5 hour set, WSP drew in a huge crowd to perform songs from their previous albums and a few songs from an album that is yet to come out, “We Walk Each Other Home.” 

Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict
New Orleans Jazz Fest
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

After their set, WSP performed an encore of “Ain’t Life Grand,” bringing out crew member Cola Jarnigan onstage for the first time since the closing night of their last destination event to shake a tambourine.

New Orleans Jazz Fest
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict
New Orleans Jazz Fest
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

On the Shell Gentilly Stage Ronnie Lamarque, who hails from Arabi, in St. Bernard Parish as a local car salesman and crooner performed. He served up an hour-long set of old school rock songs like Sinatra’s “That’s Life” and Vanilla Fudge’s version of “You Keep Me Hanging On.”

New Orleans Jazz Fest
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

Omari Neville, son of percussionist and New Orleans’ vocalist Cyril Neville, performed on the Congo Square Stage. The artist banged away on the drums, performing songs with his usual reggae and funk style keeping the Neville family tradition alive at the festival. 

Omari Neville performs during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on Thursday, April 25, 2024, at the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

The local Mardi Gras Indian funk band Cha Wa took to the Congo Square Stage around 3pm. Lead singer Honey Banister wore a beautiful orange traditional feathered headdress. Accompanied by four background singers, the band’s deep funk grooves brought an intoxicating energy to the crowd. 

New Orleans Jazz Fest
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict
New Orleans Jazz Fest
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict
New Orleans Jazz Fest
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

Staying true to the title of the Festival, we next saw John Boutté in the Jazz Tent. The singer shook his tambourine, dressed in all white, to the beat of his band who delivered a powerful and up-beat performance. 

Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

Over at the Fais Do-Do Stage, we caught Colombian singer and accordionist Gregorio Uribe.  Backed by a percussionist and guitar player, Uribe packed the dance floor with his charming personality and his Colombian twist on Jazz beats. He addressed the crowd in both Spanish and English and expressed his excitement to be back at the festival as a performer instead of a spectator. 

New Orleans Jazz Fest
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

We also saw Mokomboo of Zimbabwe perform at Congo Square in the afternoon. The group has sung in 6 different languages, outlining the diversity of culture, and creates music of all different genres. Much of their music is a variety of international pop and pan-African styles, soukous, funk and reggae. The lead vocalist, Mathias Muzaza wore a red jacket and yellow shirt adorned with patterns akin to traditional Zimbabwe clothing. 

New Orleans Jazz Fest
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

The big highlight of Thursday was The Beach Boys who brought out John Stamos on guitars, drums and vocals to join the two original members Mike Love and Bruce Johnston on keys. Stamos wore a red suit looking sharp and full of energy. The group came out on the Shell Gentilly Stage for an hour performance at 6pm. They jammed out to a slew of their hit surf pop songs.The crowd did not miss a beat singing along to their greatest hits like “Surfing Safari.”

New Orleans Jazz Fest
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict
New Orleans Jazz Fest
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict
New Orleans Jazz Fest
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

The Full House actor has occasionally played with The Beach Boys since the 1980’s, so it wasn’t that much of a surprise but of course delighted all the ladies in attendance. In between jamming out on drums and guitar, he stepped to the front to sing “Forever,” a song featured on Full House a few times. Stamos dedicated the song to his late co-star Bob Saget, and clips from the show were spliced into a collage of photos playing on the background screen. 

Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

After seeing a bit of Stamos and The Beach Boys, we ran over to catch reggae artist Stephen Marley, son of Bob Marley. In the background of his set hung photos of his father, as he casually banged out some beats on a drum. In classic Jamaican colors, Marley kept the crowd engaged while offering a calm and groovy set to chill-out to. 

Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict
New Orleans Jazz Fest
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

The Headhunters, a jazz-funk group who performed on the Jazz & Heritage Stage are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. The group played an energy-filled set to an animated crowd who enjoyed listening to a mixture of their newer and older songs. 

The last performance of day one that we saw was blues and folk music artist, Ruthie Foster on the Fais Do-Do stage. The Texas native wore a sequin black top and jeans, delivering her rich vocals and guitar to the crowd, who gladly took in the soulful tunes she offered. 

New Orleans Jazz Fest
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

Day one of the Jazz & Heritage Festival was a huge success! We can’t wait to share with you the other wonderful performances we watched the rest of weekend one at the festival. 

Words by Emily Cigan @emily.cigan and Amy Harris @thetraveladdictig

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Amy Harris
Amy Harris is a writer and photographer who has been traveling for 20 years and flown over 2 million miles to visit over 80 countries on 6 continents. She is a freelance photographer for Invision by Associated Press, AP Images and Rex/Shutterstock. Her work can be seen in various publications and websites including: Rolling Stone, AP Images, National Geographic Books, Fodor’s Travel Guides, Forbes.com, Lonely Planet Travel Guides, JetStar magazine, and Delta Sky Magazine.

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