A Jazz Fest Diary: Final Day Blowout, Part 2

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Published on: May 12th, 2009

Almost immediately after Neil Young's performance, those ominous storm clouds overhead unleashed their fury. This had a sort of filtering effect: As many called it a day, headed on home, the hardened, slightly crazed types stayed behind. You've seen them: the shirtless men with horrifying sunburns, the women with millions of buttons on their hats, the flag carriers, the people that bring their own instruments into the crowd, those terrible dancers that do it anyway even when nobody else is... (like me).

Aaron NevilleAt least a half hour before Young arrived and as the rain was at its worst, over at the Acura stage there was a thin crowd screaming in anticipation for the Neville Brothers. The rain subsided and the crowd filled up to numbers that the New Orleans favorites deserved, though thankfully with enough space to feel comfortable. "Comfortable" is probably an understatement, in fact, as this was the closeout show and many were dancing away all the energy they had saved to the Nevilles' funky classics.

Their slower numbers built up energy that needed to be released: When they broke into a cool reworking of "Big Chief" two men right next to me decided to join the percussion section, breaking out tambourines and enticing others to hop in and bust a few moves. This was the right time and the right place, and it's something that will stay in my Jazz Fest memory for a long time.

So that was it, right? Well, I guess I just couldn't accept it to all be over. It had been seven days of darting from spot to spot, catching surprises all over, and I just couldn't choose one last thing and let it be. I went to what many have called the warmest stage, one that I had skipped over many times but knew that many never leave: the Fais-Do-Do.

Nathan and the Zydeco Cha-Chas were playing to crowd slipping in mud under a gray sky, and everybody was in hog heaven. I finally did what I wanted to do over at that stage the whole time and danced with no concern over my ability to bike home, my camera lens too fogged for me to distract myself. And I grabbed a friend of mine and, observing another couple, danced my first two-step.

Can a final day of Jazz Fest get any better than that?


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