We returned to the fairgrounds for another heaping helping of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, weekend two kicking off strongly with Alabama Shakes playing a surprise set at Preservation Hall’s Midnight Preserves and Charles Bradley bringing the house down at One Eyed Jacks. It’s all about looking towards the future this time around, so we’ve got some appropriately themed awards to give out.
On The Rise: Alynda Lee Segarra, Hurray for the Riff Raff
Much has changed for the NOLA-based Alynda Lee Segarra since setting foot in the city and forming Hurray for the Riff Raff. She’s still the group’s mastermind, crafting woeful tunes with an impressive blend of Americana roots and alt. country ferocity, though her sound has been properly rounded out with a full backing band. That larger sound was the centerpiece of Hurray for the Riff Raff’s set, where they played primarily from new record Small Town Heroes and 2012’s Look Out Mama. Segarra and co. were incredibly tight, as intuitive and subconsciously locked in as all great folks bands should be.
Indie Promise: Cardinal Sons
Last weekend’s pick of Vox and the Hound hopefully prompted y’all to give their Courage LP a listen. This weekend you’ve got a far shorter assignment: listen to Cardinal Sons’ Make An EP. Then hope they get their asses into the studio for a full record. The brother band is proof that your next of kin surely know you best, even musically. Though the group has added a (presumably non-family) guitarist as extra oomph, they’ve raised the stakes on their live show with a bit of experimentation and even more finesse. Though their EP points to indie slightly left of twee, Cardinal Sons’ performance at the Lagniappe Stage veered far harder.
Experimentalist: Theresa Andersson
Aside from epic tunes and an enviable beard, you can also thank Anders Osborne for bringing his fellow Swede, Theresa Andersson, to New Orleans. The accomplished violinist has been finding inspiration in the Big Easy for over two decades, having truly come into her own with 2012’s Street Parade. Andersson is nothing you’d expect from a violinist, in that her instrument does the talking and harmonizing just as much as her voice. Cascading loops turn her oo’s and ah’s into a waterfall of crisp sound and her instrument into an orchestra as she keeps the party going alongside multiple percussionists and the familiar face of Cardinal Sons’ Joe Shirley on keys.
Best Fest Diva: Chaka Khan
She’s already made her mark in the annals of music, but something has to be said for the fact that Christina Aguilera headlined the Acura Stage and not the Queen of funk, Chaka Khan. Khan closed out the Congo Square Stage with the Rufus and Chaka Khan classic “Ain’t Nobody,” topping a soulful set of classics and showing that she can still move, groove, and sing with the best of them. And really, there’s no questioning in that Khan is one of the best, still. As for Aguilera, she took a stab at a Zeppelin tune and stuck with early, dated material. Meh.
Headliner Highlights: Alabama Shakes
At the 2012 edition of Outside Lands in San Francisco, Alabama Shakes played to an overflowing audience that were so intent on seeing their set that they tore down fencing and climbed trees to catch a glimpse of the Panhandle Stage. Some two years and 2,000 miles later, Alabama Shakes continue to command that type of fanatical attention. Their Jazzfest performance was at once a revelation to the uninitiated and the most gratifying moment for fans aching to see frontwoman Brittany Howard let loose.
Headliner Highlights: Charles Bradley
The Screamin’ Eagle of Soul has officially proved that his shows are great anytime, anywhere. Taking the stage at FQ venue One Eyed Jacks, Charles Bradley was initially led down balcony stairs by a manager, only to bust out the type of dance moves few healthy men can do at any age. Bradley whirled, caressed, and even did the splits as he crooned hits from his latest and greatest, Victim of Love. He even brought out Galactic collaborator and impeccable singer Maggie Koerner for a fiery duet of “This is a Man’s Man’s World”, harkening back to his Black Velvet days. Under the Blues tent at the Fair Grounds, Bradley’s set felt as if it were staged in the Gospel Tent just ten feet away. Catching the artist in the slowly setting sun is about as religious of a soul experience you can get, and Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires certainly delivered.
Photos: April Siese