Mostly there is sun and fun in New Orleans during the annual Jazz & Heritage Festival, but there are those years when it gets wet – and the rain came down hard Saturday bringing an early end to the music. Sets by headliners Beck, Snoop Dog and Stevie Wonder had to be cancelled, and the torrential rain led to widespread flooding at the fairgrounds.
With all the major music stages located outdoors across the Fair Grounds Race Course, spacing is limited for cover during inclement weather and like attending the Kentucky Derby, it’s not that you won’t enjoy the event in the rain, but it’s not anywhere near as pleasant were blue skies available.
It didn’t look like there was enough alcohol in all of New Orleans to offset the damp conditions present Sunday. Heavy rains started shortly before noon, further soaking an already drenched field. Stages under tents, like the Blues and Gospel stages, were able to begin on time, but the two main stages and the others outside were delayed two hours.
This thinned festival attendance considerably. For the dedicated they were rewarded with inspiring sets from Aaron Neville, Bonnie Raitt, and Ivan Neville’s band Dumpstaphunk, featuring Art Neville.
Neil Young + Promise of the Real played a distortion-heavy electric set leading up to the festival closer Sunday, going for more than two hours. Each song was blown out to 10 minute jams, with Love and Only Love going for nearly 30 minutes.
Promise of the Real includes Willie Nelson’s sons Micah and Lukas, and they filled in admirably for Young’s usual accompaniment by Crazy Horse. Also on the set list were Cortez the Killer, Monsanto Years, and Rockin’ in the Free World. At the conclusion of Young’s set he had exceeded the allotted time, but the stage manager allowed for one more tune, which is a rarity, and he performed the moving ballad of Powderfinger.
Closing out the festival was funk rocker Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. Even on a soggy, overcast day, his final encore of When the Saints Go Marching In, was reassuring and brought an inward sunshine to those in attendance as another Jazz Fest was put to bed.