Jazzfest 2009: Suckiness, Does-Not-Suckiness, and U-Melt Late-Night

My good friend Lauren Siegal just got back from her first trip to Jazz Fest and she wanted to share her thoughts with us. –Justin

I haven’t slept in four days, I have a permanent hangover, my feet hurt from dancing, and my stomach is full of crawfish. While this was my first trip to the New Orleans Jazz Fest, I am pretty certain that the above are all signs of a kick-ass time. Now, if you are reading this on a music blog and not on Facebook, where I will inevitably post it, then you probably care less about the three beignets I scarfed down and more about the abundance of music that my tired brain is still trying to process.

To be fair to the bands that I am about to mention, I must point out that I am a music lover, not a music critic; thus my scale of how awesome a band is will be judged on a “it sucked”- or “it did not suck”-o-meter. Also, I should probably point out that while I had tickets for the fairgrounds everyday, I only made it there once. This was partly due to wanting to take full advantage of the bars never closing, partly to do with not waking up until 3pm everyday, but mostly to do with the fact that all the bands I was super excited for didn’t go on until around 2am (except for Bon Jovi, of course).

As a Jersey Girl, the idea of seeing Bon Jovi on a hot day with thousands of screaming fans was my wet dream, that is, until I saw him headline Saturday’s show. The experience reminded me of this dude I dated in high school. He was super hot and a great kisser, but once it came down to business, he always disappointed. Bon Jovi opened with “Living on a Prayer”, my karaoke go-to song and I must admit it was pretty rad to see even the guys rocking out. Three and a half minutes later, the average length of a Bon Jovi song, it quickly became less of a concert and more of a performance. Every note was carefully calculated and even the banter between songs was rehearsed. In spite of that, when Jon counted down from 2009 to 1986 to sing “You Give Love a Band Name,” I did get a little excited. Not excited enough though to stay for the rest of the set and deal with fighting for a cab with the now-wasted and screaming fans. Plus, the set list started to suck pretty hard.

Now, late night is where the dirty south got dirty. Thursday, I was dragged to see Ghostland Observatory, where I needed to be on a lot more drugs to really get into it. The lead “singer” was dressed up like a vampire and that was pretty much the most exciting part of the show. I guess I would see them again, if someone else was paying, I started doing coke or I became a hipster. Definitely sucked.

Late-late night Umphrey’s McGee was a different story. I saw UM both Thursday and Friday night (because I am hardcore), and the crowd and energy were lacking a bit on Thursday. But by Friday the show was more of what I expect out of them. While my mind wasn’t blown, nor was my face melted, they played a solid show and with a lot of help from a few Red Bulls, I was dancing until almost 6am. Definitely did not suck.

Oddly enough, I traveled thousands of miles from San Francisco to New Orleans and the band that impressed me the most was a rock band from New York City, whose name implied that, unlike the Umph performances I had seen the nights before, the set would melt my face. U-Melt definitely lived up to their name. I have no idea what songs they played because I had never seen them before, but if I may quote something I overheard one of the heads say, “they brought the heat.” Their music was super danceable and just when I thought a song would was winding down, they would pick it back up again which made my feet very happy. Towards the end of the show, “Big” Sam Williams sat in on trombone for a cover of Medeski, Martin & Wood’s “Bubblehouse” which was the perfect combination of New Orleans Soul and New York attitude. Definitely did not suck and I am excited to see them not suck again at some festivals this summer.

Here are some photos from the show.

U-Melt @ Jazz Fest 2009 (Late-Night)





Crazy Lauren Siegal

Re-reading this review now, I still don’t think I have fully described the sheer awesomeness of a weekend dedicated to good music, good food and good people. I can only hope that the voodoo doll that I purchased from a “witch” on Bourbon Street will make my wish of coming back to Jazz Fest next year come true.