Packed out would be an understatement in describing last week’s New Orleans International Jazz & Heritage Festival at the city’s fairgrounds racetrack. As over one million music and culture lovers gathered during 1 stormy and 5 balmy days in The Big Easy for the 36th year of one of the most respected annual music events, Fusicology was there to soak up the history-in-the-making. Because the true festival doesn’t stop at the racetrack gates, and extends deep into the night and the farthest corners of the Birthplace of Jazz, we were in for a long and wild ride…

Let’s just say that the pre-festival parties a week ago started for us with a WaxPoetics-endorsed little soiree off Frenchman St. where a dozen vintage vinyl junkies compared choice finds live on the decks a la disc jockey style, and subsequently produced a crate-diggers’ paradise of pre-Ponderosa stompers and original R&B-soul-funk goodness. Next, the oh-so-appropriate birthday of the late great James Brown when we got wind of a late-night set by the JB’s own Fred Wesley and guests at the quaint little Maple Leaf Bar in Uptown. With that blessing, people embarked on the coming week’s all-out heritage celebration, armed with their funky hats and flagpole crests.

Perhaps the most talked-about concert of the week though would be the appearance of the funk legend, the Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers Friday night at HOB. Chuck certainly wound us up with his new twist on his funky brand of go-go featuring quite the witty lady MC, which ran hard game on George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic’s classic comeback show the following night at Republic. Late-night shows from Ozomatli, NOMO, and Michael Franti & Spearhead rep’d the world music camp as well. Mucho shouts to DJ Soul Sister for keepin’ us all in line!

While record-breaking numbers enjoyed the first Jazz Fest weekend as headliners Rod Stewart, Ludacris, and Norah Jones set it off, it was the final Saturday and Sunday that really had us movin’ and shakin’ with a chuck-full line-up including Stephen Marley & Jr. Gong, John Mayer, John Legend, The Allman Brothers, Roy Hargrove, Joss Stone, Steely Dan (one of our favorite sets), Harry Connick Jr and a New Edition reunion set.

And because we just could not rest until the weekend was officially over, the International Ghetto Youths Tour with Stephen Marley & Jr. Gong at the House of Blues was a destination spot for sure. K’Naan warmed up a shoulder-to-shoulder house only to relinquish the stage to possibly the best reggae-hop show I have ever experienced. Solid new material interlaced with some of Dad’s classics proved that Damian’s MC skills and Stephen’s eerie Bob-like vocal resonation together produce a near-perfect blend that is the next direction in reggae and hip hop. Wow. A perfect ending to a great week.

New Orleans is most definitely alive, and its music has even more stories to tell…

Written by Jocelyne Ninneman for Fusicology