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Saturday at Jazz Fest: It’s a Woman’s World | Jazz Festival

Early Saturday at Jazz Fest, Bill Kirchen finished his set in the Blues Tent by working in a long string of famous riffs and snippets of songs, some by blues legends and others from the pantheon of classic rock and R&B. Having earned the nickname “Titan of the Telecaster,” Kirchen was having fun showing off his chops from him — playing Bo Diddly, BB King, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. He did a bit of “I Wanna be Your Dog” by the Stooges, and told listeners that he went to high school with Iggy Pop. He played bits from New Orleans icons Fats Domino and Professor Longhair. He also called off The Rolling Stones, the Sex Pistols and Johnny Rivers.

The audience loved it, and it was an entertaining flourish. But after a day at the fest, one could notice that there were no songs by or bands of women in his highlight reel of him. Kirchen headed off for a guest appearance with the Creole String Beans—after Derek Houston played sax during Kirchen’s set. But after that, there were plenty of women guitarists to catch on stages around the fest, on a day when the headlining slots were occupied by Stevie Nicks, Erykah Badu, Mavis Staples (who replaced Melissa Etheridge), Lauren Daigle and Lena Prima. On guitar during the day were Samantha Fish, Rickie Lee Jones, all the women in Puss N Boots and Alynda Lee Segarra leading Hurray for the Riff Raff. On Saturday, Jazz Fest was a woman’s world.

It’d be hard to believe anyone at the Fair Grounds Saturday put in a more impressive guitar performance than Samantha Fish at the Festival Stage. Fish kicked off with a cigar box guitar, working the groove on “Bulletproof.” She played many of the songs on her latest album, “Faster,” a collection of showy guitar rock — and less blues-focused than previous projects, like the stripped down Mississippi-style blues of “Belle of the West.” She played “All Ice and No Whiskey,” “Twisted Ambition” and “Better Be” off “Faster,” and also slowed down for songs like “Hello Stranger.”

Fish says she doesn’t overindulge solos when writing and recording songs. But hearing her play live is a different experience, and she let loose on long solos in “No Angels” and “Dream Girl.” Many of the songs on “Faster” are about a woman taking charge, and Fish certainly did that on stage.

There was quite a change in tone going from Fish’s set to the Fais Do-Do Stage for Puss N Boots, a sort of country project by Norah Jones, Catherine Popper and Sasha Dobson. They started with “Sister,” the title track of their 2020 album on Blue Note, and followed up with The Band’s “Twilight.”

Puss N Boots is all about vocal harmonies, and the members seem to have a lot of fun. They swapped instruments during the set, and Jones started with a guitar and took a turn behind the drum kit. Dobson drums most of the time, but she also picked up an acoustic guitar for some strings-only tunes.

There’s not much twang to the gently country sounds of some of their work, like Popper singing her song, “The Razor Song,” and Jones doing “Don’t Know What It Means.” Dobson sang “Six Degrees of Separation,” more of a rock tune off of “No Fools, No Fun.”

They all sang on “Same Old Bullshit,” which is a fun tune that seems like it could be a country song: “What do you do when you got no money? / What do you do when your car breaks down? / You don ‘t cry, you don’t cry / Same old bullshit / Same old bullshit / No car, no phone, no money, no home, no man, no hair, no food / Same old bullshit.”

After a set of sweet harmony on mostly their own songs, the trio finished up with a bit of a surprise, turning Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” into a country rock tune.

Jones, who is marking the 20th anniversary of her landmark album “Come Away With Me,” has a set at 5:40 pm in the WWOZ Jazz Tent on Sunday.

Early on Saturday, Shreveport’s Seratones made their Jazz Fest debut on the Festival Stage. Though the band has its roots in punk rock, and lead singer AJ Haynes still has that kind of energy on stage, but the group has become an electro funk and soul band. The band jumped in with older songs like “Power” and material from the group’s latest release, “Love & Algorhythms,” including “Get Your Shit Together, Baby.”

But Haynes was out for positive vibes. She started “Good Day” before stopping it to bring out Cam Franklin, lead singer of Houston’s The Suffers, and New Orleans guitarist and singer Joy Clark. Haynes turned it into a love fest, and stopped for an interlude to talk about choosing joy.

The end of the set was marked by heavy bass and reverb, and it wasn’t always easy to hear the keyboards or guitars, but the band said nothing about the sound.

The group had extra time near the end of the set, and Haynes claimed she was having a “gemini moment,” and announced she was going to recite a poem. An homage to healing and self realization, it’s titled “Evidence,” and it appears as a bonus track on “Love & Algorithms.” The band closed with “Two of a Kind” off the album.

On the Congo Square Stage, Shamarr Allen was also celebrating the release of a new album and reflecting on the pandemic. He came on stage and rapped the first song and also worked in some trumpet solos. He played a song he released called “Quarantine and Chill,” which sounded like a lot more fun than the shutdowns were. The crowd was happy to provide the chorus “Sleep all day, party all night.”

On a more serious note, Allen dedicated a song to Bennie Pete, the late cofounder of the Hot 8 Brass Band.

Allen also sang “I Love You,” inserting his own long interlude. Allen said that during the pandemic, he built a music studio in his home, watched TV and ate. He said eating ice cream could help block out depression, and music made him happy. But I found that TV made him angry. He said “TV is the most divisive device,” and described the many ways content on TV plays to divisiveness in our society over race, class, sexuality and more. His immediate cure for him, was to tell everyone in the crowd to get up a bent elbow “chicken wing,” and greet their neighbors with an elbow bump. While people happily spun in circles touching elbows, Allen summarized “I Love You.”

Allen then turned his attention to his latest album, “True Orleans 2.” He released a video for “Dance With Me,” which features him greeting other musicians at familiar spots around town and dancing with Carnival marching groups and the George Washington Carver High School band. In the video, Allen’s vocals lean into soul singing. To do the show live, he brought up a host of New Orleans Baby Dolls and members of the Pussyfooters, and again, the set turned into a love fest.

Many people came to Jazz Fest to hear Stevie Nicks, and the crowds overflowed the Festival Stage field and packed the race track back to the fences for her set.

Nicks said she was her first live show in three years, but some things never change. At times, the set was a singalong — for fans of all ages — for hits off of “Rumours,” and other Fleetwood Mac classics. And besides wearing her signature gypsy look de ella (she sang “Gypsy,” of course), with flowing skirts, lace and long sleeves, she showed off a few shawls and items. At one point, she identified a blue cape she was wearing as being the “Bella Donna” cape, from her 1981 tour de ella for her solo debut of the same name.

At 73, she has a slightly raspy voice, but still the one everyone recognized from “Dreams” and “Rhiannon.” She sang “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” which she recorded with Tom Petty for “Bella Donna.” She also covered Petty’s “Free Fallin’.”

Nicks called the late Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters a friend and dedicated “Landslide” to him.

She complained of sound problems a couple of times, and her version of “Stand Back” seemed a bit off. During “Gold Dust Woman,” she went into a long interlude that seemed to spiral downward.

The set picked up again with “Edge of Seventeen,” and the singalong continued.

After wishing everyone in the audience good health and walking backstage with the band, it was unclear if she was finished early. But they returned to the stage, and Nicks shared that she had been very caught up in watching the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She recorded a song called “New Orleans,” though she doesn’t perform it very often. Ella she’s sung it in New Orleans before, and she did so again Saturday as an encore. It straightforwardly talks about wanting to come to the city and sing in the French Quarter, and it also mentions Anne Rice and vampires. But her earnest version of it was charming.

But that was not the end. Nicks concluded by singing Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.” It may have been a long time since she rocked and rolled, and a long, lonely time. But she’s back, and it was another song the crowd could sing with her.


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