Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

New Orleans dispatch: no bedfellows are strange at the Jazz & Heritage Festival

2012 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Presented By Shell - Day 3

Rick Diamond/Getty Images

You call this strange. New Orleans calls this Sunday.

It's actually impossible to have strange bedfellows here; even Emma Thompson & Dr. John make sense together. You can see this at the Jazz Fest fairgrounds, where Gal Holiday's Western swing might have warped your mind around her cover of Pat Benetar. 

And I heard Stanton Moore explain why at a drum clinic with Big Chief Juan Pardo of the Golden Comanche Indians, a Mardi Gras Indian tribe, at a club on Frenchman street called the Blue Nile. 

Mardi Gras Indians are getting a moment because of Treme, the HBO show (that is filming everywhere in town). Masking Indian has a glorious and complex history, with uptown and downtown tribes, spy boys and wild men and big chiefs. Now those tribes compete by trying to see who's the prettiest. But they also gave Mardi Gras itself, Carnival Season, its heartbeat. Without Indian classics like "Sew Sew Sew," "Big Chief," and "Indian Red," you'd just hear the Rex song over and over, "If Ever I Cease to Love," and maybe "Carnival Time." 

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New Orleans dispatch: My second Jazzfest with Bruce Springsteen

2012 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Presented By Shell - Day 3

Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Bruce Springsteen's appeal is undeniable, even to me.

To be inside the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is to go to another planet entirely, and on that planet the laws of gravity are different for everyone. Someone you’ve never heard of, like Meschiya Lake & the Little Big Horns, can pull you in like a magnet; at the same time, the idea of the Beach Boys playing a set for their 50th anniversary year can be repellent. Your soul mate might love Uncle Jesse on the drums with the Beach Boys, and run right over to the Acura Stage to see them, and hey, that’s fest, it’s all good. With all those stages, the crowds tend to balance themselves out. Except on Bruce’s day.

Yesterday it was as though the festival tilted, cause it seemed like the entire population of jazzfest’s small city was planted in camps and chairs and standing all the way back to the edge of the racecourse track to be within earshot of Bruce Springsteen.

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