Half-way through Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters' set at Jazz Fest, Plant shared that he initially was skeptical about making the trip from England to play the event, because the band didn't have other U.S. gigs lined up. Plant said that New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival producer Quint Davis told him, "Just come."
The band obviously did that, and if recent trips to New Orleans or performances with Alison Krauss at the festival didn't influence his decision, other memories may have. Plant said Led Zeppelin had a great time in New Orleans in the 1970s and had parties in which Clarence Gatemouth Brown and Snooks Eaglin played for them. The band also traveled to Clarksdale, Miss., where members tried to connect with some of the bluesmen who influenced them and a wave of British musicians. That was a segue way into playing "Fixing to Die" by Booker White (aka Bukka White). And the Space Shifters played a few old blues tunes in-between Zeppelin tunes, notably "Whole Lotta Love." There once was controversy over whether that song was similar to a Muddy Waters song. On stage Saturday, however, Plant seemed to make another connection, as It seems "Whole Lotta Love" shares a lyric from one of the blues tunes the Space Shifters covered.
The Space Shifters' set was full of Zeppelin songs, most played with a hard and often psychedelic edge. A bit lighter was a cover of Plant's "I'm in the Mood," but several songs featured Juldeh Camara, a Gambian musician, leading on a ritti, essentially a one-string fiddle.
At the Congo Square Stage, everyone in the crowd seemed to know the lyrics when Big Freedia performed "Gin in my System" and his version of "Rock Around the Clock." Freedia invited a host of guests on stage for "Azz Everywhere" and Freedia decided to keep some of the performers on stage for a competition, which the audience loved.
There was less talk of azz and gin earlier in the day at the Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage, where Freddia was interviewed by WYES' Peggy Scott Laborde. While the question of "twerking" and Miley Cyrus came up, as it has often since Cyrus' attempt at tweaking at the Video Music Awards, Freedia's response has been pretty consistent: Freedia says he's tired of talking about Cyrus ("I'm over tweaking"), and then he noted that the two met when Cyrus performed in New Orleans recently. And they got their dancers together to share moves. But Freedia says it was a lopsided exchange. "We didn't get anything from them."
On other subjects, Freedia is enjoying her success as her Fuse TV show is about to begin its second season ("I'm becoming a household name."). Is national TV making her change her music to be more mainstream, Laborde asked. Freedia says no. "Some of the world is ready for me. Some of it not. But Big Freedia comes."
Also making a play at some TV notoriety, Kermit Ruffins played to a field packed to the Jazz Fest "Ancestors" markers, and he invited the crowd to follow him to the Mother-In-Law Lounge for barbecue just before he launched into his version of John Boutte's "Treme Song."
In the Economy Hall Tent, Tom Sancton and his New Orleans Legacy Band played traditional jazz, notably including songs by Sancton's mentor George Lewis. When the band struck up Lewis' "Over the Waves," a second-line looped continuously through the aisles. The crowd there perhaps skews older, but most have the right bounce in their step and wave their mini-umbrellas and handkerchiefs in rhythm. Sancton teased them a bit, saying that if he'd known everyone wanted to waltz, he'd have played "The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi." That did little to stop those still second-lining.