16 June 2010

RIJF 2010: Day Five

Got a very late start to the evening and unfortunately couldn't see everything I wanted to. Everything I did get to see, I wish I could have seen more of, but that's what happens when you don't arrive until after 9. Oh well.

Started off at the Lutheran Church for Samuel Hallkvist Center. The quartet looked like a bunch of rag tag hipsters from Williamsburg, definitely the presence of a young indie-rock band (as was pointed out by Jeff Spevak in the D&C). And their opening number was nothing more than a rock instrumental. Kind of shaky at first actually, good but a bit pedestrian. But once they warmed up and I warmed to them, it really got good. They really did play like they were from NYC, maybe not Wiliamsburg, more like Lower East Side. A grounded avant-garde sound. The last tune I caught before moving on was a beautifully building sonic wash lead by some very interesting guitar work from Samuel Hallkvist. There were hints of John Lurie and Bill Frisell, but not quite to that level. I wish I could stick around for more, but in the abbreviated evening I thought best to move on. I have never felt worse leaving a set at the fest either, the place was EMPTY. No exaggeration, there was at most 20 people in attendance. I have never seen an RIJF venue so devoid of bodies.

Rosie Ledet had the Abilene crowd on its feet (finally!) and dancing the night away. Of all the New Orleans music I have heard thus far, this was the best, at least in terms of transporting the stage down to NOLA. It was loose and fun and funky. The band featured a ripping guitar player with some Slash-esque hair. They sucked me in and I forgot about time and had to dart out to catch the tail end of Alison Brown.

And I was glad I did. Alison Brown and her quartet sold me in just 10 seconds. Her banjo skills were first class, but more importantly her songwriting was even better. She was joined by piano, bass, and drums and their sound was reminiscent of Bela Fleck's later solo work, the Acoustic Planet stuff. Which by the way, is about as high a praise as I can give, that is some of the finest music recorded. For all those wondering why there was a banjo at a jazz fest, Alison pointed out that the banjo was an important instrument in the very earliest jazz bands. Besides, her music was plenty jazzy. The Big Tent was very sparsely attended, and while I'm talking about it, Abilene, while not empty by any means, was as comfortable as I have seen it, just about half full. Where was everyone? Either a bunch decided to take a night off and get primed for the final four days, or I was just at all the wrong sets.

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