Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I Played North Sea Jazz Fest 2012

North Sea JazzFest 2012
7 July, 2012

The North Sea Jazz Festival! Every year I want to go. Every year I don't go. I've always wanted to be there; I never imagined it would be as a performer. Wonderful.

I was Host / MC for the 'GumboNight' special: New Orleans jazz, blues & soul. After hosting for Caro Emerald in Heineken Music Hall, it seems I have a recurring role. The initiator of the Gumbo Night concept is Dutchman Toon Oomen. He was approached by NorthSeaJazz to organize a GumboCircus – hence my added role.

Vaguely ridiculous? Perfect.
I was asked to host the show, but also to be part of the band. I went to see a Gumbo Night in March, and it was great. Last week, I filled in as host during a last-minute set at the Canvas Club. I got a feel for it.  I even got to sing a song: ‘Free, Single & Disengaged,’ an oldie by Huey Smith. But - would I be ready for the big time?

At the Ahoy in Rotterdam, our stage was a tent outside a tent, outside the building. They converted part of the parking lot to make room for a blues tent, a food court and a dining area. Our tent was aimed at the dining area. Let’s just say the expectations were low.

3 Sets
We started the first set with a Street Parade, New Orleans-style. It’s the Gumbo Night signature piece. There we were, weaving in & out of the crowd and drawing a crowd as well.  

Members of the marvelous Seun Kuti band watching Gumbo

The band has 2 drummers, 4 horns, piano, guitar, and – most impressive – the bass is provided by tuba (sousaphone). The singers are Blues singer Boyd Small & Kris Berry (with her lovely Billie Holliday tone). We hit the stage with ‘Cabbage Alley’ by The Meters, and I was loving it. For the gig, Boyd provided Mardi Gras-style plastic bead necklaces in gold, green & purple. In New Orleans, girls are known to ‘go wild’ for them (ie pull up their shirts). In Rotterdam, that was not the case. But I did demand that females in the crowd had to do a special dance to merit a bead necklace, and it worked quite well.

If you look closely, the shirt says 'More Cowbell.'
For the second set, I got to sing my song. And I made up half the lyrics on the spot, based on people in the crowd. I then jumped down to dance with people in the crowd. And - for the next song, ‘Barefootin’ - I danced barefoot. During the blues song ‘Katrina,’ it started raining like crazy. Perfect. After the Blues, we picked up the tempo again, but people weren’t dancing. So I jumped down again & brought my cowbell. Sure enough, I came across a guy with a ‘More Cowbell’ t-shirt. I said ‘You’re coming with me,’ I put the cowbell in his hand and put him in front of the stage. 
To end the second set, we marched out into the rain for the second street parade. And the tuba-player – a wooly mammoth named Arno Bakker – was so pumped up he climbed up a tent support – with his horn - and kept on playing. Many photos were taken.

Third set. The surprise act. Gumbo Night was asked to set up 1 last time by the exit, as a going-away gift. It was 1 in the morning, and the massive crowd was streaming out the main doors. We marched over next to the escalators and set up shop. This was when the real magic started.

The Magic Hour
No matter what type of music people had come to see… the New Orleans street jazz band seemed like the perfect closer for a lot of people. Right away a crowd formed, and they were giving a lot of love. When one of the horns stepped forward to solo, they cheeeered. Behind us were people coming down the escalators, but many of them started dancing as well, becoming part of the show. There were 2 black grand dames who opened up their umbrellas and started marching to the beat. And – out of nowhere – the sometime guest of Gumbo Night showed up to do some of his patented dance moves, spins, and shuffles. The crowd went wild.
AhoyRotterdam, Main Exit 01.30
 Especially that 3rd set had the magical energy of the real Mardi Gras, after midnight. I’ve only been to Mardi Gras once, in 1993. And I remember that – once it turns midnight – it’s no longer party time; it’s officially Lent. BUT we were not nearly done partying (the LSD hadn’t worn off).  We got kicked out of the Bourbon Street area, but we shuffled on over to the working class neighborhoods to the east. And that’s when things really busted loose. We were in the street, dancing and banging on whatever we could get our hands on. That’s the energy we captured at NorthSeaJazzFest 2012.

Would I do it again? Definitely. Most bands are content with ten people. But (to quote ‘Spinal Tap’) when I’m in the band, we go up to 11.

Introducing - a new blog by The American Netherlander Greg Shapiro.
Featuring - exerpts from the book 'WELCOME TO HOLLAND, NOW GET OUT: How to feel at home in a country that wants you to leave.'

"TAP Comebag"
Even the messages on envelopes in the Netherlands can be offensive.