The Franklin Avenue Baptist Choir, from one of this city’s more devastated areas, had already whipped fans at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival into a frothing frenzy — but the choir’s leader didn’t think the crowd was excited enough.
He only needed to mention Hurricane Katrina to get the already enthusiastic group out of their seats.
“Didn’t he get you through Katrina?” the leader shouted to the hundreds packed inside the gospel tent on Saturday. “He left New Orleans here for a reason. Y’all need to get up on your feet.”
By the time he finished his sentence, most of the crowd was already standing, giving thanks for what little Katrina didn’t destroy — including the city’s hope and spirit.
That spirit permeated the second day of the Jazz Fest, the first since the hurricane tore through the city last year, displacing untold numbers of its musicians. Bob Dylan, Dr. John and Ani DeFranco were among Friday’s performers, as well as dozens of local acts.
Despite high winds and foreboding clouds that hovered all day Saturday, thousands of fans packed the Fair Grounds for a second day.
While big names such as the Dave Matthews Band, Etta James and Herbie Hancock played at the bigger stages, one star casually dropped in on one of the smaller sets. The Edge, from supergroup U2, walked on during the New Birth Brass Band’s already enthralling set, joining them as they sang “Stand By Me” in tribute to New Orleans. The group inserted its own new lyric, singing “New Orleans will never die” defiantly during the song.
Band leader and bass drum player Cayetano Hingle said his group, which was forced to relocate to Houston after Katrina, met U2 when the Irish rockers saw New Birth performing in the streets of New Orleans.
Though The Edge had said he might stop by to see the band perform at Jazz Fest, Hingle was still surprised.
“I looked to the side of the stage and I was shocked,” he said, laughing.
Hingle said performing at Jazz Fest once again was like a reunion for his group.
“That’s the big thing, to be playing for family and friends,” he said.
Jazz Fest continues through Sunday, when headliners will include Bruce Springsteen, Allen Toussaint and Elvis Costello. It concludes next weekend.