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Unlike other music festivals across the country, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival goes well beyond the music, also celebrating a melting pot of food, art and culture that sets The Big Easy apart from any other city in the world. This year marked the 50th year of the festival, spanning eight days spread across two four-day weekends. The Rolling Stones cancellation was a major setback for the promoters, proving the famous mantra “the show must go on” is alive and well.
 
There was was plenty to see between Thursday, May 2, and Sunday, May 5. AXS was on hand and here are our best moments from the second weekend.
 
1. Diana Ross managed to change outfits three times and looked glorious in each of the dresses she wore. However, her voice was even more impressive as fans crammed every area surrounding the Gentilly stage. There was no shortage of hits that included both her time with The Supremes and as a solo artist. “I’m Coming Out,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” “Endless Love” and covers of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “I Will Survive” kept them in place until she left the stage.
 
2.  John Fogerty celebrated 50 years of music, a fitting placement on the bill considering it was Jazz Fest’s 50th anniversary. Appropriately, he opened with “Born on the Bayou” and managed to work that theme into his set with Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya (on the Bayou),” Gary “U.S.” Bonds’ “New Orleans” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.”  
 
3. Welsh-cum-Vegas crooner Tom Jones proved he can still sing with the best. His baritone vocals shined through “Delilah,” “It’s Not Unusual” and a fun cover of Prince’s “Kiss.” A few feminine undergarments might have also found their way onto the stage, and that was before he broke into “Sex Bomb."
 
4. Parades are a staple of Jazz Fest and many of the indigenous Indian groups from the area dress in their full regalia and march through the grounds. There are usually a few per day and always accompanied by a flock of people marching along and taking photos. While they list their times on the daily schedule, it’s more fun to randomly stumble across one while moving from stage to stage.
 
5. One of the best sets of the weekend was Dave Matthews Band closing out the Acura stage on Saturday for a “short” two-hour show. Working through favorites ”Too Much," “Don’t Drink the Water” and “Funny the Way It Is” they also brought in guests Robert Randolph on “Louisiana Bayou", Warren Haynes for “Tripping Billies" and Preservation Hall Jazz Band on both “That Girl Is You” and “All Along the Watchtower."
 
6. Gladys Knight headlined the Congo stage on Friday night and the 73 year-old songstress did not disappoint. From the catchy “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” to the soulful “Midnight Train to Georgia,” the “Empress of Soul” performed effortlessly.  “Neither One of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)” and Streisand’s “The Way We Were” were also highlights.
 
7. Robert Randolph and the Family Band had the unenviable task of going up against Dave Mathews Band, Diana Ross and Pitbull, but still managed to fill the Blues tent to capacity. The pedal-steel guitar prodigy combined funk and blues while performing “I Need More Love,” “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That” and a re-imagined take on Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” 
 
8. Taking a break from the music to grab a rose mint tea and peruse the vendor stalls that sit adjacent to the Gospel, Blues and Jazz tents is always worthwhile. From eclectic art pieces to hand made jewelry and furniture, it’s always a battle to decide what to take home from the festival. Fortunately, many offered shipping.
 
9. Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue brought out most of the Neville clan to close out 2019 Jazz Fest on Sunday night. The dual-threat bandleader thanked the Neville’s for giving him his first break when he was barely 13 years old, eventually replacing them as the festival closer in 2014. He was beaming when Aaron Neville took the stage for “Yellow Moon” and numbing acapella “Amazing Grace.” Ian, Ivan and Cyril Neville also joined in the fun for a legitimate family reunion. 
 
10. Food is a centerpiece Louisiana life and the options at Jazz Fest perfectly represent that culture. Vietnamese spring rolls are a light option and great reprieve from the midday sun. Then there’s the Po-Boy: fried shrimp, alligator sausage, Merguez lamb, Cochon de Lait, crabmeat and Cajun duck are just a few of the options. Add some heat with an order of gumbo, stuffed bread, jambalaya or the combination plate of a crawfish sack, oyster patties and crawfish beignets.