Whatever you want to call it... mingled auras, the Force, etc., there's a palpable power to being in a crowd of tens of thousands of people all focused on sharing a good time and determined not to let adversity get in the way. Like the first post-Katrina Mardi Gras, I could feel a staggering sense of determination to have a great party amidst the atmosphere of rebirth in southern Louisiana. It was both inspiring and invigorating... and I felt a remarkable sense of belonging.
By that I mean more than my usual willingness/ability to meet new people and take part in what they're up to. I felt all weekend as though I was supposed to be right where I was.
Some of the music was very good, and some was downright spectacular. The $30 daily tickets are certainly a hell of a bargain, considering who they're putting in front of you. Even without getting to see Fats Domino perform, I easily got my money's worth. I'd never seen most of these folks live; Jimmy Buffet was terrific, and really had a "local boy comes home" feel to his set, which he started out with "City of New Orleans," the song he ended his Katrina-weekend show in Chicago with. That and "Southern Cross" were awesome covers, and of course he played lots of his own songs, some hits and some not.
Buckwheat Zydeco did an outstanding show, and Judy and I got to hear some Geno Delafose on the other side of the fairgrounds. Irma Thomas really impressed me, and Paul Simon's show was great if a little too short. I would never have intentionally gone to see a Lionel Richie show, but I had to give a lot of credit to him for being willing to step up in place of the legendary Fats Domino. Had to give his show a chance, and I'm glad I did. He certainly did a good show, and the crowd was very receptive.
I really enjoyed chatting with random people around us all weekend. So many happy people! And believe it or not, not all of them were drunk or stoned. (OK, many were. Some both.) Great food, too! Lots of NOLA's famous eateries were represented with stands around the fairgrounds, and I got to split nearly everything that interested me with either Denise or Judy or both. (Less overeating that way!)