XPN Fest Recap: Preservation Hall Jazz Band brings the big easy to Wiggins park, big time

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Preservation Hall Jazz Band | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

As I stood in the crowd waiting for Preservation Hall Jazz Band‘s set to begin, I realized that I have never before truly watched a professional jazz band perform despite growing up playing in orchestras and musical ensembles – and there could be no better introduction to live jazz than the American institution (as categorized by David Dye as he welcomed the band on stage) that is the Pres Hall.

The Band has been around since 1963 during their start in New Orleans’ French Quarter, and over fifty years and several generations later they know how to draw a crowd. The standing audience at the River Stage was the largest I had seen of of the weekend thus far (save the BB&T crowd) and the most noticeably excited for a set; if it had been nighttime, I’m convinced XPN Fest would have been host to the first-ever jazz mosh pit. Members of the crowd around me swapped stories of Pres Hall performances of the past, others eliciting promises from friends to dance the whole time and another declaring “We don’t need dang lyrics to have a good time.”

From the minute the 6-piece band hit their first blaring, everything-goes intro to their final bow, we were schooled in the ways of Big Easy jazz. Sounds came from the trumpet and tenor saxophone that I didn’t know where possible as each instrument traded spaces rising above the wonderful sonic fray. I hardly knew where to look even during the solo spots, as every performer on the stage had his own personal vibe and dance party onstage.

After the performance a few Pres Hall members came out from backstage to visit with fans, as the fans had certainly gathered to visit with them. Complete with trumpet and trombone, a mini impromptu performance quickly drew a crowd as they mugged for cameras and took pictures with admirers.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band also performs later in the evening with Saturday’s headlining band Amos Lee.

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