By Chevel Johnson / Associated Press
Saturday, May 4, 2013
NEW ORLEANS — Little Big Town says that some networking they did is paying off with a chance to cross a couple of items off their “bucket list.”
After playing Bayou Country SuperFest in Baton Rouge last year, group member Karen Fairchild said they talked to festival producer Quint Davis about other things they hoped to accomplish. They mentioned that they’d one day like to perform at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Davis was in a position to help since he also produces Jazz Fest.
Known for its trademark four-part harmonies, Little Big Town performed in New Orleans on Saturday.
“Can you believe we’re opening for Fleetwood Mac?” said Kimberly Schlapman, another group member. “We’ve been wanting to play Jazz Fest forever and now we’re opening for Fleetwood Mac and can mark off two big things from our list.”
Schlapman said early in their career they had the chance to meet Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, which she described as an “amazing harmony band.”
“Being able to share a stage with them is one of our greatest wishes,” she said.
Fairchild said they’ve watched Jazz Fest from afar for years. “The who’s who of music shows up year after year at the festival. Who wouldn’t want to play there?”
Flags flying amid a cool breeze, music fans packed the festival grounds by the stage where Little Big Town and Fleetwood Mac performed. Some put down tarps over the muddy infield. Others sat in chairs, wore rubber boots or stood barefoot to hear the bands.
“Once you’re in it, it kind of feels good,” said Mary Kathryn Gatlin, of Greenville, S.C., who danced shoeless in the mud, the muck covering her feet past the ankles. Gatlin was taking in her first Jazz Fest with her sister, Frances Gatlin.
The pair had been at the stage since noon, about an hour after the gates opened.
“We love country, bluegrass, just easy-listening music that’s fun to dance to,” Gatlin said.
Many danced as Fleetwood Mac performed such hits as “Dreams,” “Rhiannon,” “Gypsy,” “Tusk” and “Landslide,” which drew huge roars from the crowd when Stevie Nicks introduced it.
Nicks also delivered her tribute to the host city, singing a portion of her song, “New Orleans,” which she said she wrote after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “I wanna get a room in New Orleans, I wanna sing in the streets of the French Quarter,” she sang.
The band also performed a new song, “Sad Angel,” testing it out with the crowd. Toward the end of their set, they played an old favorite, “Go Your Own Way” at the end of which Buckingham shouted to the crowd, “New Orleans, we love you!”
They left the stage briefly before returning for an encore performance of “The World Keep On Turning,” a song from their self-titled first album released in 1968 and “Don’t Stop.”
Other Saturday headliners included Phoenix, Frank Ocean, Los Lobos, Terence Blanchard, Davell Crawford and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
Sunshine and blue skies were welcomed by fans of the outdoor festival, which had been drenched by rain in previous days. Despite the mud, the field in front of the festival’s largest stage was packed hours before Fleetwood Mac’s performance.
Little Big Town’s Fairchild said she hoped their festival appearance would help boost their fan base.
“This is a great chance for longtime fans to come out and see our set and a chance for us to discover and be introduced to new fans,” she said.
Phillip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook make up the rest of Little Big Town, which recently won two Academy of Country Music awards for their latest album “Tornado.” They go on tour with Keith Urban in July.
“I like them,” said Monique Powell, of Lafayette. “They’ve got three big hits out right now, `Tornado,’ `Pontoon,’ and `Little White Church.’ We came in to hear Maroon 5 yesterday. This is just a bonus.”
Powell and her friend, Matt Chaisson, also of Lafayette, said Saturday’s sunny weather made the trip worthwhile.
“Even though it’s nasty out here with all the mud, we’re making the best of it,” she said, adding that she should have packed her rain boots.
“I should know better,” she said, laughing. “I’m from here!”
The festival ends Sunday, with closing performances by Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Aaron Neville, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, and Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra with special guest Dee Dee Bridgewater.