- Associated Press - Sunday, May 8, 2011

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - On the final day of this year’s New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, fans camped out early Sunday to get a great spot to hear the closing day set of The Radiators _ one of the city’s funkiest blues rock bands _ who have been closing the fest along with the Neville Brothers for years.

The band _ keyboardist Ed Volker, guitarists Dave Malone and Camile Baudoin, bassist Reggie Scanlon and drummer Frank Bua _ formed in 1978 and have been playing together since.

Festival producer Quint Davis said that kind of longevity is worth celebrating.

“I’ve always been around them and a part of their journey,” he said. “They’re an amazing phenomenon. It’s equally rare to have the same five guys playing in a band for this long and still have the unique chemistry that allows you to travel on what Ed calls ‘a spirit ride.’”

Davis introduced the band Sunday evening, saying Professor Longhair and the Nevilles were the only other acts to regularly close the fest.

“We at jazz fest take our traditions as seriously as those in New Orleans,” Davis said. “I thank them for giving us the times of our lives.”

Cajun fiddler Michael Doucet of BeauSoleil made a guest appearance during the farewell set as did guitarist Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers Band and Gov’t Mule. The group walked fans through all their hits including “Red Dress,” “Never Let Your Fire Go Out,” “Ride Me High” and “Sunshine Down.”

“They’re always tight,” said Lisa Troutt, of Winston-Salem, N.C. “It’s heartbreaking to know they’re breaking up.”

The Radiators are calling it quits this year, with final performances set June 9-11 at New Orleans’ famed music club Tipitinas.

At the festival, fans from far and wide expressed thanks for the opportunity to experience their music and regret that the music was coming to an end.

“They’re what New Orleans music should be and is about,” said Sean Sorenberger, of Monterey, Calif. “I thank them for educating me about New Orleans singers like Eddie Bo and Professor Longhair and bringing that sound across the country where you don’t always get to hear bands like them.”

“I love their energy and songwriting and their relationship with their fans,” said Stacey Erdmann, of San Francisco. “I raised my daughter on this music.”

Scanlon said that kind of fan loyalty is what he will miss most.

“I think that’s our legacy,” he said in an interview before the show. “We’ve been a catalyst for this amazing community of fans, who have formed around the country. These people have formed friendships that will last beyond us. These communities that have formed as a result of our music really shows that music can bring people together for more than just a gig.”

Sorenberger said he planned to be at Tipitinas for the band’s final shows. “It’s ending so you’ve got to get it while you can,” he said.

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