TVD’s Jazz Fest picks for the first weekend, 4/27 & 4/28

Remember—it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Here’s another favorite Jazz Fest aphorism—Jazz Fest happens during the day, so be the early. Here are my picks for Saturday and Sunday, April 27-28. The full schedule is here. Late edit- Hallelujah! First day report- The no-chair zones have been extended to the Congo Square stage!

SATURDAY | One of my fellow pundits was wondering a few weeks ago why Alex McMurray always seems to be scheduled early in the day since he’s a late night kind of guy, and so are his fans. See above, and see you at the Gentilly stage at 11:25 for a scintillating set from our city’s wriest songwriter.

Right after McMurray is a band that has been getting a lot of buzz since Quint Davis, the producer/ director of the Fest and the man we call “the Commander,” mentioned them at the month-out press conference. A Tribe Called Red is part of this year’s focus on Native American culture at the Fairgrounds.

But what’s interesting about this booking is they are technically an electronic dance band—a genre that, as far as I can recall, has never appeared at the Jazz Fest. This should be really interesting.

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I used to do “picks of the day,” but that just complicated an already complicated decision-making process. But I am making an exception for Margary Lord; appearing on the Jazz and Heritage stage at 3 PM. If you have studied the schedule you know that this act from Bahia in Brazil is also playing early tomorrow on the Congo Square stage.

I saw this band twice in Brazil. They are intense, and they demand audience participation. Catch them twice at the Jazz Fest.

The last slot on Saturday is another jam-packed one. While the masses will be crammed in for Billy Joel, I will be making an ad hoc decision based on a variety of factors. What’s my musical mood? What’s the weather like? How has the day been so far? I may even consider what I have eaten.

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Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires have been getting a ton of buzz lately, and I love the new record. Andrew Bird is one of those under-the-radar acts that will draw a huge crowd to the relatively tiny Fais Do Do stage. The 101 Runners are my homeboys, and they bring the Mardi Gras Indian funk better than most. Did I mention Blodie’s Jazz Jam? Blodie is the nickname of the leader of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. But then you knew that.

SUNDAY | Sunday dawns early if you have been festing all weekend. But don’t miss Hurray For the Riff Raff opening on the Acura stage. They had the same slot last year, and their performance solidified in my mind that this group is the next big thing coming out of New Orleans.

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Speaking of the next big thing, consider checking out the Session in the Jazz Tent at 12:20 PM. Jazz sometimes gets short shrift at the Jazz Fest, and that’s everybody’s fault. But if you want to hear what the next generation of New Orleans jazz players is sounding like, this is the place to be.

In fact, stick around to check out the following act for more of the same. Calvin Johnson is a saxophonist that is also part of the next wave of great jazz musicians that might be flying under the radar of the big city critics, but he’s our own, and he is on a tear right now after releasing his debut recording as a leader.

Ed Volker, the guru behind the now-defunct Radiators, is appearing at 2:20 PM on the Lagniappe stage. Three-fifths of the rest of the band play earlier in the day as part of Raw Oyster Cult. Perchance there will be a reunion?

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Here’s one of the great mysteries of the Jazz Fest. Why are some bands always on the same stage, and others seem to move around every year? For years, Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers were in the Jazz Tent. This never worked out for fans of his good time style of jazz. It was too crowded and the crowd was too stiff. Then they moved him outside, where he should be, so people can dance in the grass.

This year he’s in the Blues Tent. Go figure. To compound the mystery—his new album, which drops in late May, is a return to his traditional jazz roots. He hits at 4:20 PM. At least that makes sense—wink, wink!

I don’t spend that much time in Economy Hall, but I know that I will be there at the close of the first Sunday.

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“Uncle” Lionel Batiste lived as an icon among us; though he was always 100% approachable to his many “nieces” and “nephews.”

He was the bass drummer and a singer in the Tremé Brass Band before he passed away last summer. Their tribute to him will be powerful, poignant, and potent.

See you there!

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