Jazz Fest Picks: The First Weekend

Friday, April 29—Some people start Jazz Fest off in the Gospel Tent. I always head straight to the Mardi Gras Indians. There is something about that sound and those suits that soothes the soul. The Commanche Hunters, a relatively young tribe, kicks off the Jazz and Heritage stage at 11:20 AM.

Conflicts emerge early on the first Friday when George Porter Jr. and the Runnin’ Pardners are opposite Mia Borders. Why not skip them both and check out the first of Haitian acts that will be playing everyday at the Fest. Ti-Coca is a troubadour who sings in a style that reflects the connections between Cuba and Haiti.

The middle of the day is a good time to hit the Jazz Tent and I am excited to hear MASHUP—a soul jazz supergroup featuring the Dirty Dozen’s drummer Terence Higgins with Ike Stubblefield and Grant Green Jr. This set is bound to smoke.

Mumford and Sons (pictured) and the Avett Brothers close out the Gentilly Stage. Both of these bands are getting a lot of attention lately, and though I haven’t seen them live yet, a few videos I have seen indicate it’s warranted. They are deeply committed to their music and both bands feature animated performers.

Jump to Saturday and Sunday’s picks!

Saturday, April 30—If you took my advice and started your day on Friday with the Mardi Gras Indians, then I suggest you return to the Jazz and Heritage stage today. The Creole Wild West is led by one of the most respected chiefs in the city. Walter Cook (pictured- photo Dylan Stansbury) has been masking as an Indian for decades, but he has hinted that retirement may be close at hand. Don’t miss a chance to see one of the legends.

The Jazz Fest always provides great opportunities to hear music that you might not be familiar with yet. Bounce music is a style of hip-hop that is unique to New Orleans and no one does it better than Big Freedia and Sissy Nobby. Check them out on the Congo Square stage at 12:35 PM.

The talent bookers at Jazz Fest have gone out of their way to book acts that appeal to a younger demographic—witness yesterday’s closing acts. Another band that I have heard great things about, the Low Anthem, is playing today. However, they overlap with local up and comers, Hurray for the Riff Raff. Choices, choices, choices…

Unless you are a Bon Jovi fan stay as far away from that end of the Fairgrounds as possible beginning around 4 PM. I recommend jazz to close the day and you can’t go wrong with Ahmad Jamal in the Jazz Tent of Anat Cohen in Economy Hall.

Sunday, May 1—it’s May Day and though there are no Mardi Gras Indians in the first time slot, you can’t go wrong with the Hot 8 Brass Band. Sources tell me that their trials and tribulations after Hurricane Katrina will be a central storyline in the new season of Tremé.

Boukman Eksperyans is the foremost Haitian band performing at the Fest this year. They will knock your socks off with danceable grooves and sheer exuberance.

The Decemberists are another young band with a dedicated following. How they are going to pack all of their fans around the tiny Fais Do Do stage has been on my mind since the daily schedule was released. If the crowd is too intense, head over to Congo Square for John Legend and the Roots (pictured). The connection between these two acts may seem tenuous, but they are connected at the root.

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