Our French Quarter Fest picks for the Weekend, 4/13–4/14

You think you have conflicts at the Jazz Fest with a mere thirteen stages? Now try studying the French Quarter Festival with its twenty-two stages set to roll on Saturday and Sunday. The weekend has a full slate of acts for every musical taste. Here are our Saturday picks. The full schedule is here.

Get started bright and early in the picturesque heart of the French Quarter when clarinetist Tim Laughlin kicks off the Jackson Square stage. A protégé of master clarinet player Pete Fountain, Laughlin plays some of the best traditional jazz around town and around the world.

The middle of Bourbon Street might seem like a strange spot to catch one of the best guitarists the city of New Orleans has ever produced. But Carl LeBlanc (pictured) has been holding down a spot on the tourist street during French Quarter Fest for years. He is as versatile a player as you’re ever going to hear. He counts the late great banjo player and guitarist Danny Barker as one of his mentors. And believe it or not, it will probably be less crowded than at the big stages on the riverfront.

The Jack Daniels stage is one of the best additions to the stage lineup at FQF and they have great music each and every day. One band not to miss is Rory Danger and the Danger Dangers. Led by saxophonist and vocalist Aurora Nealand and featuring ace players all around, they play a sort of New Orleans-centric rockabilly. Their sets are highly entertaining and usually have some underlying theme with spoken word segments and theatrics.

A new stage this year is the so-called Moonwalk Extension. I have seen the wonderful renovation of the iconic area at the edge of the Mississippi near Jackson Square, but I have no idea how they are planning on setting up the stage. But I will be there for Muevelo. This band started as homage to Cuban singer Celia Cruz and has developed into one of my favorite dance bands in the city.

There’s a lot of funk on tap for the last act of the day on Saturday. Flow Tribe will funk up the Chevron stage with their party rock. Corey Henry and the Tremé Funket have been on fire every time I have seen them lately. The New Orleans Suspects are hitting on all cylinders, so any choice you make will be a good one.

Sunday features another packed schedule at the French Quarter Festival. Here are our picks. The full schedule is here.

You can’t go wrong starting the day with Tuba Skinny in Jackson Square. It says a lot that this band, which started out busking and continues to occasionally play on the streets, is scheduled on the premier trad jazz stage. But they deserve it with strong musicianship and a book that features many tunes that aren’t played at all by the plethora of other nouveau trad outfits in town.

Stick around for drummer Shannon Powell and his Traditional All Star Band. Powell can do it all. He recently released a gutbucket blues album that is a duet with a guitarist. That’s right, just drums and guitar like the kids do. But with his trad band he goes back to his roots as a Tremé native (and still resident) with some of the best players in town.

The Quickening returns to the French Quarter Fest and to the Jack Daniels stage for the second year in a row. Led by guitarist Blake Quick, the band features Dave Easley—one of the world’s greatest pedal steel guitarists. Their sound has evolved from its jam band roots into a solid soulful outfit with great vocal interplay between Quick and singer Rachel Murray.

The Louisiana Fish Fry stage at the Old U.S. Mint presents brass band music all day on the weekends. At 4 PM, the Soul Brass Band takes the stage. This band was initially put together for a video shoot for CeeLo Green. Then they morphed into a real band and over time they have become the real deal. Led by drummer Derrick Freeman, the group has a great album coming out soon.

The final slot of the day for the 2019 French Quarter Festival looks like a doozy. You can hang at the big stages and see trumpeter James Andrews, the Honey Island Swamp Band or Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr., or you can lie in the grass at the old U.S. Mint and be transported to another realm by the passionate jazz of Astral Project. If your feet haven’t you failed yet, you can dance the evening away listening to the Big 6 Brass Band—one of the best young brass bands on the scene today.

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