Representing the best music and food of Louisiana, Jazz Fest is a staple of New Orleans culture that hundreds of thousands attend every year.
Beach Boys. Bruce Springstein. The Eagles. Foo Fighters. Jimmy Buffet. Neville Brothers. Tom Petty. Feist. Bon Iver. Florence & the Machine. Iron & Wine.
No doubt you’ve heard music from these renowned headliners. But let’s explore some of the lesser known artists playing on the festival grounds.
First weekend of Jazz Fest: Friday April 27- Sunday April 29
Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes
Fri. 12:40-1:40 on the Gentilly Stage
While it is an early show on a weekday, it would be a good way to kick off the festival. For the past 11 years, this band has competed in the funk/rock scene of New Orleans. They’ve got a swampy funk vibe thanks to the punchy horns mixed with southern rock guitar and lyrics about New Orleans, parties, and love– especially of that infamous, foxy lady named “Ophelia.”
Lagniappe: They all go by Johnny. There’s Johnny Sketch, Dirty Johnny, Johnny Rico, Johnny Rocket, and then there’s Busta Gnutt.. (all according to their website’s bio page). I respect a band with a sense of humor.
Carolina Chocolate Drops
Sat. 4:20-5:35 at the Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage
A back-to-the-roots black string band from North Carolina whose sound exemplifies feel-good knee slappin’ southern tunes complete with banjo, fiddle, guitar, jug, kazoo and beatboxer, Adam Matta. One of their more popular songs is a cover of “Hit Em Up Style” which has a lot more pazazz than their typical tracks, but Rhiannon Giddens’ spunk brings a lot to the stage– as seen in their performance at Mass MoCA in 2010.
Walter “Wolfman” Washington & The Roadmasters
Sat. 2:55-3:55 at the Blues Tent
Washington is not a new face to Jazz Fest; his soulful vocals have been pleasing audiences since the 1970s. Closing out Saturday night at the lovely French Quarter Festival last weekend, his groovy fusion band was great for both listening and dancing. It’s the kind of music you’d expect to hear at a late-late night club in New Orleans, although listening to him in the 3 p.m. sunshine will be just fine too.
Second Weekend: Thursday May 3- Sunday May 6
Thurs. 12:55-2:00 at Acura Stage
Ireland born acoustic guitarist and vocalist is most known for his bands The Swell Season and The Frames. I first heard of Hansard from the movie “Once,” a cute movie about making music and falling in love. Regardless, he sings with a passion that gets inside you and makes you want to embrace your loved ones.
Thurs. 4:15-5:30 at Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage
DiFranco’s soul goes into everything she does, and my, is it beautiful! She’s a folksinger from New York who, like many musicians, settled in New Orleans and calls it home. Her music flows into many genres, but I assume her act at Jazz Fest will be primarily folk and perhaps some spoken word. I highly recommend seeing this gem of an artist.
*This song contains vulgar language
I encourage you to try something new. Give some of the lesser-known artists a listen on the Jazz Fest website before you just stick to the big stages and the artists you know. This festival is a treasure chest.
Jazz Fest now has an iphone app where you can access the schedule, see a map of the grounds, locate vendors, upload photos, listen to Jazz Fest radio, etc.
For more information, visit http://www.nojazzfest.com/