You made it to weekend two and are facing the classic late-quarter Jazz Fest dilemma: sleep or more music. With a host of incredible offerings this weekend at the Fair Grounds, including guaranteed legendary sets by Bruce Springsteen and Arcade Fire, you may be tempted to hit the hay instead of venturing out into the night. Resist the temptation! Here are some of the best reasons to suffer through mild exhaustion and power through the home stretch:
Thursday, May 1
The Royal Family Ball ‘Masquerage’ feat. Lettuce & Soulive w/ Dr. Klaw, PLAYONBROTHER, and Special Guests Maceo Parker, George Porter Jr., Ivan Neville, & Cyril Neville @ Mardi Gras World: For an example of a yearly Jazzfest night show tradition that only continues to get bigger and better with each passing year, look no further than the Royal Family Ball, now taking place in the larger confines of Mardi Gras World (previously event was held at The Howlin’ Wolf). The multi-band blowout also serves as the anchor event on local concert promoter Winter Circle Productions five-year anniversary celebration. With a lineup pairing up 21st Century soul/funk progenitors (Lettuce and Soulive) with legendary forefathers like Maceo Parker (James Brown / Parliament), George Porter Jr. (The Meters / George Porter and the Runnin’ Pardners), Cyril Neville (The Neville Brothers) and Ivan Neville (Dumpstaphunk). The event draws heavily on the spirit and style of Mardi Gras; attendees are asked to dress in costume or, at the very least “festive attire”. A king and queen will be voted on and honored at the celebration. Doors will open at 8 p.m. in the Mardi Gras World ballroom and tickets are $40 day of show. The $75 VIP ticket gets you in through a special VIP entrance to a limited-access viewing area, as well as two free premium drinks and a commemorative poster signed by the performers. For the money, this event packs a pretty hefty punch.
Friday, May 2
Hurray for the Riff Raff @ First Presbyterian Church: Hurray for the Riff Raff’s critically acclaimed album Small Town Heroes was partly recorded in the church they will play in this Friday, making it the perfect venue to appreciate the subtleties of their acoustic driven ballads. Get there early for a good seat in the pews and bask in the warm sounds provided by the walls of the ancient room.
funky METERS, Galactic @ Tipitina’s: Tipitina’s Friday night lineup promises to be a musical time machine featuring the sounds of New Orleans funk from the ‘60s to today. Although, technically two separate shows, each features one of the most defining New Orleans funk bands (depending on who you talk to) in the best setting possible. This show is sold out, so your best bet is to keep an eyes on Craigslist and/or pray to the gods of funk.
Saturday May 3
Thievery Corporation, Galactic @ The Sugar Mill: Jazz Fest by Nite put on two great large-scale shows last weekend (Lana Del Rey and Pretty Lights), and this one promises not to disappoint. Galactic shares headlining duties with Thievery Corporation, a globe trotting electronic band that blends elements of international music with instantly danceable beats. If you haven’t seen Galactic with their excellent new singer, Maggie Koerner, this is your last chance before the band goes back on tour.
Royal Potato Family 5th Anniversary Celebration @ Blue Nile: The Royal Potato Family not only has one of the best music label names of all time, they also have a stellar lineup of progressive jazz leaning musicians that makes them a perfect fit for Jazz Fest. Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey starts off the evening with their jazzy sound that falls somewhere between Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix, followed by the undeniably fun piano rock of Marco Benevento. Expect plenty of guests and other surprises at this musical birthday party.
Black Lips, Natural Child @ Siberia: Siberia hosts two great country-fried punk bands Saturday night. Black Lips have played everything from garage punk to bizarro Tex Mex ballads in their 15 year career, most recently channeling early Rolling Stones on Underneath the Rainbow (produced by Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney). Opening will be Nashville’s Natural Child, who swerve from fast paced surf boogie to ramshackle Laurel Canyon country, sometimes in the same song, with the talent and conviction to hold it all together.
Sunday May 4
Funky But Better @ Blue Nile: NOLA’s own Big Sam Williams hosts an all-star jam to close out Blue Nile’s excellent run of Jazz Fest shows, featuring keys man Marco Benevento, pedal steel virtuoso Roosevelt Collier, and Living Colour bassist Doug Wimbish. Big Sam knows how to inject a healthy dose of fun into his performances, making this an ideal show to ward off the end of Fest blues.
Frequinox @ d.b.a.: One last superjam at d.b.a. kicks off at 2 AM Sunday night, led by Galactic’s rhythm section and featuring organist Robert Walter and saxman Donald Harrison. This Fest, I’ve found myself at d.b.a. on more than a few occasions, and every time the music is great, the atmosphere is relaxed yet rowdy, and the drinks are some of the best in the city.
Rebirth Brass Band @ Howlin Wolf: What better way to end the ultimate New Orleans musical party than with the number one party band in the city? The Howlin Wolf is like Rebirth’s second home, making it a fitting location for the release of their new album, Move Your Body. Meters’ drummer Zigaboo Modeliste starts the night off right with his band, The Funk Revue.