With Jazz Fest rapidly approaching, you may find yourself feeling a bit overwhelmed by the almost unfathomable number of live music options presented over the next two weeks. With no shortage of talent at the Fairgrounds, you’ll have plenty of tough decisions to make (The Who or Ryan Adams? Dr. John or Buddy Guy?!). But once the main event shuts down at 7:00 every night, the city transitions into a completely different music festival with tons of incredible performances happening across town until the wee hours of the morning.
We scoured the exhaustive Jazz Fest Grids to hunt down those extraordinary shows, the ones you won’t see any other time of year and may never see again. Whether it’s a tribute set or a show on a riverboat, these are the shows you won’t want to miss this Jazz Fest and will be telling your friends about for years to come.
*Due to the high demand for some of these shows, purchasing tickets in advance is highly recommended. Click each artists’ name for a link to tickets.
Monday 4/27: The Booker Thing at Blue Nile Balcony Room, 10:00 p.m., $20
Every Jazz Fest, Marco Benevento sets up shop in New Orleans to lend his virtuosic piano skills to countless late-night jams. Benevento has made it a tradition to pay his respects to The King of the New Orleans Keyboard every year with a show comprised solely of James Booker songs. Not many players can handle Booker’s complex arrangements, but Benevento hardly breaks a sweat with his spot-on renditions of the classic tunes. Benevento will be joined by Johnny Vidacovich and James Singleton, local legends in their own right who played and recorded with Booker, himself.
Tuesday 4/28: Anders Osborne, John Fohl and Johnny Sansone at Chickie Wah Wah, 8:00 and 10:00 p.m., $25
This bluesy trio used to play regular weekly gigs at Chickie Wah Wah until their individual touring schedules got in the way. This show on the Tuesday between Jazz Fest weekends has become a tradition for the group, offering the chance to get back to their roots and play a relaxed set at one of the best listening rooms in the city. Grab a table near the stage and you’ll feel like you’re hanging in a living room watching some of the most talented songwriters in the city working out new tunes.
Wednesday 4/29: Tank and the Bangas at Rice Mill Lofts rooftop, 6:00 PM, $25
There are plenty of opportunities to experience Tank and the Bangas’ unique fusion of spoken word, jazz and rock year round in New Orleans. But seeing the band on a rooftop overlooking Downtown is one of those Jazz Fest moments you can’t afford to pass up. The beautiful rooftop space of Rice Mill Lofts in the Bywater has recently hosted a few musical performances spotlighting up and coming soul artists and DJs in an incredible setting. Get there early for this edition, grab a drink and a spot on a couch, and enjoy the perfect sunset soundtrack.
Thursday 4/30: Galactic at One Eyed Jack’s, 9:00 p.m., $35
If you find yourself deep in the Quarter and need to escape the squalor of Bourbon Street, you can’t go wrong with the roster of great artists playing One Eyed Jack’s every night of Jazz Fest. Galactic takes the stage relatively early on Thursday night to deliver their hard-hitting funk in a club they have been making a point to revisit over the past few years. Stick around until 1:30 a.m. to catch the freaky free-jazz of Worship My Organ and see just how weird things get.
Friday 5/1: Soulive at Steamboat Natchez, 9:15 p.m., $45
Of all the locations to see music in New Orleans during Jazz Fest, the middle of the Mississippi River may just be the best. Fiyawerx Productions will once again host a string of party cruises on The Steamboat Natchez over both weekends, with live music on the top deck and the lower ballroom as the boat floats downstream. The lineup on May 1 offers a little something for everyone with instrumental funk masters Soulive hosting classic soul singer Lee Fields, the ace horn unit The Shady Horns, and old school emcee DJ Logic.
Saturday 5/2: Marco Benevento at Blue Nile, 2:00 a.m., $20
While Marco Benevento has no problem donning any number of hats (or an eye-patch) during Jazz Fest, he’s truly in his element leading late-night dance parties that are all about one thing: fun. Benevento’s original compositions are packed with enough catchy melodies and euphoric crescendos to keep you dancing til sunrise and his choice of covers is always spot on (Bennie and the Jets at 5:30 a.m.? Yes please!). Groove your way into the final day of Jazz Fest with Benevento’s positively uplifting party jams.
Sunday 5/3: Colin Lake Band at Gasa Gasa, 9:00 p.m., $10
You survived through the final day of the Fairgrounds and the end is near. Rather than call it a day and head back to reality, wind down with Colin Lake at Gasa Gasa for one last show. Lake will make more than a few appearances around town during Jazz Fest, undoubtedly reeling in a slew of new fans in the process. But this show at the Uptown club will likely be one of the best. Lake’s purely original sound mixes blues and folk (plus a healthy dash of NOLA swagger) with a confidence that belies his years and draws listeners in with his magnetic charm.