With artists like The Who, Elton John, John Legend, Lady Gaga and Widespread Panic headlining the 2015 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, it will surely be another record-breaking event. But for a moment, let’s forget about those big name musical acts. You will have five to six hours each day of the seven day festival – spread out over two consecutive weekends starting this Friday, April 24th and restarting the following Thursday, April 30th – to fill up with music. You already know you want to see Pete Townshend windmill or Jimmy Buffett conjure up margaritas on the beach. But if you’re not planning on hunkering down in the front row all day for one artist, then there are ten stages hopping with exciting music for all tastes all day long. So take a walk, grab some Crawfish Monica, follow a Mardi Indian parade around the grounds and stop and enjoy when the music catches your ears.
There is just so much to see and do, eat and hear to limit yourself to one stage from 11:00 gate openings to 7:00 last songs. The whole meaning of Jazz Fest is to sample a little bit of everything. So when you print out your daily grids, look beyond the regular stages and see when the parades are happening and what activities are going down over at the Folklife Village, the artwork and crafts in the Marketplace, the exhibits and live interviews in the Grandstand, and all the things that the kids from NOCCA (New Orleans Center For Creative Arts) have planned to showcase their talents.
Jazz Fest will celebrate forty-six years of existence in 2015. “It’s such a wonderful festival because it’s arts and food and camaraderie and all sorts of music and parades,” Benmont Tench of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakerssaid recently. “It’s like nothing in the world.” “It’s a nice sort of rite of passage to be able to be a part of that history,” New Orleans based singer Kristin Diable explained last week, herself having played at the festival numerous times, this year being her first time on the main Acura Stage.
Topping last year’s line-up was going to be quite a feat for the Jazz Fest organizers but they have come through with artists to delight any palate. Getting back to our discussion of who to check out for the hours before the main stage headliners, we thought we would provide a few special picks for each day.
Friday, April 24: Mia Borders, Grayson Capps, Honey Island Swamp Band, the Calliope Puppets (for the kids), Tedeschi Trucks Band and Jimmie Vaughan & The Tilt-A-Whirl Band.
Saturday, April 25: The Revivalists, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, guitar player Sonny Landreth, Cassandra Wilson celebrating the music of Billie Holiday, Calvin Johnson’s tribute to Buddy Bolden, Shovels & Rope and The Robert Cray Band.
Sunday, April 26: Big Chief Monk Boudreaux & The Golden Eagles, the Savoy Family Cajun Band, Little Freddie King Blues Band, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, David Fricke interviewing Charles Neville, Bryan Lee and a special tribute to Jelly Roll Morton.
Thursday, April 30: Bonerama, Sturgill Simpson, Amanda Shaw & The Cute Guys, the Young Seminole Hunters Mardi Gras Indians, Ruby & The Rogues, The Word and Alison Krauss & Union Station.
Friday, May 1: Galactic featuring Macy Gray, Kristin Diable, Shooter Jennings with Waymore’s Outlaws, Maggie Koerner and the Voice Of The Wetlands All-Stars featuring Dr John, Anders Osborne and Cyril Neville.
Saturday, May 2: Vintage Trouble, Jerry Lee Lewis, Royal Southern Brotherhood, the Taj Mahal Trio, Kermit Ruffins & The BBQ Swingers, Marc Broussard, NOCCA Jazz Ensemble and Big Freedia.
Sunday, May 3: Feufollet, Anders Osborne, Steve Winwood, Lenny Kravitz, Walter Wolfman Washington & The Roadmasters, Tab Benoit, The Meters and Buddy Guy.
Not to totally ignore those big names on the big stages, along with the artists we’ve already mentioned, there will be T.I., Ryan Adams, No Doubt, Pitbull, Keith Urban, Trombone Shorty, Jimmy Cliff, Wilco, Chicago, Ed Sheeran, Kacey Musgraves, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Maze and Dr John will all be headlining on the various stages.
“They should definitely follow some Mardi Gras Indians around,” Galactic drummer Stanton Moore told Glide a few months ago when asked what fans should check out when attending Jazz Fest. “Definitely they should figure out when the walking parades happen with the Mardi Gras Indians.” “I think the best thing you could ever catch is Aaron Neville’s gospel set,” The Breton Sound’s Jonathan Pretus suggested. “It’s always just an amazing, amazing show and the guy could sing the phone book and it would be incredible. But his gospel show is just not to be missed EVER.” And Benmont Tench was pretty adamant about Cajun band Feufollet.
But The Who is still The Who and everyone seems to want to be there for their headlining set on the first Saturday. “That is like a bucket list show for me so I will definitely be out there for that,” Pretus exclaimed, undoubtedly speaking for thousands of others. As for Diable, jumping on stage to sing with the legendary British band would be mindblowing: “If I could finagle that, I will!” she said with a laugh.
If you’re also wondering what to eat, here are a few suggestions: From Stanton Moore – the Crawfish Sack, Oyster Patties and Crawfish Beignets; Jonathan Pretus prefers the Crawfish Bread; Benmont Tench liked the Boudin Sausage; or you can just do what Amanda Sudano of Johnnyswim did following their set last year: “I had every type of po-boy I could find. I had every type of everything. We basically walked out after our set and went to every stall we could possibly go to.”
So with so much to do and see, hear and eat, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is something you have to experience at least once in your lifetime and this year is a darn good year to be there.
For all the latest Jazz Fest news, schedules and information, visit their website. Glide will be on the grounds with daily photo galleries, highlights, tweets and more.