Spring has sprung, and for many people that means the melting of the final snow and the blossoming of new life all over the world. But in New Orleans, it means one very important thing: Jazz Fest. I’ll be straight with you – this is my favorite time of the year. Some of my most beloved memories of beginning my life and career in New Orleans include being dead tired while biking to Jazz Fest and listening to Sweet Crude in my headphones (I have since given up my death wish and stopped riding with earbuds in my ears). And even though the first time I stepped onto the grounds I had a 101 degree fever, I couldn’t wait to get back there. This year’s festival season is bound to create a plethora of new and equally exciting memories for all of us. For an in-depth look at this year’s Jazz Fest shows, stay tuned for a special festival season roundup coming later this month!
Watson, of Soul Brass Band and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, brings you his band, The Alchemy, in possibly one of the coolest new venues in town. Visit the rooftop of the Pontchartrain Hotel just after sunset for a drink and some of the hardest-working and most talented musicians in the city.
Eyope is an “avant-groove” horns and soul band exhibiting textured layers of synthesizer, bass, and live drums that weave through the band’s original songs whether instrumental or vocal. Cutting through all of it is band founder and leader Evan Oberla’s trombone as a reserved and thoughtful commentator as well as a bold leader of their musical frontier. The intergalactic spaceship that is Eyope endeavors to spread the message of elevating your own personal expression.
Multi-talented trumpeter and composer Jonathan Bauer, most notably of the Grammy Award-winning New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, bursts onto the scene with his highly-anticipated debut album, Walk Don’t Run. The album celebrates the past while looking to the future, showcasing the range of musical influences, from Art Blakey to Roy Hargrove, that have shaped his worldview. Bauer’s compositions are about learning to slow down on life’s journey, striving to be more grateful, and paying dues to those who came before him.
Sexy Dex and the Fresh opens the evening for Berlin Taxi fronted by lead singer and vocalist, Dexter Gilmore. The band channels the razor-edged future funk of Prince’s Controversy and Dirty Mind recordings, and the DIY fidelity of Ariel Pink’s dusty psychedelic pop.
Lost Bayou Ramblers is a Grammy Award-winning Cajun music band formed in 1999 by Louis Michot and his brother Andre Michot and grew to include producer Korey Richey, Johnny Campos, and Eric Heigle. It has yielded an eclectic mix of modern sounds and rhythms with ancient Cajun melodies and lyrics. The members of Sweet Crude all hail from South Louisiana, a region which still holds onto its unique culture and way of life stronger than anywhere else in the United States. Instead of singing the language in its usual music genres, zydeco and Cajun, Sweet Crude draws on their own influences coming mainly from New Orleans music, pop, and indie rock to produce a sound that is accessible to today’s generation.
Plan on spending the entire weekend at One Eyed Jacks, beginning with Tasche de la Rocha and Maggie Belle. Tasche and the Psychedelic Roses is an eight-piece band led by and featuring the original music of Tasche de la Rocha, formed in New Orleans in 2016. Their unique sound is a blend of of psych rock, doo wop, garage rock, and dream soul. Maggie Belle Band has a sound that blends soul, R&B, funk, and blues, with Maggie’s highly-distinctive voice and heartfelt lyrics capturing the audience’s attention. Their respective voices and creative visions are so thoughtfully executed that while maintaining a musical distinction from other artists, they are able to blend the energy of New Orleans into their music.
Known for her impeccable songwriting and haunting melodies, Maggie Koerner came up in New Orleans touring with Galactic before moving on to pursue her solo music. Return for night two of the One Eyed Jacks mega-weekend with local up-and-comer Julie Odell and The Suffers (out of Houston) joining Koerner for what is guaranteed to be an incredible bill.
If you need a break from Jacks, head instead to Three Keys in the Ace Hotel for their fourth annual Six of Saturns show celebrating music and collaboration. This year’s program features Raj Smoove, “The Greatest DJ in the World” as claimed by Lil’ Wayne, the premier DJ in the New Orleans Metropolitan area; Pell, who continues to focus his music on growth in order to expand his sound; Chase N. Cashe, whose music serves as a satisfying palette enhancer and keeps an even keel with realistic rhymes about matters of the heart, mind, and bank account; and THE GRÏD, a hip-hop/modern funk band led by drummer and singer A.J. Hall. With a thick low-end sound complemented by lush synths and unique guitar parts, the band puts forth a vibe reminiscent of 90s hip hop production and the classic 1980s Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis sound.
If you have never heard of Boyfriend, then you need to drop what you are doing and go to this show. She has made a name for herself based on her experimental rap and wild and colorful “cabaret-style” shows. And as a special lagniappe, members of The Revivalists will be joining her on stage, potentially in hair rollers to match with the leading lady.