It’s hard to ignore the sense of celebration in the air in New Orleans right now. The king cakes have arrived and been devoured, parade route barriers have been put in place, and glitter is in the air. With more locals and tourists coming out in droves for Mardi Gras, the amount of must-see shows our fair city will host is second to none. Check out our curated list of performances below because it’s never too early to start mapping out your Mardi Gras!
Trombonist Haruka Kikuchi was born in Japan and always had a knack and a love for music, listening to as much of it as she could at a young age as well as picking up instruments like piano and violin. It wasn’t until she heard an old recording of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band that she decided to pick up a trombone, a decision that would predicate her later move to New Orleans.
I have been blown away again and again by this bilingual indie rock band. Their execution of a big, familiar, danceable sound is made unique through Arabic lyricism, robust jazzy melodies, and the intricate mixing of both a drum kit and hand percussion. The show opens with performances by Macavoy and DASH.
After features in two Spike Lee documentaries, one in HBO’s Tremé, and a Grammy nomination, The Hot 8 Brass Band is indelibly linked to New Orleans’ brass band sound. The band, formed over 20 years ago, is a ten-piece funk-style brass band whose individual interests have weaved elements of contemporary R&B, rap, and bounce to create a wonderfully distinct and relevant catalogue of music.
Alumni of the prestigious Red Bull Music Academy, Parker and Marshall Mulherin were among the first musicians I worked with after moving to New Orleans. The pair both write, sing, and produce their own music, an energetic yet sophisticated R&B styled perfectly to match the soft-spoken voice of the twins. They return to New Orleans opening for Zack Villere.
Blind Texas Marlin at Circle Bar at 7 p.m.
Created following the death rattle of the now-defunct punk band Felix, Blind Texas Marlin is the onstage troubadour-esque singer/songwriter persona of North Carolina-born musician John Curry. It encompasses everything from his solo sets (like this one) to shows with a full band of misfits that were never exactly hired but instead were worked into the rotating orchestra of lap steel and spoons players to name a few.
February 22: Aaron Benjamin at Maple Leaf Bar at 8 p.m.
Born in Detroit and a graduate of Tulane University, Aaron Benjamin’s self-titled debut album introduced a new voice in singing and songwriting to the patch work of New Orleans music. Combining mainstream influences like Elton John and Allen Stone with the local sounds of a brassy horn section, Benjamin’s ability to weave a tale through his music is second only to his confident and seasoned onstage persona.
Jank Setup is the newest college-founded funk band to roll out of Tulane in the last few years, following in the footsteps of local funk darlings Sexual Thunder!, Doombalaya, and Miss Mojo to name a few. And still in the fluid beginning stages that characterize most independent groups, their live performance—led by lead singer Kentro Mason—is daring and hypnotic. DJX, Hazel, and DarMaCar also perform.
Every time I turn around, Anne Elise Hastings—a southern girl with the learned tenacity of a full-grown woman—is popping up in another venue around town. She pairs acoustic guitar with banjo and violin, and her music evokes the greats that came before her: Townes Van Zandt, Emmylou Harris, Shakey Graves, and the Black Lillies.