Most locals and visitors know the live music stalwarts of New Orleans: King James and the Special Men on Mondays, Rebirth Brass Band on Tuesdays, DJ Soul Sister’s Saturday night HUSTLE dance parties, and plenty of others nearly every day of the week. But you may not know about some bands and musicians who are newer on the scene or who play on a less frequent basis. Here’s our list of acts you should make a point to check out in 2015 — we know we will be.
10 New Orleans Music Acts You Have to See in 2015
Big Freedia. New Orleanians have long known the artist who heralded a new generation of bounce musicians, but Big Freedia gained national exposure from the Fuse reality show “Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce” and by becoming a spokesperson of sorts when “twerking” — the type of dancing associated with bounce music — became an international phenomenon. Big Freedia performs dance-heavy shows all over the world, but be sure to catch her the next time she plays in her hometown. (Check out our 20 Questions with Big Freedia here.)
Boyfriend. Listening to Boyfriend, you’ll notice her rapid-fire rhymes that are all at once clever, aggressive, funny, sexy and surprising. But live, the artist is known for her brand of “rap cabaret,” with shows that involve costume changes, set pieces, striptease, and some playful audience participation. You’ll probably walk away from the show with a prize. (Check out our 20 Questions with Boyfriend here.)
Cardinal Sons. The young music career of brothers John, Joe and Dave Shirley — Mississippi natives who graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans — has already included an appearance on NPR’s Mountain Stage and winning the NewSong Contest, an international performance and songwriting showcase and competition. Their 2014 release The Echo Choir EP showcases indie rock in the same vein of Dr. Dog, Spoon and Wilco, with the piano-driven urgency of Arcade Fire. These guys are going places — be sure to catch them next time they play in New Orleans.
Generationals. If you don’t think you know this New Orleans-born rock band, you’ve probably heard one of their insanely catchy, retro-twinged songs like “When They Fight, They Fight” in commercials and in movie credits. Despite their national exposure and critical acclaim, band members Ted Joyner and Grant Widmer are still New Orleanians, and they still play shows in the city when they aren’t on tour.
The Honorable South. On their song “Champagne,” Honorable South lead singer Charm Taylor sings the cooly confrontational line, “What do you have to say for yourself today? / You did a whole lot of complaining” before effortlessly transitioning to rapping over wailing guitars. This sums up this band — a high-energy and surprising combination of genres, resulting in a sound that compels you to do something.
Hurray for the Riff Raff. Another homegrown band that’s getting buzz worldwide (they appeared all over critics’ 2014 year-end lists), Hurray for the Riff Raff is fronted by Alynda Lee Segarra, a busker-turned-international folk star. Her lilting vocals belie the hard-hitting content of some of her lyrics, like in “The Body Electric,” a spin on the murder ballad that calls for an end to violence against women. This band also tours internationally, but you can usually catch them at New Orleans venues like Tipitina’s and One Eyed Jacks when they are in town.
Luke Winslow-King. Watching Winslow-King and wife/musical collaborator Esther Rose feels like stepping back into time — it’s almost like what you’re seeing is in sepia tone. The two sharply-dressed musicians sing blues, Americana and jazz music evocative of times past. Perhaps some of the hardest working musicians in New Orleans, Winslow-King, Rose and the rest of the band perform in clubs on Frenchmen Street and across the city, in addition to playing shows all over the world.
Maggie Koerner. Koerner toured as a singer for the New Orleans funk band Galactic, during which time it was widely reported that she stole every show. Like a bluesy Stevie Nicks from the swamp, the Shreveport native has a sultry, haunting voice and a bohemian-cool personal style. Hers is the kind of voice that needs to be heard live. (Check out our 20 Questions with Koerner here.)
Tank and the Bangas. Fronted by Tarriona “Tank” Ball, this R&B/soul band is picking up serious steam as an unforgettable live act. With a background in Baptist church singing and slam poetry, Ball brings soul-stirring energy and passion to her performances.
Sweet Crude. With years of music experience among them — including spots on Jazz Fest stages and on NBC’s The Voice — the seven members of Sweet Crude combine their talents for the individual musicians’ most fun project yet. Flowing in and out of Cajun French and English lyrics with the undercurrent of wild percussion — and usually while wearing coordinating colors — Sweet Crude always looks like they’re having a blast, and you will, too. (Check out Sweet Crude singer Alexis Marceaux’s 20 Questions here.)