Break out the sundresses, floppy hats and sunglasses hanging on croakies — Jazz Fest is finally here. One of the most fabulous things about Jazz Fest is its diversity — the music, the food, the art, the crowds. At this festival, you’re sure to get a little bit of everything. You have so many important choices, so we are here to help you get your game plan started. Here are my top picks for food and music at the first day of the 2014 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on Friday, April 25.
Jazz Fest Artists
At Jazz Fest, I want a little bit of everything from the big national acts to the amazing local talent. I want to hear some traditional New Orleans Jazz — it just wouldn’t be right without it. But I also want the up-and-comers I can gush about to my hipster friends in conversations about great music they’ve probably never heard of. Then, picking a headliner for this night of the fest is a doozy. You’re choosing between Santana, The Avett Brothers and Public Enemy — all huge names, all completely different. Decide based on your mood, your musical preferences, your proximity, or just what feels right that day. Do you feel like leaving the fest feeling hyped and ready for the next six days or mellow and chilled out?
I prefer to bounce around and see as much as I can when I’m at a festival. Here is my music itinerary for the first day of Jazz Fest 2014.
Brass-A-Holics: Congo Stage Square, 1:40-2:35 p.m.
These dudes are kind of awesome. They have everything: soul, percussion, killer voices, keyboard, electric guitar and (obviously) brass. It’s a unique fusion of Jazz, rock, funk, R&B and hip-hop and you’ll hear tunes by everyone from John Coltrane to Kanye West. This is going to be a fun show, y’all.
Sasha Masakowski: Lagniappe Stage, 2:35-3:30 p.m.
Sasha Masakowski, a NOCCA and UNO-trained New Orleans girl, is a can’t-miss. She’s smooth, sexy and sultry. She’s old school and modern at the same time, transcending genres and eras. You can also catch her regular Tuesday night performances at Gasa Gasa.
Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra: Zatarain’s/WWOZ Jazz Tent, 4-5:20 p.m.
Come on. You have to see Irvin Mayfield at Jazz Fest. The man is basically Jazz Fest in human form. Mayfield has become a well-known and respected icon for Jazz and the city of New Orleans. There’s a good reason he was appointed as the cultural ambassador of New Orleans. Don’t miss him.
The Avett Brothers: Samsung Galaxy Stage, 5:30-7:00 p.m.
These folksy Carolina boys will melt your heart. They’re sweet, simple and have a satisfying repertoire of love songs — absolute perfection for a dusk headlining spot at an outdoor festival. After a long day of eating, drinking and festing, who doesn’t want to cap off their night with four folk gods crooning, “You’re mine and that’s it, forever”? I’ll be catching The Avett Brothers from 5:30 – 6:15 p.m.
Public Enemy: Congo Square Stage, 5:45-7 p.m.
After seeing the first part of The Avett Brothers’ set, I’ll head over to wrap up my Jazz Fest Day One experience with Public Enemy from 6:15 – 7:00 p.m. The hip-hop crew emceed by Flavor Flav has been fighting the power since the ‘80s and was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I caught Public Enemy at Buku Music and Art Project last year, and their set was full of awesome, unexpected mash-ups including The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.” They’re loud and intense and want to make sure you hear what they have to say. I have no doubt Public Enemy will be able to get the Jazz Fest crowd on its feet.
Jazz Fest Food
Finally, the food! Possibly/probably my favorite part. There are so many unique dishes calling my name, I can’t wait to revisit my old favorites and become acquainted with some I’ve never tried, including a food vendor that’s new to Jazz Fest this year!
Jazz Fest is incomplete without crawfish bread from Marksville’s Panaroma Foods. The French bread, gooey cheese, tasty and perfectly seasoned crawfish — I’m drooling just thinking about it. This is one Jazz Fest food you must try before leaving.
After conducting extensive research, I’ve found that the No. 1 festival refresher is a plastic cup of fresh-squeezed lemonade. Both Joyce’s Lemonade and Café Reconcile have you covered.
For a snack, I’m ordering boudin balls from Papa Ninety Catering. Fried, spicy, hearty Cajun goodness awaits you.
Special Fest Finds
I’ve seen the charming Ms. Linda reign supreme on Food Network’s “Chopped,” but I haven’t had her signature ya-ka-mein. That’s a problem I’m going to solve very soon, and you should, too, if you haven’t had it. Ms. Linda’s ya-ka-mein is highly sought-after and, since you can’t find her at a restaurant, her signature dish is a must-have at any New Orleans festival she pops up at.
This year’s cultural exchange is a celebration of Brazil, and in honor of that, Carmo is serving three traditional Brazilian dishes. They all sound delicious, but I’m going with the acarajé, which is a black-eyed pea fritter with shrimp and spicy cashew sauce.
Illustration by Lydia Mulero