Our Top Late-Night Picks for Jazz Fest 2014

April means a lot of different things to many people: taxes are due, Coachella, 4/20, Easter, the beginning of baseball season, but round here at LIVE headquarters it means above all Jazz Fest time! Ever since I finally made it to Jazzfest (and New Orleans) for the first time five years ago, it has become a yearly ritual, an early start to summer, a music lover’s wet dream, and something that I couldn’t bear to miss…but know full well that one of these years I will have to. But that year is not to be 2014, and with friends descending upon the city in record numbers, NOLA fever is at an all time high.

Justin’s covering the overall awesomeness of the fairgrounds, so I’m tackling our picks for the can’t miss late-night shows of this year’s 10-day bonanza.

Friday April 25th: The Metermen w/ Page McConnell @ Republic
This show sold out almost instantly, but those lucky enough to have scored tickets will get not only their first of many renditions of “Fire on the Bayou” and “Hey Pocky Way”, but also the all-too rare treat of the Marco Benevento Duo opening. No, not THAT duo, but a duo nonetheless, as Jazz Fest king Stanton Moore will be on the skins. Sure, the venue leaves a lot to be desired, but what better way is there to get in the Nawlins spirit and kick off the late night concert series with New Orleans (and Phish) royalty?

Saturday April 26th: The M&Ms @ Tipitina’s
Simply put, if John Medeski is on stage, we’ll be there. Put him on the Tipitina’s stage with Galactic’s rhythm section and Papa Mali, and you’ve got yourself a pretty nifty late night gumbo. As the slogan goes, M&Ms melt in your mind, not in your hands.

Sunday April 27th: The Word @ The Joy Theater, Worship My Organ @ Blue Nile
Pick your poison. The sacred steel gospel stylings of supergroup The Word, or the organ groove heavy improv of Worship My Organ. The Word consists of the North Mississippi Allstars, John Medeski and Robert Randolph. Due to the touring commitments with their respective bands these guys only get to play together once in a blue moon, so its no surprise the show is sold out, but going over to Frenchman Street and watching Adam Deitch, Robert Walter, Marco Benevento, DJ Logic and Skerik work their magic is a damn fine consolation prize.

Monday April 28th: Darkwave @ Maison
The trio of John Medeski, Skerik, and Adam Deitch now have a name, and they have dubbed themselves Darkwave. Their 90-minute improv set on Jamcruise 11 was the standout highlight of that year’s sailing, and I’ve been jonesing for round 2 ever since. Last Medeski post, I swear (looks like he’s leaving town after this gig).
Here’s some footage from 2 years back, but my guess it won’t sound anything like this at all. www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7nVlAUj3ik

Tuesday April 29th: Johnny Vidacovich, James Singleton, and Mike Dillon @ Blue Nile Balcony Room
It’s not a successful Jazzfest until you’ve had a serving of crawfish monica and caught Johnny Vidacovich behind the kit. This trio of drums, bass and vibes self-released one of my favorite albums of last year and while your feet might not be moving the whole time, I’m confident they will be an absolute joy to watch. Besides, by this point your feet will likely be glad for the rest. Pro-tip: if you ask nicely you might get a “Doctor Watson” or “I Don’t Know”.

Wednesday April 30th: Megalomaniacs Ball @ Howlin Wolf
While it looks like this year’s Garage a Trois hosted classic will be Skerik-less going forward, everyone knows this is the place to be the Wednesday before weekend 2 officially kicks off. Each member of GaT takes the stage with another one of their bands before the main event around 1am. This tradition unlike any other will only be sweetened with Yojimbo and Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey playing in the side room. The annual Bear Creek All-Stars superjam with The Nth Power opening at One Eyed Jacks makes the decision a bit tougher, but seasoned veterans should be able to catch most of both gigs.

Thursday May 1st: ALL OF THE SHOWS
On a day like this, the options are endless and there really is no right answer. Get your twang fix with Greensky Bluegrass and Anders Osborne at Tipitina’s, catch a rare Toubab Krewe Grateful Dead cover set at the Blue Nile, hit up the annual Jamcruise sponsored Royal Family Ball with Lettuce, Soulive, and Dr. Klaw and learn the lineup for Jamcruise 13, brass it up with the Soul Rebels at Le Bons Temps, get down to Kool Keith, Mannie Fresh and Chali 2na spit old school hip-hop at Howlin Wolf, or catch soul brother Charles Bradley mack on the ladies at One Eyed Jacks with Hooray for the Riff Raff opening up. One of the great things about Jazzfest is there really is something for everyone — even the superfreaks can get their groove on, as Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe is presenting a night of Rick James, bitch!

Friday May 2nd: FIYA FEST @ Mardi Gras World
It’s rare that we’d steer you away from the Fairgrounds during the daytime, but with a lineup too big to repeat here with names like Maceo, George, Ivan, Karl, Rahzel, Bernie and Fred on the bill, nothing more needs to be said. The good folks over at FiyaWerx Productions host this crawfish boil every year as a benefit for Roots & Music, and have had the good sense to expand the proceedings to 3 stages for maximum funkage. While there won’t be an open bar like there was last year, the crawfish remains and the ticket price is still a steal.

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Saturday May 3rd: The Royal Potato Family’s 5th Birthday Celebration @ Blue Nile
Marco Benevento’s in-house — and LIVE’s favorite — indie record label is celebrating their 5th birthday in style! Home to Garage a Trois, Superhuman Happiness, Yellowbirds, Robert Walter’s 20th Congress, Willie Sugarcapps and American Babies, among many other incredible artists, it’s no secret that we’ve spilled a lot of digital ink on the RPF roster over the years. This year’s celebration will be headlined by Marco’s trio with special guest sit-ins from Mike D, Carly Myers, Stuart Bogie and Steven Bernstein. Labelmates JFJO will open the proceedings taboot! Check out some of the highlights from last year’s bash and bring your party hats.

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Sunday May 4th: Stanton Moore Trio & Frequinox @ d.b.a.
Another Jazzfest tradition as of late, d.b.a has played host to the Stanton Moore Trio and Frequinox as back-to-back headliners on the last night of the Fest. You’d be hard pressed to come up with a more cohesive trio than Moore, Robert Walter and Wil Bernard — their sets never disappoint. Add saxophonist Donald Harrison and bassist Rob Mercurio to the mix and you’ve got the quintent known as Frequinox. The party has to come to an end sooner or later, but Frequinox (along with d.b.a.’s top-notch whiskey selection) will be sure to close it out in swingin’ style.

Of course, these are just our recommendations and where you’ll likely find the LIVE crew. If these tips don’t float your boat, remember to always let Jazz Fest Grids be your guide, and when in doubt, head to The Maple Leaf.

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See you in the Po Boy line!