See, every year I’ve gone to this festival, and 2014 will be my third, the trips to the fairgrounds always seem to be based around the notion that there’s also a tons more to do in New Orleans that you don’t want to miss out on while you’re in the city. You have to see some of Jazz Fest “official” (definitely), but there’s a whole set of late-night shows that you can’t miss and it’s hard to do 18+ hour days for more than a few times in your life. So we’d pick the obvious days — Wilco headlining, Arcade Fire headlining, Bruce Springsteen headlining, etc. — and then we’d build the rest of the weekend around the rest of the stuff we could fit in, like taking a day trip to the levees or checking out an amazing restaurant or just resting up for the night ahead in a pool or hot tub of some sort. This year I’ll be hitting the fairgrounds hard for all three days thanks to our friends at Acura, who are making this trip possible for me and letting me experience one of the best festivals in the country on their dime, so read on for my list of Top 10 Obvious Can’t Miss Acts at this year’s festival.
While this isn’t the first time The Avett Brothers have graced the stages at the fairgrounds in NOLA, it’s a big slot for them with the notion that they’ll be playing at 5:30pm on Friday, April 25th on the Samsung Stage, opposite the park to Santana’s headlining set.
To be honest I’m having a hard time with this because I’ve never gotten the chance to actually experience their music first hand live, and they’re playing opposite two other acts I’ve always wanted to see on stage. Like…
9. Public Enemy
Really, Jazz Fest?! Public Enemy needs one of the big stages for realz. Not that I was ever a huge huge fan of the seminal rap pioneers but those are always the best type of artists I seek out at festivals — one that I may not otherwise ever see again or buy a ticket to see individually. I can’t imagine myself getting on the train to go catch a Public Enemy show in Oakland, so I was hoping to get my fix and cross them off my festy list by catching twenty minutes of their set and hopefully “911 is a Joke”.
They’re on at 5:45pm on the Congo Square Stage, which is always a fun scene. I guess I could wander around a little bit in an effort to see all of the three main headliners on Friday, April 25th, but I’d be insane to miss any the next act whatsoever. Tough choices.
I’ll always remember where I was when I first got the entire way through the Live at Fillmore ’68 double-disc set by Santana, and forever since that day I focused way more on the early blues-jazz-psychedelic side of Santana’s catalog as opposed to his recent year forays into mega-pop stardom. I’m a bit worried this set is going to be way too Supernatural heavy, but if I missed “Oye Como Va” live because I didn’t want to see some half-witted version of “Smooth”, that’s just a crime against musical purists and I need to fight through the pain on this one and see the hits. If he has it in him to rock a “Samba De Sausalito” I’d be forever grateful. Set starts at 5:10pm on the Acura Stage on Friday, April 25th.
Two years ago at these same fairgrounds I turned to my friend and told him I needed to get out of the sun (#GingerProblems), so we decided to meet at the Blues Tent after we both took a pit stop and grabbed ourselves a drink. What I stumbled upon really stuck with me, because somehow I sauntered into the misty tent to the sounds of Bombino (of all the times to take a break from the heat). I was completely floored by the West African blues guitar and afro-beat grooves I was hearing on stage, and we stayed until the end of the set and made quick note of this as a set we needed to explore again if given the chance. Amazing music and not to be missed this year; he’ll be back in the Blues Tent at 1:25pm on Sunday, April 27th.
This video above is awful, but it shows the scene I describe so it’s worth of inclusion here. Kinda.
6. Big Freedia
Definitely the biggest star to emerge from New Orleans’s sissy bounce scene, Big Freedia continues to inspire nothing but wobble and booty-claps from her legions of fans; she and her crew blew up this whole “twerk” phenomenon years before anyone else was letting it stick out so far like she was. I also saw her set a few years back and while the clip below isn’t all that great, seeing this rock the Congo Stage in the middle of a bunch of old timers made for some quality entertainment. I’ll definitely be wishing I was at this set for when it goes down, but I’ll be staking out a good spot for Phish’s headlining set across the park.
Anders Osborne is definitely the first set I’ll be really hunkering down for and paying attention to, mostly because I’ve had to miss a lot of the other chances I’ve had to see him when he’s played other festivals I’ve attended. I caught him for a moment or two the last time I was in New Orleans but based on the reviews coming out of my friends’ mouth, I need to really focus in on the set (which won’t be a problem considering it’s pre-Phish). He’s on at 2pm on the Acura Stage on Saturday.
4. Eric Clapton
Even though the boys in Vampire Weekend are cute and all, there’s just no chance I’ll ever see myself at a standalone Eric Clapton concert any time in the near future. I can’t wait to see if old Slow Hand makes it through the back catalog or if he sticks to the deep swampy blues he’s studied so deeply.
The set begins at 5:25pm on Sunday, April 27th. Here’s for hoping we get “I Shot The Sheriff” in full reggae-blues glory.
The boys in Galactic always get an absolutely bumping schedule together for Jazz Fest, with Stanton Moore usually playing at least three unique shows per day between that project and his trios or duos or whatever else it is he feels like doing. This year will be no exception with the band dropping their beats and horns on the Samsung Stage on Sunday at 3:30pm.
They always bring a really cohesive set to the main stage as opposed to the multiple sit-ins per song that you may expect when seeing them at a spot like Tip’s. Can’t wait for this one.
If there was any year my friend would just whimsically set New Orleans for his bachelor party, it would be the year that Phish headlines after their initial time here back in 1996. And if there’s any time in the band’s history where we wouldn’t expect much of a caravan into New Orleans to see the band and see the caravan ruin the locals’ expectation of a good time, it’d be the Phish of 2014 and 3.0. The band will get the longest set timing in the festival’s history and it’s going to be a big one. I’m not sure what else to say really, I’m keeping any other expectations I have on this one close to the chest. Hoping for an obvious “Gumbo”, “Water in the Sky” and hopefully a sit-in or two that none of us could possible predict before it all starts.
Hope you all got your Page and The Meter Men tickets because that one sold out fast.
Phish may be our #1 musically, but the food at the fairgrounds deserves to take the top honors. Crawfish Monica might be the best food item you can buy at the fairgrounds with a close tie with the crawfish pockets. This is a must-eat can’t-miss stand and always perched closest to the main Acura Stage area, clearly a fan favorite year after year. It will likely be the first thing I eat when I arrive at the fairgrounds. Sure, bloggers get a bad rep for being a little wide around the midsection but I’ll be sweating it off plenty in the hot, humid NOLA. Music can’t be the only reason we want to go to Jazz Fest anyway. See you in line!
Note: thanks to a partnership with Acura for offering up access for this year’s festival for me and the LIVE team.