Goodie Basket: AG Writers Pick a Bountiful Bushel at This Year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

Jazzfest 2013

Jazzfest 2013Break out the wide-brimmed  hats, the sunscreen and the boogie. While hordes of  old dudes from Maine descend upon us clothed in short-sleeved button downs emblazoned with crawfish playing trumpets, it must not be forgotten that this festival also belongs to us. After all, it’s our musical  heritage being celebrated here. Below you will  find a healthy list of  artist suggestions from our charmingly diverse staff. It’s a little bit country…a little bit rock’n’roll. And also a little bit fife & drum. After all this time, you should know we would never lead you astray. But  if we do, just meet up at the flagpole.

Friday, April 26th

Gary Clark Jr.
Gary Clark Jr. is my pick strictly due to his live show performances. I first encountered Clark last year at Hangout Fest, when my friends had fallen asleep on the beach. Across the sand, a fierce riff called. His live show delivers high-energy, masculine, unplugged guitar matched with the bluesy ache heard at B.B. King’s show and the Black Keys’ more polished engine. Clark’s latest album, the miserably spelled Blak and Blu, didn’t muster the high energy of his live shows. However, his Jazz Fest performance should be a dynamic one. ––Kate Russell

Saturday, April 27th

Andrew Bird
He might not be a native, but Andrew Bird understands the musical heritage of New Orleans. From his start in the Squirrel Nut Zippers to his guest appearance on Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s Preservation album, he has proven that he has not only the musical chops, but the spirit of jazz and blues residing firmly within his quirky temple. Part of the joy of watching him perform is seeing all his myriad influences bleed together. You’ll get a sparse, yet orchestral track with shrill, bent notes flying of his violin bow, followed by a knee-slapping, hum-along fiddle tune that showcases his trademark whistling. Boring is not a word in this man’s lexicon. ––Erin Hall

Charles Bradley
It says far too much about America today that it wasn’t enough for Bradley to sear his Otis Redding-by-way-of-James Brown- tinged soul sounds into our brains with his beautifully screamed plea for mercy and justice, “The World (Is Going Up In Flames)” – the only way he could really get attention was via his versions of “Heart of Gold” and Nirvana’s “Stay Away.” Once his appearance at Jazz Fest comes around, Bradley will have released a new album, Victim of Love, and will be laying his repertoire on an audience that won’t know what hit them. Make sure you’re in that number. ––Leigh Checkman

Sunday, April 28th

Hurray  for the Riff  Raff
Hurray for the Riff Raff is home! Led by Alynda Lee Segarra (who blessed AG with excellent advice in last month’s Guidance Counseling), HFTRR  has been touring extensively over the past year in support of their latest album, Look Out Mama, and has quickly become one of New Orleans’ most powerful rising stars. Segarra’s plaintive purr soars even in the most packed and noisy venues. Though their roots in indie country-folk are still strong, Segarra has pushed HTFRR into wider terrain, incorporating pop, Southern rock, surf and more. Segarra has a super-natural power to connect with her audience, no matter the size. Seeing HFTRR  live, I alternate between dancing wildly and quietly crying, all under Segarra’s spell. —Sara Pic

Based in Tucson, Arizona, Calexico recently released their seventh album, Algiers, named after our beloved Westbank ‘hood where they recorded the album. It wasn’t a happy accident–– when searching for somewhere to record to give them fresh energy and perspective, Calexico chose New Orleans because of our rich and eclectic musical history. Calexico’s sound is still clearly connected to the place that birthed and sustained them for 22 years, the deserts of the Southwest, but in their new work they have delved into deeper, darker realms. New Orleans always leaves her mark. ––Sara Pic

Honey  Island  Swamp  Band
An “only in New Orleans” story that began outside NOLA, the members of Honey Island Swamp Band all met in the San Francisco Bay Area after escaping Katrina and the federal flood. Though they didn’t know each other in New Orleans, they all wanted to continue to make music and so formed HISB. Their music, like their name, is true swamp funk but with heavy dashes of rock and blues. They moved back home to New Orleans in 2007 but continue to play over a hundred shows a year all over the nation. They are fest faves not just at our own Fess but at jam and blues festivals all over the country. ––Sara Pic

Midnite Disturbers
Stanton Moore and Kevin O’Day use their personal contact list to occasionally summon this brass band whooping stick like a valve and slide Voltron. With a revolving line-up, it is hard to say who will be on stage, but it will be masters of the copper and zinc alloy. With a little luck, Skerik will be there to add the black-metal saxophone sigil that will power up the lip- vibrated collective and force a mega-soul blast that will boil rose mint tea, scorch straw hats and incinerate those still sitting in camp chairs. A Midnite Disturbers set is a rare instance where brass will throw a spark. ––Anton Falcone

Jazzfest KeyThursday, May 2nd

Dee-1 is pretty vocal about his Christianity but hey, nobody’s perfect. The man will tell you that himself. But while a lot of faux-spirituality and bible- thumping can spoil a good hip-hop tune, with Dee’s case it’s just another flavor in his highly textured flow (think early Mystikal with a more NYC b-boy approach). Dee’s religious quest is more on par with Johnny Cash than David Vitter though, as he uses his faith to navigate the barren desert that is today’s mainstream hip-hop, like on the signature track “Jay, 50 and Weezy,” where he respectfully takes down the titans of his industry and asks them to do better things with their power and resources. It might be easy to dismiss Dee’s stance if he were just another gutter-dweller lashing out at the success of other artists, but when you have pals like Mannie Fresh to cut up with you in the studio, it’s clear Dee is on the move and might be in a position to act on his proclamations soon. And where every other rapper on Earth is trying to sell you something these days, it’s nice to hear someone like Dee take the art form back to its roots as an expression of community and street-level observation. And hey, we’re talking Jazz Fest here, so if you can’t take a dose of the good book, you’re in the wrong place. —Dan  Fox

Patti Smith
If you had the misfortune of missing The Godmother of Punk last time she played in New Orleans, don’t make the same mistake again. Still riding a high from her critically-acclaimed 2012 release Banga, the legendary poet/artist/activist is in prime fighting form. Audiences can expect to be treated to a wide sampling of her huge catalog. Selections may lean to her more accessible tracks due to the nature of a festival show, but will still be easily worth the price of admission. If this festival truly is about honoring the heritage of music, you can’t miss seeing the female cornerstone of one of its most influential movements. ––Erin Hall

Friday, May 3rd

The Mavericks
To call the Mavericks “just” a country band is to call the Iguanas “just” a conjunto band; the labels reduce both bands to far less than the sum of their parts and the scope of their sounds. Though it’s only recently that the long- disbanded quintet from Miami got back together, their latest, In Time, reveals that they have returned to form, though that form is, on occasion, schmaltzy and histrionic. Catching The Mavericks  live will be anything but dull and will be guaranteed to get you dancing to old classics like “Dance The Night Away” as well as their latest tunes. ––Leigh Checkman

Jimmy Cliff
A far cry (of pure joy) from the latest records released from your other favorite artists of the 1960s, Jimmy Cliff ’s 2012 release, Rebirth (which  was produced by Operation Ivy and Rancid’s Tim Armstrong) proved that titanium need not be limited to one’s new hip. In fact, if it weren’t for subtle clues like a cover of Rancid’s “Ruby Soho,” you could easily be fooled into thinking Rebirth was a lost gem whose reel-to-reel tapes had been stuffed inside a Red Stripe bottle and buried in the Kingston sand to marinate for 30 years. Perhaps it was Armstrong’s contemporary touch or the return to classic recording techniques or just an inability to become an animatronic version of himself, but Jimmy Cliff has managed to polish his star instead of having it crash into the mountain in his twilight years. Rebirth was the soundtrack to my 2012 summer, so it’s fitting that I break my Jazz Fest moratorium and kick off this summer with a legend who still seems to be in his prime 40 years on.––Kevin Barrios

Nicholas Payton XXX
When Nicholas Payton hasn’t been campaigning via Twitter and other forms of social media to get “Black American Music” (aka #BAM) to supplant “jazz” as the name for what he and many other artists play, he’s been doing what he does all along: making what he would also call “postmodern New Orleans music” and playing it well. Having just dropped #BAM Live At Bohemian Caverns, expect Payton and his XXX players to bring on some inspiring instrumental music. Leave all thoughts of the “j” word behind and open your mind. ––Leigh Checkman

Saturday, May 4th

Sharde  Thomas & the Rising  Star Fife & Drum  Band
This band definitely fits the “Heritage” part of New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. The Rising Star Fife & Drum band formed over the years at Otha Turner’s Hill Country Picnic and Goat Roast in North Mississippi. They are one of the last bastions of traditional fife & drum music, and they will stomp and holler like nothing you’ve heard. Led by Turner’s granddaughter Sharde Thomas, Rising Star captures the full history of Mississippi music, from the Revolutionary War up through the Delta Blues and into the electrified Hill Country Boogie of R.L. Burnside and the North Mississippi Allstars. ––The Rev. Dr. Daniel P. Jackson

Red Stick Ramblers
Eunice, Louisiana is as much a party city as New Orleans. Watching the West Louisiana-based Red Stick Ramblers play their high energy set will make you feel like you are in a simmering cast iron pot of hot damn, drinking your way down the crawfish trail during cajun Mardi Gras, and believing in the wine, women and song ethos that sprouts from the southern silt like long grain rice. Their Cajun roots, Western swing, gypsy jazz repertoire can easily be summed up as pure dance music. ––Anton Falcone

The Little Willies
Norah Jones got together with a bunch of her friends one night and they started playing Willie Nelson tunes. Now they’re a thing. These extremely talented musicians accentuate the jazz/western swing characteristics of the songs they play, more lazy-afternoon-in-the-saloon than roadhouse honky tonk, but they have a ton of fun doing it. And don’t get scared off thinking it’s smooth jazz Norah Jones. The Little Willies burn it down, son! For a fresh take on classics from Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, etc., check these cats out. ––The Rev. Dr. Daniel P. Jackson

This French indie band has been largely quiet since the release of their 2009 breakout hit Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, taking time to tour in support of it and bask in the glow of universal acknowledgement. Thankfully, they’re done basking and ready to hit us with some new material. In April, they will release their fifth studio album, Bankrupt! Their Jazz Fest gig should give them a great chance to break out these new songs and stretch their legs a bit, bestowing us with the honor of being some of the first people to hear the new material live. ––Erin Hall

Frank Ocean
The sweetheart of the OFWGKTA collective serves an original mix of soul searching R&B spirits without concern for the standard pallet. You might get expensive champagne in a plastic cup or a mystic chalice overflowing with André sparkling wine. Frank Ocean’s low-end grooves and unusual orchestrations intoxicate and will then make you wonder, “Was it the contents or the container?” His lyrics are pulled from his experience living high above on an mp3-based cloud of success and buffered with its surges and hardware failures. Ocean’s smooth funk and analog-man-in-a-digital-world jams should get people listening, moving and asking for a sip. ––Anton Falcone

Sunday, May 5th

The Black Keys
The Black Keys make number one on my list because they deliver solid, blues- based rock without becoming boring or predictable. In the last five years, they’ve tightened up their style and honed in on catchy, up-tempo beats. Much of the credit goes to Danger Mouse, the producer behind Attack & Release as well as some of the best albums of the past decade. 2011’s El Camino was a thoughtfully produced romp into pop- rock with powerful, clean hooks and funky guitar. Last year, the Black Keys’ performance of “Lonely Boy” with Dr. John and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band earned them the 2013 Grammy for Best Rock Performance. ––Kate Russell

The 44th annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival will take place at the Fair Grounds Race Course from Friday, April 26th  through Sunday,  April 28th  and Thursday, May  2nd through Sunday, May  5th.  For more info check out