Notes on this year's lineup, including ticket prices and an admriable commitment to reggaeton.

the who photo by rick guest
The Who 2020, by Rick Guest

 Notes on this year’s lineup for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell: 

Thursday, April 23

- This day’s lineup looks like one Festival Productions could pay for with money found in the sofa, but I love seeing Maggie Rogers get what looks like a prime time slot. 

- Nile Rodgers and Chic isn’t really Chic because no one plays bass like Bernard Edwards (and to his credit, the current bassist doesn’t try). Still, this version of Chic killed at Essence Festival in 2014. (I interviewed Rodgers in 2014.)  

- Writer John Swenson has attributed the changing vibe of Jazz Fest to the deaths of a number of artists who defined it for years—Earl King, K-Doe, Snooks Eaglin, Eddie Bo, and Allan Toussaint. Last year, we lost Dr. John, Art Neville and Dave Bartholomew. It’s a good theory, and Thursday offers one of the few chances to see artists from New Orleans greatest R&B generation with The Dixie Cups, Frogman Henry and Carnival Time Johnson on the bill.

- Between now and Jazz Fest, I’ll go through the world performers on YouTube to see who’s who and so should you. 

- Day Rank: 7th

- Ticket: $50 for Louisiana residents at the door. For everyone else, they’re $70 through January 28, $75 through April 22, and $80 at the door. If you want to go to all four days, Jazz Fest will offer a weekend wristband for the first time this year. It is $255 through January 28 and $275 after that or until they run out. 

Friday, April 24

- Lenny Kravitz will close out the Acura Stage, Elvis Costello will close Gentilly, and while Anthony Hamilton has closed Congo Square before, I wonder if he’ll close the Blues Tent and if Big Freedia—the fourth act listed that day—will finally close Congo Square. She gets a rock star reaction every year, and I watch part of her show from the memorial garden to see how far back interest in Freedia travels. Each year, people dance all the way back, and she draws crowd and holds the one that is already there. She’s one of New Orleans’ biggest stars today and deserves to close.

- Jazz Fest has presented a number of Tuareg artists from Niger including Mdou Moctar last year and Bombino a few years before. The first Friday's lineup includes an all-woman trio, Les Filles de Illighadad, which I'm looking forward to. Unless the festival performs sound magic this year, the better place to see them will be the International Pavilion. The sound in the Blues Tent--where will likely also perform--remains punishing, so much so that I didn't know what Moctar's rhythm guitarist did until I saw the band in the International Pavilion.

- Day Rank: 3rd

- Ticket: $70 through January 28, $75 through April 22, and $80 at the door. 

Saturday, April 25

-  Saturdays have been the most loaded days in recent years, and this year is no exception. Still, Saturday’s lineup is the festival in microcosm. The top line includes The Who, The Avett Brothers, H.E.R., The Revivalists, Charlie Musselwhite, and David Sanborn with Randy Brecker. Those artists aren’t playing for free, but that is probably not a particularly expensive list of headliners, certainly compared to some years. Like many days on this year’s lineup, it looks like Saturday can be financially profitable without filling every square inch of the Fair Grounds. It helps that after 2019 and the Old Home Week vibe, this year’s lineup feels fresher. I’m not sure if H.E.R. is a true headliner yet, but I’ll be there to find out. And I like what I’ve heard from her new album.

- Elvis Costello sang Dave Bartholmew’s “That’s How You Got Killed Before” on The Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s 1990 The New Orleans Album. On the same album, Bartholomew spoke for himself on his song, “The Monkey.” Their tribute to Dave Bartholomew should be pretty cool.

- Glad to see Rick Trolsen’s Neslorchestra on the schedule. New Orleans has a great adventurous music community that rarely gets invited to Jazz Fest.

Day Rank: 1st

- Ticket: $80 through January 28, $90 through April 22, and TBA at the door. The higher price for a Saturday ticket is new this year. And does the TBA mean they’re still undecided as to whether Saturday tickets are only going to go up to $95, or is it there because the festival doesn’t want to put it in writing yet that it will have a $100 ticket? 

Sunday, April 26

- By this point in the weekend, I will wonder if we really needed four days this week. Still, an additional day means an additional 50 or so Louisiana acts get paid so I'm not complaining. 

- I wasn’t sure about Brandi Carlile before she played Voodoo last fall, and I'm still not sold on her records. But she was great and rocked much harder than I expected at Voodoo, harder than many of the bands on the bill.

- I’ve written all I have to say about Foo Fighters and will pass on that show, but like most of Sunday’s last acts, they’re not played out as Jazz Fest closers. Particularly when I’m going to have to hustle around to see some Brandi Carlile and Erykah Badu. 

- After last year’s uncompromising Hurray for the Riff Raff set, I look forward to seeing what happens next, and I’m also looking forward to Asleep at the Wheel and the Spencer Bohren tribute.

- Nicholas Payton’s official gig title is “Nicholas Payton 2020,” and the change is truth in advertising. He has been himself at each gig in recent years, but the lineups and instrumentation have been different, and they’ve led his music down some different paths. He’s someone who has become a Jazz Fest must-see to see what he’s up to now.

Day Rank: 5th

- Ticket: $70 through January 28, $75 through April 22, and $80 at the door. If you buy the weekend pass, you save $35 at Early Bird prices, $15 if you planned to stand in line to get a $50 Local Thursday ticket at the door. You’d save $40 if you bought a weekend pass after the Early Bird special had expired. 

Thursday, April 30

- The top line of this second Locals Thursday is pretty strong: The Black Crowes, Jimmy Cliff, Brittany Howard, The War and Treaty, Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials, John Scofield and Dave Holland Duo, Ellis Marsalis and Cimafunk of Cuba.

- Wow. Ronnie Lamarque.

- Despite their names, people are going to walk away from Ranky Tanky and Shinyribs certain that they were their discoveries of the year.

- My interview with AJ Haynes on Seratones’ second album, Power.

Day Rank: 6th

- Ticket: $50 for Louisiana residents at the door. For everyone else, they’re $70 through January 28, $75 through April 29, and $80 at the door. Jazz Fest again offers a weekend wristband: $255 through January 28 and $275 after that or until they run out. 

Friday, May 1

- Lionel Richie. So Biloxi.

- This looks more like a Locals Thursday than either Thursday with Soul Rebels, Aaron Neville, and Irma Thomas in the top line and Leo Nocentelli and Davell Crawford playing James Booker in the second.

- I’m curious about what a Wu-Tang Clan/Soul Rebels collaboration will sound like since their energies don’t obviously line up. I’m also there for it.

- Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes have no signature Jukes left, but based on 2015’s Soultime, they’re similar enough to their late ’70s selves to satisfy. 

- Nice to see Shannon McNally return to Jazz Fest.

- Day Rank: 8th

- Ticket: $70 through January 28, $75 through April 29, and $80 at the door.

Saturday, May 2

- Two good questions top Saturday’s lineup: How much of the Grateful Dead’s reach does Dead & Company share, and how popular is Lizzo? Both will certainly draw, but both have the potential to draw like crazy.

- Last year’s J. Balvin show was woefully underattended, perhaps because Jazz Fest doesn’t reach reggaeton audiences yet. This year as part of the focus on Puerto Rico, it booked Nicky Jam, whose collaboration with Daddy Yankee, “Muévelo,” has racked up more than 42 million views on YouTube since it was released January 7. It will be interesting to see if Jazz Fest audiences will step up for reggaeton and if the festival can connect with its natural crowd. 

-  Swamp pop at Jazz Fest can be hit or miss, but I’m looking forward to Tommy McLain with CC Adcock. 

- Day Rank: 2nd

- Ticket: $80 through February 14, $90 through May 1, and TBA at the door. 

Sunday, May 3

- Are The Lumineers really big enough to headline the Gentilly Stage? I guess so since the Jazz Fest bookers take their gig seriously, but since the Mumford/Edward Sharp folk wave that they rode in on the tail of crested, they’ve been off my radar. 

- John Prine, take two. Let’s hope for better health this year.

- Is Congo Square going to finish with Maze and Kool and the Gang, back to back? I’m not sure the Maze crowds can get bigger, but if they can, that should do the trick.

- Good to finally see Jenny Lewis at Jazz Fest.

- I’m sure the Dr. John tribute is going to be great, but my one concern is the way Jazz Fest tends to rely on the bands that played with the artists the festival pays tribute to, sometimes to the detriment of the show. When Jazz Fest paid tribute to Allen Toussaint, singers and musicians joined his band so that the songs sounded more or less like they would have sounded if Toussaint had been there. The same was largely true for recent tributes to Fats Domino. I suppose that approach honors the artists’ intentions, but it kept the songs from sounding fresh or opening them up to new appreciation. The show will be good if it follows predictable contours and better if it doesn’t. 

- Dayna Kurtz works twice on Sunday, playing as a duo with Robert Mache and with her band, Lulu and the Broadsides, who killed last year. Playing twice seems unusual, but I’m not complaining.

- Day Rank: 4th

- Ticket: $70 through January 28, $75 through April 29, and $80 at the door. If you buy the weekend pass, you save $35 at Early Bird prices, $15 if you planned to stand in line to get a $50 Local Thursday ticket at the door. You’d save $40 if you bought a weekend pass after the Early Bird special had expired.