Our highlights for the first Friday of Jazz Fest 2018 in New Orleans.

friday's jazz fest schedule

Friday’s schedule is typical of this year’s Jazz Fest. There’s a lot to see, but it’s not obvious where everybody will be, nor is it obvious who people should see. Among the headliners, Sturgill Simpson is far more relevant in 2018 than Sting or Steel Pulse, but Jazz Fest doesn’t usually put a premium on relevance. After Hamilton, Leslie Odom Jr. may matter more right now than all three.

Here is our downloadable schedule, color-coded with our picks, and we have a few basic principles that aren’t on the grid. 1) See something in Economy Hall; 2) See something in the Gospel Tent; and check out international acts. Principles 1 and 2 get you out of the sun and into a world that likely isn’t yours, and 3 gives you a chance to see something you likely won’t see again. Period. Some acts are Culture On Parade and good for you like flossing, but Jazz Fest does a pretty good job of getting acts that are wrestling with ways to honor their traditions in a contemporary context. It’s the same challenge that the best New Orleans and Louisiana bands manifest in their music, and Sidi Touré of Mali is a good example of that Friday. 

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Here are a few sets we want to make sure are on your radar:

GIVERS (Acura Stage, 12:50 p.m.)

Sidi Touré (Blues Tent, 1:40 p.m.)

Christian Scott a Tunde Adjuah (WWOZ Jazz Tent, 2:50 p.m.)

Big Chief Juan & Jockimo’s Groove (Jazz & Heritage Stage, 4:20 p.m.)

Friday night after Jazz Fest, the clubs are packed like few other nights this year. There isn’t a bad choice to make, including Queens of the Stone Age at the Saenger Theatre, St. Paul and the Broken Bones at The Joy Theater, the first night of the Trey Anastasio Trio at The Civic Theatre, Sweet Crude playing the early show and Boyfriend, the late show at One Eyed Jacks, and the psychedelic guitar freakout of Acid Mothers Temple at Gasa Gasa.  

Mike Dillon’s Punk Rock Percussion Consortium at The Music Box Village (6 p.m. doors)

Ladama at The Hi-Ho Lounge (6 p.m. doors)

Tank and the Bangas, Big Freedia, and The Soul Rebels at Tipitina’s (9 p.m.)

Dumpster Sugar Sex Majik at The Howlin’ Wolf (10 p.m.)