Where should you be on Sunday, besides Jack White and Frankie Beverly and Maze?
This year’s Jazz Fest has rarely felt urgent, and it ends that way too. Frankie Beverly and Maze and the Steve Miller Band are feel-good acts for two different audiences, and Calexico’s cultural capital was strongest in the early 2000s. Of the big name, visiting acts, only Jack White is still working through new (for him) ideas, even if he’s doing them in a “Fuck the 21th Century” kind of way.
The only down side of that though, is that the festival doesn’t feel like as much of an event because a slightly smaller Jazz Fest is a lot of fun. Everything is accessible and the crowds are manageable. A day at the Fair Grounds felt like a day at a festival, which is sensible.
I expect I’ll finish my festival at Trombone Shorty because his Jazz Fest shows have demonstrated some kind of growth each year for the last decade. Over the years, we’ve been able to see the players in Orleans Avenue improve and come together as a band. We’ve seen Shorty become more of a band leader. More of a performer. A stronger singer. A better front man. Even in a cold downpour in 2016 after Neil Young’s Crazy Horse-like set, Shorty showed his commitment to his own artistic growth. The question going into this year is simply how he’ll improve.
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.
Here are a few sets we want to make sure are on your radar:
At Jazz Fest
Joe Dyson (WWOZ Jazz Tent, 12:20 p.m.)
Lakou Mizik (Jazz & Heritage Tent, 1:35 p.m.)
Bill Kirchen (Lagniappe Stage, 3:15 p.m.)
Terence Blanchard (WWOZ Jazz Tent, 4:05 p.m.)
Calexico (Sheraton New Orleans Fats Do Do Stage, (5:45 p.m.)
Later That Night
George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic at the House of Blues (8 p.m.)