Our daily battery-saving schedules and guides for this weekend at the Fair Grounds.
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell starts Friday, and it approaches, thoughts inevitably turn to the weather. Friday and Saturday look beautiful, but as of this writing, Weather Underground shows a 70 percent or greater chance of rain with thunderstorms starting at 10 a.m. and continuing into Monday morning. The takeaway: Enjoy Jazz Fest while you can.
For the third year in a row, My Spilt Milk has provided downloadable daily schedules with our picks color-coded on to them. You can download them to your phone and save the battery life spent by opening the festival app.
Some of our picks need no introduction, and Leon Bridges (Friday, Gentilly Stage, 3:10 p.m.) shouldn’t. In case you don’t already know, his take on classic ‘60s soul has an ease that wears very well. Comparisons to Sam Cooke are facile, but when he played Tipitina’s last year, his music didn’t seem retro because he let it and his songs live as if his sound were the coin of the realm today.
Zimbabwe’s Mokoomba (Friday, Congo Square, 3:40 p.m.) should also be cool. The Guardian called the group “the best young band in Zimbabwe,” and when it played in New York last year opening for Bombino, The New York Times' Jon Pareles wrote:
Three songs were only a glimpse of Mokoomba’s capabilities — a glimpse that included a modal ballad with riveting, griot-strength lead vocals from Mathias Muzaza; a song rooted in the thumb-piano patterns of Zimbabwean tradition; and one that started with sweet, Congo-style vocal harmonies and grew into a crisp, irresistible soukous workout, complete with some synchronized dance steps.
We’ve already covered Saturday performers Travers Geoffray (Saturday, Acura Stage, 11:20 a.m.) and Jon Batiste and Stay Human (Saturday, Acura Stage, 3:25 p.m.), and this week’s My Spilt Milk Podcast features a conversation with David Kunian about Pete Fountain (who’ll be honored with a tribute Saturday in the Peoples Health Economy Hall Tent at 4:15 p.m. with Tim Laughlin, Evan Christopher, Wendell Brunious, Band Gibson, and Izzy Hamell).
There aren’t many curveballs on Saturday, but for those who wonder what Usher and The Roots (Saturday, Congo Square, 5:25 p.m.) will sound like, here’s a preview.
If we don’t get washed away, Sunday looks like a good day. We’ve already previewed Boyfriend (Sunday, Gentilly Stage, 12:45 p.m.), and we’ll run an interview with Southside Johnny (Sunday, Blues Tent, 5:35 p.m.) Sunday morning. I’m more interested in Pitbull (Sunday, Congo Square, 5:35 p.m.), who’s set at Jazz Fest in 2015 was the best I’ve seen from him. After a set that had people dancing among the memorial totems a half-pasture away from the stage, I wrote:
Pitbull’s stage presentation displays the sexual poetics of a Univision game show, which I found offputting but not disqualifying. He’s not someone whose music I ever specifically want, but it’s too immediate and hooky to dislike without malice. To his credit, he also did something I suspect Jazz Fest organizers often hope will happen with pop acts that rarely does: He tailored the show to the situation. When he played New Orleans on Super Bowl 2013 weekend, his tracks were the sonic star of the show, and he and his band seemed to do little more than add punctuation and hype. At Jazz Fest, most of the sound seemed to come from the stage, and he played a more Latin music-oriented set than he did in 2013—a plus for someone booked to broaden the festival’s Hispanic appeal.
Cuban reggaeton band Gente de Zona (Sunday, Congo Square, 3:35 p.m.) opens for Pitbull, and the match makes sense. Pitbull made a guest spot on the duo’s 2016 album, Visualizate. The duo’s music is club music more than it’s any specific genre, and its a convincing hybrid if a slightly odd fit at Jazz Fest.