Two local festivals have no shortage of great music actsIf you rarely get out to sample the fabulous and varied music the city has to offer, now’s your chance to indulge. With the French Quarter Festival and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival falling within weeks of one another, there’s a plethora of music to enjoy—by both local and national artists. Here are a few local gems that can be found performing sets at both festivals.
Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue
Old-time country, rockabilly and vintage honky-tonk is what vocalist Vanessa Niemann (a.k.a. Gal Holiday) brings to the table with her band mates Dave Brouillette (upright bass and fiddle), Dave James (guitar) and James Clark (drums). Counted among their influences are Helen Hall, Hank Williams Sr. and Patsy Cline. Holiday performs traditional tried-and-true covers (often preempting performances with a little dose of country music history) with original tunes, like the bluegrassy “I’m Comin’ Home,” that tap into her rural roots.
French Quarter Festival/ Harrah’s Louis-Louis Pavilion Stage, April 17, 12:45 p.m.; Jazz Fest/ Children’s Tent, April 30, 5:15 p.m.
Walter “Wolfman” Washington & the Roadmasters
An iconic figure on the New Orleans music scene, cool cat Walter “Wolfman” Washington offers up searing guitar licks that blend R&B, blues and funk. His vocals may not always be easily understood, but the way he howls out lyrics gets the feeling across, and the depth and power of his music is unmistakable. Washington got his career started as a teen in the 1950s backing legendary players Lee Dorsey, Ernie K-Doe and Johnny Adams. Last year, Walter “Wolfman” Washington & the Roadmasters—bass player Jack Cruz, drummer Kevin O’Day, saxophonist Jimmy Carpenter, trumpeter Antonio Gambrell, guitarist Cristian Duque and keyboardist Judd Nealson—released their latest album, a soulful tribute to New Orleans titled Doin’ the Funky Thing. With tracks like “Crescent City Starlights,” “Wolf Jazz” and “I’m Back” (featuring Dr. John on organ), there’s no doubt you’ll be blown away at the force of what this seasoned band can do.
Catch them at French Quarter Festival/Abita Stage, April 17; Jazz Fest on April 25, performing a special set with Joe Krown and Russell Baptist Batiste Jr., and on May 1.
Big Sam’s Funky Nation
It’s party-till-you-drop, feel-good brass music that hooks and reels you in. Onetime trombonist for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Big Sam Williams knows how to rock the crowd and get them moving. The Funky Nation—trumpeter Andrew Baham, keyboardist Adam Matasar, guitarist Casey Robinson, bassist Eric Vogel, and drummer MILK—fronted by Big Sam’s husky vocals and exuberant showmanship, plays a heavy bass, horn-driven improvisational style of big band funk.
Catch them at French Quarter Festival/ Abita Stage on April 17, 6:15 p.m.; Jazz Fest on April 25.
MORE JAZZ FEST PICKS
FRIDAY, APRIL 24
Wynton Marsalis—Catch this smooth trumpeter, composer and jazz historian while he’s visiting his hometown.
Drive-By Truckers and Booker T. Jones (possibly also featuring Neil Young)—Southern rock meets Southern soul.
Tab Benoit—Houma singer and guitarist plays a mean mix of Cajun swamp rock, soul, and Chicago blues.
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue—Hipster trombone and trumpet player Troy Andrews leads a brash new style of brass-funk-pop.
Tribute to Mahalia Jackson featuring Irma Thomas, Mavis Staples and Pamela Landrum—Soulful sirens pay homage to the gospel queen.
Lost Bayou Ramblers—Passionate, youthful and exuberant Louisiana Cajun romp.
SATURDAY, APRIL 25
Galactic—Heavy funk jams with layers of hip-hop, rock and jazz.
Erykah Badu—Neosoul. Badu’s voice is melodic and bluesy, à la Billie Holiday.
Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk—Heavy, sludge funk under the raspy soulful vocals of Neville.
SUNDAY, APRIL 26
Dave Matthews Band—A folksy world-pop blend underscored by Matthews’ distinctive vocals and introspective lyrics.
Orishas of Cuba—Hip-hop rhymes and harmonizing layered over classic Cuban beats.
Hugh Masekela—South African jazz and world-fusion beats.
Native Nations Intertribal With Hoop Dancer Lyndon Alec—Choral and solo chants and song, percussive elements (drums and rattles), highlighted by the difficult hoop dance by one of the last remaining Alabama-Coushatta Indians.
THURSDAY, APRIL 30
Ben Harper & Relentless7—Fiery feel-it-in-your-gut, hard-rocking blues. Stick around for the Zeppelin and Prince covers.
Solomon Burke—Rhythm and blues spiked with gospel and soul from the Preacher Man.
Meter Men: Zig, George and Leo—Three of the original Meters. Need I say more?
Sunpie & the Louisiana Sunspots—Eclectic blend of Louisiana zydeco and Afro- Caribbean jams to make your body move.
FRIDAY, MAY 1
Sugarland—Upbeat country rock with lead vocals reminiscent of Loretta Lynn.
Common—Socially conscious underground hip-hop with an old-school dance feel.
BeauSoliel avec Michael Doucet—2009 Grammy winners blend Cajun, zydeco, jazz, Tex-Mex, country and blues into a rich brew.
SATURDAY, MAY 2
Dr. John—Entertainer of the year, this piano man is the epitome of New Orleans rhythm and blues.
Bon Jovi—American pop metal with a sultry lead singer blessed with good looks and a knack for writing catchy songs.
Kings of Leon—Southern garage rock ’n’roll.
New Orleans Klezmer Allstars—Raucous and funky Jewish folk music.
SUNDAY, MAY 3
Neville Brothers—Homegrown R&B.
Neil Young—Folk rock with elements of rock and country underscored by Young’s distinctive guitar work and falsetto voice.
Los Lobos—Mexican Tejano, bluesy rock ’n’ roll.
The Genius of Sidney Bechet: A Tribute featuring Bob Wilber, Dr. Michael White and Brian Cayolle—Jazz great Bechet played a tight, improvisational style of classic Dixieland.
RIP: Famed New Orleans singer and guitarist Snooks Eaglin was slated to play closing day of Jazz Fest 2009. Sadly, he died of a heart attack on February 18.