Get a taste of these great artists at Jazz Fest, then see them live in local clubs later
Ahh … springtime in New Orleans. That means only one thing for many people: Jazz Fest is here! This year marks the 41st anniversary for this world-renowned festival that celebrates the music, food and culture of our wonderful city. Hundreds of musicians, food vendors and artisans will make this seven-day festival the biggest one ever.
While most music aficionados will sample the various musicians during the day at the Fair Grounds, many will pack our diverse music clubs to feast on the full shows of the various artists. Among the best acts to catch in our famous music halls are some of New Orleans’ own funk/blues/jam fusion artists. Their high-energy shows, electric sounds and cool grooves are best seen with a more intimate crowd of dancing crazies. It is in these more cozy clubs where the artists truly shine.
Here is a list of some of the best local musicians to check out this year, both at Jazz Fest and in the clubs:
Papa Grows Funk
As their name implies, this group brings the FUNK! If you are looking to dance a hole in the floor, PGF is for you. In a city with a rich history of funk bands, PGF embraces the legacy of artists such as the Meters, Dr. John and the Nevilles while continuing to develop the New Orleans funk sound with their contemporaries such as Galactic and the various brass bands that include Rebirth, Soul Rebels and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. You can catch Papa Grows Funk at Jazz Fest on April 24 and also at their “home bar,” the Maple Leaf, on April 23, April 26 and May 3.
Searching for a big brassy funk-rock sound? Then you have to check out Bonerama. Fronted by five trombone players (and backed up by several other instruments), Bonerama brings a wall of groovy sound that shakes the walls and gets the bodies moving in the clubs. Catch the band at Jazz Fest on April 24, at Rock ’n Bowl on April 24 and 30 and at the Maple Leaf on May 2.
Walter “Wolfman” Washington
If you are looking for some classic blues-infused funk grooves, you have to see New Orleans icon Walter “Wolfman” Washington. A master guitar player, Wolfman’s soulful sound will get the most exhausted Jazz Fest enthusiast on the dance floor at his late-night shows. A true local musician, Wolfman can be seen playing with many different well-known New Orleans artists during the weeks of the Fest. Try catching him at the Maple Leaf on April 25 and May 2 and at d.b.a. on April 28 and 30. He also plays at Jazz Fest on Friday, April 23, and Saturday, April 24.
Little Freddie King
For a real blues groove, go see Little Freddy King, one of New Orleans’ true juke-joint legends. Little Freddie’s gut-bucket blues is infused with a heavy helping of funk that gives his music a crowd-pleasing dance vibe. He is a perfect artist to see in an intimate music club such as BJ’s Lounge on April 24 and at d.b.a. on May 1. You can also watch him in the fresh air of Jazz Fest on Friday, April 23.
New Orleans’ most famous ex-cabdriver mixes blues, funk, jazz and a bit of rock ’n’ roll into his rollicking stage shows. While the man can wail out the blues, his cool guitar licks and rhythmic voice gets the audience hopping. This modern-day Muddy Waters is not to be missed! Catch Mem and his band at Le Bon Temps on April 27 and at Jazz Fest on May 1.
Finally, take the time to catch the up-and-coming funky soul singer Mia Borders. Her amazing voice and guitar play reverberates through the clubs she plays. Backed by her high-energy band, her shows are experiences you won’t soon forget. You can see Mia Borders at Jazz Fest on Sunday, May 2, at the Rusty Nail on April 30 and Tipitina’s French Quarter on May 1.