After a nearly three-year hiatus, the time has finally come for the return of the beloved New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, also known as Jazz Fest, taking place April 29-May 1 and May 5-May 8. Founded in 1970, the (typically) annual festival has become a wondrous can’t-miss event that boasts all of the amazing local music, food, and art that New Orleans has to offer, with the goal of wholly representing New Orleans culture. While it unfortunately falls during the finals period for those of us here at Tulane, that certainly will not be stopping anyone from heading out to the Fair Grounds Race Course these upcoming two weekends and wandering around in ignorant bliss. That being said, with such a large variety of musical artists to entertain, sometimes it’s hard to know where to even begin. Luckily for you, I have curated a highlight reel of a playlist to get you prepared, and have listed below some insanely talented artists that I believe are going to make your Jazz Fest experience all the better. Here are the musicians I absolutely love from Week 1 – stay tuned for Week 2!
Friday, April 29
We’re starting off strong with Sweet Crude, a dynamic, electrifying band that fully immerses you into their music. While the members often switch off between English and ‘Louisiana French’ lyrics, it is easy to get hooked by their rhythmic pop/alternative indie tunes that will get you movin’ and groovin’. The perfect example of this is their latest release, “Take It Back,” a banger that would be criminal not to play during their set. In any of their songs, each member of the band leaves it all on the table with emotion pouring from all sides, leaving you feeling exhilarated and joyous.
New Orleans-based ‘rap cabaret’ artist Boyfriend will always be two steps ahead of what you expect and will impress you at every turn. Always full of surprises and guaranteed to put on a positively wild show, Boyfriend’s boldness and cleverness are witnessed both in her lyrics that incorporate powerful social commentary, and her unique performance attire that inspired a Mardi Gras parade float. There is no end to her wide range of song production and mix of genres, as made evident by her execution within the varied yet equally replayable songs “Jealousy,” “Soulmate,” and her latest release, “Superman.” If you’re looking for an artist that will simultaneously empower you and encourage you to let loose, Boyfriend’s show is the place to be.
Saturday, April 30
Aside from being The Revivalists’ frontman, David Shaw has a solo career that elevates his star-power even further. The raw vocal ability and strength that Shaw possesses is augmented by mastery production, simple yet hypnotizing background vocal arrangements, and perfectly harmonious instrumentals. Most of his songs fall within a good mix of rock n’ roll and R&B/blues, bound to make for a set that is both profound and thrilling. All of the songs from his standout debut album are infectiously catchy and overall just a vibe, but some of my personal favorites are “Shaken,” “Heavy Soul,” “Promised Land,” and “Something to This Feeling.”
Kristin Diable (& The City)
Americana music never sounded so good. Kristin Diable has one of those voices that is both haunting and soothing, one that will stand the test of time. She is no stranger to Jazz Fest, as this will be her and her band’s 10th anniversary performance with the festival. When you go back and watch some of her past performances, it’s easy to see why Diable keeps getting invited back; her lively spirit and vocal sincerity easily transitions from studio to stage. Her songs “Time Will Wait” and “I’ll Make Time For You” showcase her powerhouse abilities that are perfectly in tune with compelling melodies and strong percussion.
Sunday, May 1
Indian funk band Cha Wa is where the heart of New Orleans music lies. “My People” marvelously demonstrates how the group honors the traditional sound and genre while contributing playful freshness and originality. If their impressive ‘stripped-down’ NPR Tiny Desk Performance gives any hint to how they perform within a festival setting, I would say it’s safe to expect a raucous, rich celebration that features their signature horns and thrilling group artistry. PopMatters nailed it on the head when they described Cha Wa’s music as “a grand gumbo of singing, chanting, intoxicating rhythms, & some deep funk grooves that are simply impossible to resist.”
Last but not least, I couldn’t help but include one of my favorite local artists that is a staple for many of our very own WTUL New Orleans student DJs. Maggie Koerner’s resonant bluesy voice, gritty musical composition, and introspective lyrics come together to form an intimate, emotionally-charged atmosphere that is singular and without equal. It is clear when watching past live performances that she was born to perform, as her delightful passion for it is palpable even through a screen. Having recently dropped her newest album “The Bartholomew Songs,” she has a fresh repertoire that is skillfully outstanding and in need of more recognition. Seriously, this is no-skip album material.
Featured Image Via Douglas Mason
Ally Koeppel is a sophomore Communications major with a double minor in Psychology and SLAM. Every free moment in her life consists of obsessing over TV/film, listening to music, absorbing podcasts, or becoming too invested in pop culture - and she wouldn't have it any other way.