A Guide to Jazz Fest 2018: The First Weekend

Jazz Fest: Day 1, Friday April 27

Dis or Dat . . . A plan for when you just can’t decide...

Grab your gear, hop on your bike and its off for the first day of the 2018 Jazzfest.  This year, thanks to a load of requests for me to repeat my daily “fest foray” I’m happy to oblige.

For those of you who just need a loose plan. Use this to get you going in the right direction. As we all know the music moves you, the crowd takes you and it’s inevitable that you’ll run into friends old and new that will guide you along to a memory making day full of unforgettable Jazzfest fun.

So do some of dis. Eat some of dat. And get out there and dance your ass off ‘cause the Fest is counting on you!

Skip this if you are a fest fanatic . . .

So, this is your first fest. Be prepared for extremes or at least look at the daily forecast. You’ll want to be cute, chic, practical, memorable, portable, and comfortable. Yeah. It’s that serious.

Sunglasses. Check. Sunscreen. Check.

Backpack with lightweight rain gear, sealable plastic bags for your cellphone, wallet, keys, money. Phone charger and extra charge bank. And, rain boots. ‘cause if it pours rain overnight the fairgrounds turn into a sloppy mess and the boots are a must. And, while you are at it, through in an extra pair of socks.

Not much shuts down jazzfest (high wind and lightening, that’s it) So it can be so watery that Lake New Orleans forms in the infield and it’s c’est la vie and lasses les bon temps rouler. So you can rouler the day away pack your fanny pack full, tighten down your backpack and grab your favorite sunhat and get on down to the Fairgrounds – it’s festival season.

Dis and Dat Day...

So in keeping with the theme “Dis of Dat” we compiled a day of choices. It was difficult because there isn’t one musician, one stage that we couldn’t open our lawn chair, plant our flag, toss the blanket and stay for the day. But we know some of the best days are spent moving from stage to stage. And, that’s good for a little bit of dis and a whole lot of dat....

And, were off...


Michael Skinkus & Moyumba , Jazz & Heritage Stage @11:20a-12:15p

The first time I saw master percussionist Michael Skinkus was 20 years or so ago on Frenchman Street at Café Brasil on a Sunday evening. Even my untrained ear knew what he was doing as a musician was special.This project is a fusion conducted by Skinkus bringing jazz aesthetics to ancient Yoruba ceremonial rhythm in the form of original compositions. Pair that with the line up of singers that usually included one of my favorite female vocalists Margie Perez and you’ll start your Jazzfest right with some music that will vibrate your soul.

Mykia JovanCongo Square Stage @11:25-12:20

Its NOCCA alum and native New Orleanian Mykia’s Jazzfest debut. Mykia delivers an affectation on Jazz standards sitting back on her deliveries until she pulls the big gun of her range out of her back pocket and reels you in. Is it jazz? Is it the blues? Is it 2018 or 1940? Naw. It’s just Mykia doing her thang. And, who cares about all that anyway . .. maybe you’ll just be in the presence of future greatness, style and a new breed of New Orleans’ female musical talent rising up from Frenchman Street hangouts and on to a national audience? Be there to cheer her on and maybe in 30 years you’ll say, I was there the first time!


Eric Lindell, Gentilly Stage @12:30-1:30

Lindell is not a native son, but he adopted New Orleans as his home base around 1999 about the time his career took off. He headlines and he “backlines” with the likes of the who’s who of NOLA’s musical gentry collaborating with his peers is not unusual. Lindell’s genre is somewhere between “America Blues” and “Blue Eyed Soul” you know like Hall and Oates. But don’t let that color your opinion just yet. Lindell is his own captain. He can teeter between delivering a bona fide country tome as in his song “In The Country” but he’ll  turn that upside down with songs like “Lay Back Down” and “See Me Through”. Lindell walks the line perfectly.

Meschiya Lake and The Little Big Horns, Blues Tent @12:30-1:20

The first time I heard Meschiya Lake sing I was in awe. It was a fall evening in a pop up speak easy in the Marigny and she stood on the makeshift stage and sang “jolene.” Just her and her guitar. It was magic. And, that’s what I’ve come to expect when Lake and her posse the Big Horns roll on stage. She is studied, poised, relaxed and leads like a boss. A lady boss that is. The collaboration of The Big Horns began in 2009 and if time is magic then let’s let time march on with all of us in town soaking up Lake’s style and The Big Horns . . .well big delivery. It’s almost a not to be missed set.


Alexey MartiWWOZ Jazz Tent @1:30-2:25

It’s Cuba. It’s New Orleans.  It’s so mesmerizing. And, it can only be one musician, Alexey Marti. Marti brings the cool to conga. You can sense he is a traditionalist. But, Marti will surprise you with his intensity and passion as he lovingly coaxes the rhythms and cadences that move one to dance, sway and receive the music as an emotion as well as a sound.  Alexey is the real deal. And, if you want to get real hang out for Marti’s set.


Davell Crawford, Acura Stage @2:15-3:15

Davell Crawford on the big stage. I don’t know if I can take it! One things for sure, if you haven’t had the pleasure of hearing and seeing Mr. Crawford I suggest you stake your claim at the Acura stage so you can experience a real entertainer, a real piano player and a real fashion icon. First of all Crawford is just a delight. He always looks like he loves what he is doing. His vocals make you want to sing along but dare not because you are going to miss what you came for – he is a master. I don’t care if he plays oldies, his own compositions or runs through gospel like an Easter Sunday preacher. Crawford is a master. And, you will be blown away.


Dirty Dozen Brass BandCongo Square @3:35-4:45

I just have to . . .it’s Jazzfest in New Orleans and you must see a real brass band. And, the Dirty Dozen is sure to keep it real. The original line up came together back in the late 70’s. The DDBB’s influence lies in their being the first brass band to meld in funk and be bop to their repertoire. So the next time you run into a brass band on the corner and they are sampling and filling in you know where it came from. So DDBB are innovators on the scene and although the lineup has changed through the years the sensibility, talent,  fun and excitement hold true. Besides, it’s the sound of New Orleans. And it doesn’t get better than this.


Samantha FishBlues Tent @4:15-5:20

This lady is a phenom. She is killing it on the blues guitar and if that weren’t enough her vocals are just stunning. If and when Bonnie Raitt feels like passing the torch, she better find Ms. Fish and hand it over to her directly because this lady is knocking it down. If you are a blues fan whatsoever, you have to be here.   


What not to miss...

Palm Court Jazz Band at Economy Hall
Dancing Grounds Youth at the Kid’s Tent
Alexis and The Samurai at the Lagnaippe Stage
Bobby Rush interviewed by Scott Billington
Luther Kent interview with Marc Stone
Back to Back on the Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage

Dis is Where all the Dats Will Be...

StingAcura Stage @5:35pm-7pm

Sting, because if you never have...you should see them at least once. Right? What else could I empart here. It’s all been said. All been written. So , I was wondering what I could help out with here. And, it’s the set list. And, this is what I discovered . . . its a little bit of old, a little bit of new and a few cool surprises. Or not because I’m going to spoil it if you read on – jus’ sayin. If all holds true, Sting should start off with a set list that should include favorite Police tomes like Synchronicity and Spirits in the Material World to the epimonyous Every Little Things She Does in Magic.

Of course Fields of Gold, Shape of my Heart, So Lonely, Walking on the Moon, a David Bowie cover – Ashes to Ashes  along with others will fill in the set like the glue that holds us to Sting and reminds us when we first fell in love with the Police or when we discovered that he was strong enough to stand alone in all his musicianship.

And expect the set to end with Roxanne, the song that really started it all. Sting does plan for two encores – Next  to You in all its reggae inspired glory in the first and if you can coax him back and you should, he’ll reward us with  . . . Every Breath You Take . . . this set should Leave us all breathless for the 80’s and yet satisfied that Sting will remain the real, real.

Heartthrob to Heart and Soul, Icon of the Rock World, Sturgill SimpsonGentilly Stage @5:30p-7pm

Singer songwriter and winner of the 2015 Best Americana Album at the Grammy’s are just one of his many accolades. He is an activist and outspoken on many issues that are of relevance in todays’ landscape, gun control and gay rights and other relevant issues. If you are into discovering something new(ish) in the music world you might want to forego the main stage and setup right here for an eye opening, mind altering set compliments of John Sturgill.

Top Five “Unique NOLA Acts” to Catch at Jazzfest

Day 2: Saturday, April 28, 2018

Tin Men @Blues Tent, 11:15-Noon

Alex McMurray, Washboard Chaz and Matt Perrine – it’s the “New New Orleans” turned “old school” right in front of our eyes. Blues tent? Okay. I mean why not. When you have three of the very best musical talents in New Orleans – that’s’ McMurray, Chaz & Perrine – you plug them in where ever you can find a place because how do you define brilliance?  I guess you throw a dart and land where it will. The Tin Men are worthy of any stage at Jazzfest. There is really no need to define them. Why try? You just sit back and listen. The vocals. The smooth cadence of the washboard keeping time along with the baseline of Perrine and viola. It’s really the most thoughtful and amazing trio playing anywhere in the world. Yep. I said it. And, they call New Orleans home. Proudly, I’m sure.

Leo Jackson & the Melody Clouds @Gospel Tent, 1:55-2:40

Since 1989, The Melody Clouds have performed at Jazzfest led by writer and arranger Leo Jackson. And, I’m here to inform you this is New Orleans gospel.  The Melody Clouds are full on and both contemporary and traditional in a polished Sunday morning, dressed in your best delivery. Some gospel aficionados say the Melody Clouds are pure Mississippi gospel crafted with a rural Christian sensibility that runs deep in Jackson’s veins as he channels his mother and father,Maybell and Leo,  as a second generation gospel performer. The band is full of family; Carey Jackson Jr.,Melvin Jackson, Ronald Scott, Chris Barnes, Wydell Spotville and Ben Bester. The Melody Clouds will get you on your feet and If you only grace the Gospel Tent once, go for this set. Your “burdens will be eased” . . . it’s The Melody Cloud’s mission according to Scott. And, one of the best in the Fest.


Big Freedia @Congo Square Stage, 2:10-3:15

She’ll Twerk. It’s a given. But here’s what else Big Freedia will do, pure and simple. Entertain. Now go with me on this one. I liken Big Freedia to Liberace. No groans please. It’s a compliment. And, once more, a big one. Style. Presence. A niche. And, a niche she does very, very well.  Seems now everybody wants a piece of it. There is nothing. NOTHING like Big Freedia. NOLA bounce is born of New Orleans, Nurtured and made real in New Orleans. Bounce is street and street culture. It’s the language and the beat of life. It’s repetitive call and repeat is pure New Orleans. And, no one brings the whole package like Big Freedia. Ask Mannie Fresh, Drake, RuPaul and more. Add the fact that Beyonce calls on Freedia to call her  “Formation” shows to order – that’s Diva to New Orleans’s own Diva for sure. And, mic drops.

New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars with Steven Bernstein @ Lagniappe Stage, 4:20-5:15pm

It’s been described as Eastern European Jewish folk music with jazz and Dixieland influences. And, it’s fun. And, you’ll dance your ass off. And, you’ll want more. It’s better than a bar mitzvah. It’s pure mitzvah. The Klezmer All Stars have been around since 1996. And, they just get better and better. Led by Glenn Hartman’s frenetic accordion and Galactic’s own Ben Ellman navigating the saxophone and you’ve got the heart of the band. Klezmer alumni Jonathan Frellich is the soul of the band and they bring along the right people along with an ever rotating line up of who’s who.  Steven Bernstein is bringing his trumpet and joining along and whomever else manages to climb aboard the caravan.  If you’re not a convert at the beginning of the set “Oy Vey” you will be by the end. “Mit eyn tokhes ken men nit tantsn af tsvey khasenes.” (You can’t dance at two weddings with one behind.) So be there at 4:20. I’m telling you. It will be good for you. Ask your mother.

Weekend 1:

Shop New Orleans with Nola's Top Crafts People at Jazzfest

Shopping at The Fairgrounds... Shopping is just as much a part of Jazzfest as the music and the food. A little something from the artists can be a reminder of the fun and excitement. Some people visit the same vendors year after year to add to their collection. We’ve compiled our favorite locals who were juried into the Contemporary Craft Tents this year. Stop by and let them know Pop City sent you.

Brandi Couvillion @ Tent F, Etched Metal Art JewelryI

It’s Brandi’s bracelets. She translates history into metal objects that adorn in a subtle manner. And, speak volumes at the same time. Wrap yourself in a Couvillion piece and you are expressing your love of New Orleans and the entire history of the city, both specific and neighborhoods. And, neighborhood pride is very real in NOLA.  Couvillion embraces the historic past through her translation of paper maps and ephemera into metal jewelry in the most creative and brilliant manner. The detail and definition makes these works both art pieces and wearable statements. Be it a maps etched into bracelets and cuffs or the architectural details in the necklaces. All I can say is how does she do it? Very well is the answer.

Pick: St. Claude Etched Cuff or the New Orleans Cuff – It’s a difficult choice.

Kabuki Design Studio – Tracy Thomson – Tent F

Hand blocked sewn hats. Tracy Thomson is the grand dame of millenary in New Orleans. Her hats are collectible, wearable pieces of unique art inspired by Tracy’s never ending quest to hone and grow in her craft. It’s her 24 year at Jazzfest and if you are looking for a wearable, New Orleans made gift or something to remember the “fest” by visit Tracy. It’s a bonus if she is sewing and going in her booth. Rumor has it that she might not set her machine up but I sure do hope so. I follow her on Instagram and Facebook and some of the hand-painted hats she is making this year are stunning.

Note: Pop City carries Tracy’s hand sewn pot holders – a throwback from her signature “water meter” beret. They are awesome.

Pick: One of her travel hats. Packable. It’s an essential.

Cecelia & Jose Fernandes – Tent G

Limited Edition Photography

The Fernandes’ aesthetic is simply stunning. Either solo expressions of their singular photographic style or the collaboration of a tight knit team, the photography draws you into the frame as an observer in real time. Many images feel that you might be peeking into a forbidden moment as a voyeur of culture only to be left on the outside to ponder. Their subject matter is raw and exposed. Vibrant and daring. Not to be missed as they are fantastic to discuss their love of their art willingly.

Pick: GNO Blur and any of their works depicting social aid and pleasure clubs.

Rachaela DiRosaria – Tent I, Two Dimensional Dioramas & Figures

This lady is a powerhouse within her genre. It’s the reinvention of sideshow and side hustle. It’s people with a theme as story. Maybe they are you as you ponder their infirmary or their gravity or message. A Tooth. A strongman. A lady with a surprise.  The whimsy is undeniable. The subjects seem real yet DiRosaria twists the fable of personas or icons to something precious and desirable. The color and technique in translation is precision. DiRoasaria seems to be one of her characters come to life. And, it makes her work all the more authentic and desirable.

Pick: A small diorama of a tooth or heart. Really anything and everything please.

Gogo Borgerding, Anodized Aluminum Jewelry @ Tent K

Gogo’s jewelry is like candy. I’ll bet her favorite is a bag of jolly ranchers. If I’m right great. It makes all the more sense that her pieces industrial in look and construction make a difference because of the color. Yeah, man, the colors. Orange. Green. Blues. 21 colors in all. The palate can be  sandwiched between precisely cut aluminum. Cut by hand folks. Couple that with the style. The skill. And, of course, the imagination. All the styles flow and make sense. Rings, Bracelets. Necklaces. It’s for men. It’s for women. . It’s the hip New Orleans jewelry capturing the fun and whimsy of the City.

Pick: Forget the fresh flowers, a corsage cuff please.

Congo Square Pick – Ndeye Gueye’s handmade zipper and fabric jewelry – by far unique and creative.

Louisiana Marketplace – Everything!!! Seriously, stop by and see all of the Louisiana talent. Of course the Historic New Orleans Collection’s reproductions of Michael P Smith’s Jazzfest archives is worth a look see.

Sail Into Rod Stewart’s 2018 Jazzfest Set List – Yep “Sailing” is his encore.

@Acura Stage

So Rod’s our cover boy. Yeah, he’s sexy and he’ll sing about it too. But this is what I do know, Rod is the king of the 80’s and the king of covers. Covers to the point that well he owns them in a bigger way that the original songsters. So get ready for a set full of Rod’s favorite hit cover tunes, relieve the 80’s (and for that matter the 70’s, too) and bring it to the party. ‘Cause he’s having one at the Fairgrounds and you won’t even miss Aretha. (Note: This is a spoiler if you like the suspense of not knowing what Rod will sing next. But, if you are trying to catch the headliner and another act, maybe this will help you time things out Saturday night. And, this list is his “usual” list for 2018 sets so far. He may move it around and even add a few surprises.)

Soul Finger (a cover by The Bar-Kays)


Having a Party (another cover made famous by Sam Cooke)

Young Turks

Some Guys Have All the Luck (The Persuaders)

Tonight’s the Night

Rhythm of My Heart (Marc Jordan)

Forever Young

Downtown Train (Tom Waits)

The First Cut in the Deepest (Cat Stevens & covered by Emmy Lou and Graham Parsons)

Rollin’ and Tumblin’ (Hambone Willie Newbern)

You're in My Heart

People Get Ready (The Impressions)

Have I Told You Lately (Van Morrison)

Baby Jane

Proud Mary (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

Maggie May

Stay With Me (Faces)

Do Ya Think I’m Sexy

Encore – Sailing (Sutherland Brothers)


DAY 3: 

If You Could Only See One Band...

Sunday,  April 28, 2018

At Jazzfest . . . You have two chances.  Socks In the Frying Pan of Ireland!

You can see them at The Sheraton New Orleans on the Fais Do-Do Stage @1:45p-2:45p or at The Cultural Exchange Pavilion Nola 300 @4:45-5:45p

What caught my eye about Sunday’s line up was well . . . not much. Except one band. Socks in the Frying Pan from Ireland. And, they are playing twice. Twice in one day. What’s up with that.

Of course, full disclosure,  I have socks on the brain. Rock ‘em Sock ‘em (1125 Decatur Street) is the new and improved version of Funrock’n – still fun but “socked” full of goodies. Yes, hundreds of socks.  Yet I digress.

So, back to Socks in the Frying Pan. I needed to know who this band is and  what the band name meant. Remember, socks on the brain and what I found out puts my faith in the decision makers at Jazzfest. It seems deep in the core of the mission Jazzfest is committed to dig deep and keep bringing the world’s finest musicians to New Orleans. And, these guys fit the bill.

It seems Socks in the Frying pan is one of the best Irish bands in the world. They are straight outta County Claire Ireland. Ground zero for Irish music.

Shane Hayes, Fiachra Hayes and Aodan Coyne are the gentlemen keeping traditional Irish music alive and well, hip and cool. Irish rockstars and culture bearers if you will. And, we here in New Orleans relate very well to both of those monikers.

Irish influence in New Orleans runs deep. You would be curious to know that the Irish built New Orleans and at one time, the Irish population of New Orleans surpassed the Irish population of  New York City. Think about the Irish Channel and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the Irish Channel that rivals the best Mardi Gras parade. Both the Uptown and Downtown Irish clubs walk ahead of the parades and keep the Irish traditions alive. Some say our unique New Orleans accent is due to the Irish population and influence.

And, some other fun Irish connections here in New Orleans. Hey “Socks”, you’ll be delighted to know how Irish we actually are here in NOLA.

Hibernia bank (now Capital One ), locally owned from 1870 – 2005, was named Hibernia, an old term for Ireland. Irish Architects, James Gallier, Sr & Jr. designed and built Gallier Hall, New Orleans’ original City hall. The first US statue to honor a women sits at the corner of Prytania and Camp street honoring Margaret Haughery, a poor Irish immigrant who prospered in NOLA as a business woman gained notoriety as a local philanthropist.

And, of course, Nola’s Irish Pub Culture: Parasol’s Fahy’s, The Kerry, Tracey’s and Pat O’Brien’s.

So welcome to your second home here in New Orleans. I’m dancing a little jig in your honor. And, I absolutely adore your version of Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms. Shady Grove is literally a “knock your socks off” tome. There’s more . . .two sets. Plan for both.

You have two chances to catch Socks at The Fest. These guys are worthy of a warm New Orleans welcome.  It’s like a homecoming of sorts – for all of us.

I still don’t know what their name means. For all I know it’s the Irish cultural equivalent of sautéed kale and mashed potatoes. Yeah, that’s a real Irish dish and its fantastic – just like the Socks.

Hey, maybe they’ll stop by the shop and answer my burning question. Or maybe I’ll ask them at the Fest. See ya there!

Back to the first Sunday of Jazziest 2018...

I mean of course the lineup for the day is fantastic.  I love Jimmy Buffet. He’s America’s storyteller. And, David Bryne the icon. And, there’s Irma Thomas in all her Grammy glory.  Meschiya Lake giving the love to Sweet Emma (Barrett). Doug Kershaw, Treme Brass Band celebrating Fats Domino, Big Chief Monk Boudreux, Sweet Crude and more.