The performer list for the 2008 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival was released earlier this week. For Jazzfest enthusiasts, the release of the daily schedules, or "the Dailies", is like Christmas Morning - the only day greeted with more anticipation is the release of the "Cubes", which list in grid format who is playing when on each of the 11 stages. Because we've had our fest plans set for some months now (after coming across an unbeatable hotel deal in the fall) we are already set for first weekend and a few days after, so the schedule doesn't really factor into our plans. This year's "Big Name Acts" or BNA's include Robert Plant & Alison Krause, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Buffet, Tim McGraw, Santana, Steel Pulse, Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint, Randy Newman and O.A.R. (apparently a Big Name but unknown to me). Those are some of the names I will likely toss around when people unfamiliar with New Orleans ask me who's playing the fest this year, and while I plan to check out some of them, I am most excited about just being there and taking in the full atmosphere, racing from stage to stage in an attempt to experience as much as possible, making new musical discoveries, enjoying old favorites, (especially the only-in-New Orleans bands that don't come up this way too often), stopping to sample delectable food offerings, parade a little bit, and chat with friends along the way. When I saw the schedule I simultaneously thought, "So glad we're going first weekend!", and "aww too bad we're not going second weekend." Especially now that they've added the second Thursday back, providing a seventh full day of festing, and the Neville brothers are scheduled to close out the fest in their first New Orleans appearance since 2005. Unless you plan to stay for 2 weeks, there's no way around it, whichever weekend you pick you're bound to miss something, but must console yourself with the thought of all the great music, food and friends you will get to experience- any time at Jazzfest is better than none at all. Plus, even when you are at the fest, you will miss something no matter what. Since I've had a little time to study the list, here's a short list of who I plan to see at this year's fest:
Robert Plant & Alison Krause - I've always liked Led Zeppelin, have seen Robert Plant once solo, and have followed the music of Alison Krause and Union Station since she first starting appearing at the RI Cajun & Bluegrass festival when she was about 15 years old. People have been buzzing about a Jazzfest appearance by these two ever since the duet album, produced by T. Bone Burnett, came out last year. I have listened to it, and while much of it sounds dreamy and slow (not usually something I usually look forward to at a Jazzfest performance), it will be interesting to see these two together, plus maybe T Bone and other guests will join them.
Billy Joel - I have not always been a Billy Joel fan, (too "top 40" for me...) but have grown to appreciate him more in recent years. He is one of those artists who has an incredible catalog of hits, and it is sure to be a performance with a lot of audience participation and familiarity. Because it will be at the New Orleans Jazzfest, and he is the Piano Man, I am hoping he includes some guest appearances by other New Orleans piano greats, like Dr. John or Allen Toussaint.
I am most looking forward to the following acts, some of which are only-at-fest type of collaborations: Leo Nocentelli’s “Rare Gathering” feat. Bernie Worrell, Doug Wimbish & Will Calhoun; Doyle Bramhall with C.C. Adcock & the Lafayette Marquis; Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars; Ponderossa Stomp Revue feat. Tammy Lynn, Archie Bell, Roy Head, and Dennis Binder, Big Jay McNeely, Warren Storm w/ Willie Tee & the Cypress Band; Twangorama
And a whole host of real New Orleans bands that I know and love- Dr. John, Irma Thomas, Davell Crawford, Walter Wolfman Washington, Big Sam's Funky Nation, Trombone Shorty, and Shamarr Allen, who sings in Meet me on Frenchmen Street, "they got jazz bands and trad bands, funk bands, and brass bands - whatever your heart desires", Mardi Gras Indians and others we don't usually get to enjoy so often around these parts - too many to list here. Every time I look at this list, I see more to love, and just wait 'til the grids come out! (I'm trying not to look at second weekend, but you can...) A couple more months to make elaborate plans, which usually get laid to waste as soon as we walk through the gates and decide to follow a parade instead of camping out at the big stage- that's the way it goes at Jazzfest. The common question is "who did you miss to see who you saw?" So I don't feel too bad about being there for only one weekend, I can only be at one place at any one time anyway!