Invader’s Guide to Jazz Fest ’15: Ten Shows to Catch Amidst the Mayhem

Most New Orleanians would agree: Jazz Fest is the most wonderful time of the year.

Between dozens of national and local acts (and everything in between) along the sprawling fairgrounds on any given day, a mouthwatering cornucopia of festival food, and some of the best after-hours shows you’ll see all year in venues across the city, entertainment comes fast and furious during the last weekend of April and the first weekend of May. Don’t be overwhelmed by the abundance of amusement – rejoice! Breathe. Get yourself a sunhat, a mango freeze, and check out the Invader’s guide to Jazz Fest 2015.


Juvenile & Mannie Fresh Together
Saturday, April 25
Congo Square Stage, 3:35-4:50

Hometown heroes Juvenile and Mannie Fresh have, of course, teamed up before on early millennial rap jams like “Back That Ass Up” (disclaimer: unabashed personal favorite) along with other big-name rappers hailing from the Crescent City, like Lil’ Wayne – but it’s not often that you can catch them together. Any way you look at it, this show pays homage to the history of New Orleans’ homegrown rap label, Cash Money Records. If you really feel like nerding out, go see Holly Hobbs interview legendary rapper/producer Mannie Fresh on the Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage earlier in the afternoon.


Tank and the Bangas
Saturday, April 25
Gentilly Stage, 11:20-12:10

Tank’s name don’t lie: the girl’s got some serious pipes. From the band’s debut in 2011 to being named the 2014 Offbeat Magazine Emerging Artist of the Year, Tank and the Bangas have skyrocketed in the local music scene. Sure, you can usually catch them around town, but how often do you get to see them live, on stage, at Jazz Fest? Answer: once a year, max. Go get your groove on.


Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga
Sunday, April 26
Gentilly Stage, 5:15-7:00

Aside from forming the most precious musical duo ever, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga somehow create an on-stage time machine that transports audiences back to the golden age of jazz – and it jives pretty well with the Big Easy’s musical vibes of yore. Go see these two cross-generational legends jazz it up together; they’re sure to put on a good show. At the very least, it should be a performance charged with lots of coy, sentimental glances between the two, I’d imagine.


Sweet Crude
Sunday, April 26
Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage, 12:20-1:10

Sweet Crude makes multi-instrumental, eminently danceable, frequently adorable tunes that just might make your heart sing (in Cajun French!). It’s only fitting that they’re playing the Fais Do-Do stage, the Fest’s bastion of Cajun and zydeco music, though I promise they won’t put you to sleep – quite the contrary. Prepare to witness your tired feet get up and dance, with or without your permission.


No Doubt
Friday, May 1
Acura Stage, 5:25-6:55

2015 marks the twenty-year anniversary of Tragic Kingdom, the iconic album that launched No Doubt to classic status in the ‘90s rock pantheon with “Don’t Speak,” “Just A Girl,” and “Sunday Morning,” among others. Besides all of the anthems you grew up listening to on the radio, Gwen Stefani is a friggin’ goddess and an eternal, red-lipstick-wearing style icon, so there’s that. I’d go for her outfits alone, personally. Y’all will find me camped out front and center for this one (most likely with some weird tan lines).


Galactic & Macy Gray
Friday, May 1
Acura Stage, 3:25-4:40

Crescent City funk sextet plus Macy Gray equals yes (big, big yes!). We already know Galactic has a penchant for strong female singers in front, as Maggie Koerner toured with them last year (go see her solo earlier in the day!) – but Macy Gray?! Plus Galactic?! If that doesn’t sound epic to you, I’m not sure what you’re doing going to Jazz Fest, anyway. Grooves guaranteed.


Elton John
Saturday, May 2
Acura Stage, 4:50-7:00

One of Jazz Fest’s hallmarks is putting internationally renowned headliners on the same stage as the brass bands you can chat with in between sets at neighborhood dive bars. Sir Elton John needs no introduction. At 68, he’s still dressing up in sequined blazers, sparkly eyewear, and shiny shoes – not to mention lighting the piano on fire with his fingers. Sure, there’ll likely be tens of thousands of others also vying for a glimpse of the sparkly sorcerer live, but that’s what the Jumbotron is for! Just make sure you don’t get trampled by the crowd when he plays “Tiny Dancer.”


Original Pinettes Brass Band
Saturday, May 2
Jazz & Heritage Stage, 4:10-5:20

All-female brass band: check. Lady power in full force: check. Dancing ‘til your face melts: check. It wouldn’t be Jazz Fest (or New Orleans, for that matter) without a healthy helping of brass bands, but the Original Pinettes Brass Band is the only ensemble repping all women behind the brass. Pretty cool, huh? Embrace your inner feminist and show some love for these badass ladies.


New Orleans Heavy Hitters
Sunday, May 3
Various stages & times

Between Dr. John, The Meters, the Radiators, Kermit Ruffins’ Tribute to Louis Armstrong, Trombone Shorty, and Big Chief Bo Dollis, Jr. & the Wild Magnolias, the final Sunday of the Fest is loaded with the sounds that made New Orleans famous. If you’re looking for your fix of classic Nawlins grooves, Sunday’s a good day for catching up.


The Gospel Tent
Any time, any day

I’d be remiss in trying to name any one act from the Gospel Tent, but let me just say that the energy inside of that tent is palpable, even to a non-believer. If you find yourself at any point trying to escape the sun and/or seeking a spiritual experience, go see what’s good at the Gospel Tent. It really is the hidden (or not so hidden) gem of Jazz Fest. Transcendence is likely.