Boyfriend + King James & The Special Men +
Hot 8 Brass Band
Thursday, May 1; 10 p.m.
Siberia, 2226 St. Claude Ave.
If you look close enough, sometimes you can find the artists who are really changing the scene with fresh ideas. Listening to their music isn't just another Thursday night; it's a fine-tuned, well-oiled experience. And since it's Jazz Fest - the experience is clutch, which is why I recommend that you check out this truly unique Jazz Fest night show at Siberia. Hot off the trails of a SXSW performance with Sex Party, subversive sex-kitten and gangster rapper Boyfriend will no doubt be utilizing irony and striptease to deliver something steamy under the dim lights of Siberia. But just to make sure things are really going to heat up, nothing says rising temperatures like the smooth R&B styling's of King James & The Special Men. Both artists have been known to work a crowd regardless of whether they are rapping about BJs or playing there. Joining in the mix is also Hot 8 Brass Band. The Grammy-nominated blend of brass and hip-hop played another Jazz Fest night show with Pretty Lights at Champions Square on the 26th and have also supported names like Mos Def, Lauryn Hill, and Mary J Blige live in addition to releasing their own highly regarded records. In 2011 they released Rock with Hot 8 Brass Band which included popular tracks like "Sexual Healing," "It's Real," and "Skeet, Skeet," and most recently they released The Life and Times Of… All the Hot 8 The Life and Times Of… tracks are good, but highlights are "New Orleans (After the City)," "Can't Hide from the Truth," and "Let Me Do My Thing." This is the kind of energy that is palpable…and if I was your boyfriend…I would bring you to this show. -Lauren Adam
Karl Denson's Tiny Universe Does Rick James
Thursday, May 1; Midnight
House of Blues, 225 Decatur St.
"I'm Rick James, b…!" And you know the rest. There's almost no chance you won't hear the entire phrase belted out at least once or twice at Karl Denson's Tiny Universe's tribute of Rick James. Karl Denson's Tiny Universe is fronted by vocalist, saxophonist and flutist Karl Denson, a California transplant who was also a member of Lenny Kravitz's band, led and cofounded The Greyboy Allstars and has recorded with a number of different artists over the years. The group has recently released a new album, New Ammo (2014), which they have been promoting in shows across the country, including at this year's Jazz Fest and other night shows. But this late-night show at House of Blues will be dedicated to none other than Rick James. Best known for his hit single, "Super Freak," Rick James is an icon in American soul, funk and R&B. He began his career singing with doo-wop and R&B bands in his hometown of Buffalo, New York, in the early '60s and eventually relocated to Toronto to form the rock-soul fusion band Mynah Birds. In the late '70s and early '80s, James really hit his stride, including releasing albums like Come Get It! (1978) and his bestseller Street Songs (1981), which included his Grammy-nominated single, "Super Freak." It is this song and more that Denson and his band will revisit and re-envision through their own breed of jazzy, funky music. The show is late, late-night and doors actually open at 1 a.m. (though it has to be marked as 11:59 p.m. to still be considered Thursday night). -Carolyn Heneghan
Thursday, May 1; 8 p.m.
Saenger Theatre, 143 N Rampart St.
Ever since the release of his debut album, Get Lifted, in 2004 John Legend has been wowing audiences around the globe. His contemporary take on soul, jazz, and R&B-influenced music has not only captured the essence of the old school, but has begun to test the limitations of the genre as each passing album breaches the walls of creativity. His first studio album included singles such as the Grammy-award winning "Ordinary People." Legend, who began his career by meeting and working with such faces as Lauryn Hill and Kanye West even before launching his own solo career, has since met much success as the 9 time Grammy Award winning artist continues to inspire and collaborate with various artists in the business. Notably in 2010, John Legend and The Roots created the album Wake Up!, which also featured artists like Common and Melanie Fiona. This album would go on to win several awards, including Best R&B Album, and was a fine compilation of original and covered tunes that truly captured the spirit of soul, jazz, R&B, and hip-hop all in one masterpiece. Legend, whose talent as a songwriter continues to expand, has released his most recent and fourth studio album in 2013 entitled Love In the Future. Presenting singles such as "Who Do We Think We Are" featuring Rick Ross as well as the progressive trance soul tune "Made to Love," the album again shows the evolving capability of John Legend as he continues his career. -Chris DiBenedetto
Friday, May 2; Noon
Mardi Gras World, 1380 Port of New Orleans Pl.
Fiyawerx Productions brings you Fiya Fest. It may only be one day long, but Mardi Gras World will be packed with multiple stages, almost 100 artists, and a huge crowd hungry for only the best of musical experiences. The Flame Stage is headlined by Maceo Parker and guests, Grittss (George Porter Jr., Ivan Neville, Big Sam, Sam Kiniger, and more), The Headhunters Superjam (Mike Clark, Bill Summers, Donald Harrison, Karl Denson, and more), Midnite Disturbers (Stanton Moore, Ben Ellman, Shamarr Allen, The Roots of Music Band, and more) and a plethora of bands and artists too many to name. On the River Stage is The Nth Power, Mike Dillon Band, Eddie Roberts' West Coast Sounds and more. DJ Logic will also be keeping you entertained between live bands. The fest ends at 8 p.m., and there will be crawfish boiling and drinks flowing all to benefit The Roots of Music, a wonderful mentorship program that provides instruments, transportation and food to children year round, empowering the next generation of New Orleans musicians. Did I mention that the crawfish is included in your ticket price? There is also a VIP ticket option available which includes access to the Mansion Stage with exclusive solo performances by Eric Lindell, Clint Maegden, Marco Benvento and more, premium food along with the crawfish, and four free drinks or beer. It doesn't get much better - or more extensive - than this!
The 12th Annual Bayou Rendezvous
Friday, May 2; 9 p.m.
Howlin' Wolf, 907 S. Peters St.
If multiple days of non-stop music with 80+ bands performing on 12 different stages and tents at Jazz Fest is simply not enough to satisfy your musical cravings, you can keep the music going all night long. Party till the sun comes up at The 12th Annual Bayou Rendezvous, an "All Night Musical Extravaganza" at the Howlin' Wolf in the Warehouse District. On Friday May 2nd, doors open at 8 p.m. and the first band kicks off the night at 9 p.m. The music doesn't stop till dawn with such groups as The New Orleans All-Stars, Raw Oyster Cult, The Motet, The Pimps of Joytime, Polyrhythmics, and Hot 8 Brass Band. Plenty of food and drinks will be available for purchase. Grab a Red Bull or your stimulant of choice so you can stay awake long enough to take in the sounds of brass, funk, afro-beats, jazz, rock and much more. You won't want to miss a beat. Have breakfast the next morning with the Sunrise Breakfast Jam, or start your new day off right with Eric "Magic Fingers" McFadden, who welcomes in the sun and closes out the event. One ticket, which is $30 in advance, gets you access to two stages, all the bands, and hours of entertainment definitely worth the sleep deprivation. If you've still got the energy, and you're the type who really does wanna rock and roll all night and party every day, you can head back to Jazz Fest first thing Saturday morning for more music and fun. -Kathy Bradshaw
Thievery Corporation + Galactic + Rising Appalachia
Saturday, May 3, 10 p.m.
The Sugar Mill, 1021 Convention Center Blvd.
Thievery Corporation is a DJ duo comprised of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, along with various supporting artists, who meld world music styles such as reggae, Indian classical, Middle Eastern and Brazilian with dub, acid jazz, electronica and downtempo music. First drawn together by a mutual love of club life, dub, bossa nova and jazz records, Thievery Corporation formed in the summer of 1995 at Washington D.C.'s Eighteenth Street Lounge and have developed a successful career that has landed them top spots on concert and festival bills across the world. Their new album, Saudade, was just released in early April and is their seventh studio album released over their nearly 20 years of creating music together. The album is entirely devoted to bossa nova, the Brazilian-born genre that initially connected the duo, and its name comes from a Portuguese word meaning "a longing for something or someone that is lost, a contented melancholy, or, simply, the presence of absence." The two musicians explore this concept while drawing influences from various classic Brazilian composers as well as more modern artists, such as electro-samba pioneer Isabelle Antena. The album is likely to be a focal point of Thievery Corporation's Jazz Fest late-night set, so the crowd will get to hear the group's new material first-hand. And what's more? Thievery Corporation will be joined by the likes of locally and internationally beloved funk all-stars, Galactic, in addition to Rising Appalachia, led by multi-instrumentalist sisters Leah and Chloe Smith, who create a bold mix of world music with folk and soul — a unique combination that fits perfectly with Thievery Corporation's sound as well. -Carolyn Heneghan