May might be the best month on the New Orleans music calendar. This month always begins with the second weekend of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the plethora of night shows that accompany the festival (see sidebar). This wealth of music continues through Bayou Boogaloo into the larger national festival circuit. The weather is perfect, the crawfish are plentiful and the bands are coming through town. Just because Jazz Fest opens the month, that doesn’t mean that the music stops with the festival.
The second week of May is a busy one even by post-festival standards. On Wed., May 6, the indy pop husband and wife duo, Tennis, will be playing at Gasa Gasa. Alaina Moore’s airy vocals blend well with the darker sounds Patrick Riley generates on guitar. The combination is lilting and a bit haunting at the same time. Just a couple of nights later on Fri., May 8, there are two excellent acts on against one another. First, at Republic, hip-hop experimentalist Earl Sweatshirt will present a night of absolutely eloquent flow. If you’re looking for something a bit folkier, the same night over at the Civic Lord Huron will bring their brand of indie folk to the stage. Lord Huron is touring on their new record Strange Trails, so look for freshly minted tracks.
The next night, the incomparable Sufjan Stevens will be playing at the Saenger Theater. After a five-year wait (during which he has been anything but idle), Stevens has returned with a new record of solo material. Stevens is generally regarded as one of the best live performers touring today. I recommend you grab a ticket before they’re all gone. If you can’t get a ticket to see Stevens, head over to the Civic for the Tame Impala show. You can count on a night of 1960s-inspired melodic rock from this Perth-based psychedelic outfit.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the pending Canadian invasion at the end of the month. The advance guard is the return of Rush to the Smoothie King Center on Fri., May 22.
There really isn’t anything more to say; it’s Rush, you should already have your tickets. The band has hinted that this may be their last large-scale stadium tour – don’t miss it. Just a few nights later on Tues., May 26, another Canadian band, Purity Ring, will be playing at Republic. This incredibly powerful electro pop duo is a must-see. This performance is equal parts outstanding hooks and mesmerizing light show; you can expect Purity Ring to capture your attention. Make sure to check out their excellent new record, another eternity. Purity Ring will have the Canadian art rock group BRAIDS opening for them. Their etherial space pop should set the ideal mood for the night.
Finally, there are a couple of other festivals to keep on your radar, both the weekend of the 15th. First, closer to home, check out Bayou Boogaloo on Bayou St. John. This neighborhood festival, which began in the wake of Katrina, has grown into an outstanding regional festival. Second, and a bit further afield, the sixth Hangout Festival will be going on over in Gulf Shores. Personally, this is one of my favorite musical events of the year. The only way to improve a music festival of this caliber is to add the beautiful Gulf Shores beaches. While Hangout always manages to book keen headlines, the real meat of its lineup is always in emerging acts. This year you can catch Rubblebucket, Lake Street Dive, Houndmouth, Deap Vally and Young Fathers all in one weekend. These acts are of course in addition to headliners such as the Foo Fighters, Spoon and Beck. Keep an eye on MyNewOrleans.com, as I’ll be posting updates and photos from Hangout as it happens. See you at the fests.
Note: Dates are subject to change. Playlist of mentioned bands available at: bit.ly/InTune5-15.
After the Fest
Jazz Fest is always an excellent time for shows, both at the Fair Grounds and around the city. For my part, I always end up spending a considerable amount of time at Tipitina’s during the fest. This month I recommend checking out the Funky Meters on the 1st or the Galactic show on the 3rd (the late-night Saturday show). For other sure bets look to the Civic. Primus will be there for two nights, May 1-2, and the indomitable Pixies take the stage on the 5th. Have a great Jazz Fest; I’ll see you at Tip’s.