This year’s Jazz Fest is as jam packed and star-studded as ever. Featuring acts that vary from legacy headliners Aerosmith and Smoky Robinson to modern-day stars like Sturgill Simpson and Cage the Elephant, the festival takes place over two weekends from April 27th to May 6th. Those who have attended the music festival before know how important the “block schedule” is because there is so much overlap there can be with the stages. For this year, I’ve ranked all the days in accordance to how good the schedule is for that day. Keep in mind that this list will factor the entire schedule for each day and not just the headliners.
7) Friday, April 27
You know a festival lineup is great when the weakest day consists of Sting and Sturgill Simpson as the headlining acts. Going strong since forming in New Orleans in 1977, The Dirt Dozen Brass band is sure to be a great show at the Congo Square Stage. While Sting is certain to draw a big crowd at the main stage, do not sleep on Grammy winner Sturgill Simpson. His blend of folk, rock and Americana translates very well on stage; as he has become one of the best live performing acts in the music festival scene. Check out his performance on Saturday Night Live here and you can see exactly what I’m talking about.
6) Sunday, April 29
It should be a crime to schedule the hometown favorite and Soul Queen Irma Thomas at the same time as Jon Batiste but alas, this is where we are. Both acts are sure to draw large crowds so no wrong choices here. After their performances, Talking Heads singer David Byrne is set to close out the Gentilly Stage. Byrne’s set conflicts with Jimmy Buffet but I’m sure all you fine people will make the right choice here. DO NOT MISS DAVID BYRNE.
5) Saturday, April 28
The official “Queen of Bounce” returns home to New Orleans with Big Freedia set for an afternoon slot on the Congo Square Stage. This stage is particularly strong on this day with one of the best R&B MCs of the 90’s Common leading right into the best R&B act of 2018, Khalid. Other notable acts include everyone’s favorite surfer dude, Jack Johnson, and Rod Stewart still going strong.
4) Thursday. May 3
With New Soul, Inc leading into Cyril Neville’s Swamp Funk on the Congo Stage, this day starts off VERY funky. Make sure to catch Old Crow Medicine Show on the Gentilly Stage and, of course, Lionel Richie’s headlining set on the Acura Stage is sure to be legendary.
3) Friday, May 4
In my opinion, this day has the best scheduling without too much conflict. Starting at 2:00 pm on the Acura Stage, Tank and the Bangas is one of my favorite New Orleans groups to see live. They lead perfectly into hometown heroes, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at the Gentilly Stage. Finish out the day with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (Acura Stage) or The Soul Rebels at the Congo Square Stage. After that, take your pick of headliners between everyone’s favorite Scientologist Beck, Sheryl Crow or LL Cool J.
2) Saturday, May 5
The second Saturday of Jazz Fest features two of the most commercially successful rock bands from New Orleans back to back on the Gentilly Stage with Better than Ezra leading into The Revivalists. Choosing between them and Dumstaphunk on the Acura stage is difficult but it’s a classic win-win situation. I HATE that the best legacy headliner Aerosmith conflicts with the best modern rock band on the lineup, Cage the Elephant but again, win-win. As much as I love Cage the Elephant, I think I’m going to have to go with Aerosmith here. I mean….. it’s Aerosmith.
1) Sunday, May 6
In my opinion, those in charge of scheduling the festival did a great job if they wanted the last day to be the best. New Orleans jam band Galactic has been killing their live performances for years now and they’re sure to rock the main stage at 1:45 pm. Jack White (formerly of The White Stripes) is, in my opinion, the best live act on the lineup. I remember seeing him close out the main stage at Bonnaroo a few years ago and I kid you not, those in charge had to cut off the power to his equipment before he would leave the stage. It breaks my heart that his set conflicts with Motown legend Smoky Robinson as those were the two names I was most excited about this year. After them, Trombone Shorty will take his rightful place closing out the Acura Stage with Steve Miller band closing out the Gentilly Stage. This day is so packed with good music that it gives me goosebumps.