The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the 2018 edition of will be held April 27-May 6. The festival differentiates itself from a crowded market by not only booking huge internationally recognized headliners but also by reveling in the deep musical heritage of its host city with performances by local favorites. This year is no different. The full lineup includes such diverse headliners as Sting, Jimmy Buffett, and Aerosmith, as well as undercard acts like Bonnie Raitt, Khalid, and a celebration of the Crescent City's Tricentennial. That kind of musical wealth makes picking five must-see artists from the dozens of worthy candidates hard, but these five are sure to bring the goods when they hit the Jazzfest stage.
1. Aretha Franklin
You don't get the nickname “The Queen of Soul” without putting together a career that is the stuff of legend. Aretha Franklin has certainly put together that kind of career. The first female Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, known for hits like “Respect” and “Chain of Fools,” may be most associated with Detroit and the Motown scene, but her energetic songs and booming soulful voice is right at home in New Orleans.
2. Jack White
Jack White may have dominated the headlines recently more for his announced policy of banning cell phones at his concerts, but with a new album, Boarding House Reach, dropping just a month before his Jazzfest performance, you can bet he'll be ready to shine when he takes the stage. White's competitive nature and hyper-kinetic stage shows make for one of the surest bets for a good time in a festival setting.
3. Big Freedia
As previously noted, one of the best things about Jazzfest is its total embrace of every facet of New Orleans' vast musical culture. When it comes to bounce, the call-and-response heavy hip-hop style that got its start in New Orleans, one name rises above all others; Big Freedia. She's been sampled by Beyonce, appeared on albums by Galactic, and toured the world as the ambassador of New Orleans biggest musical party. If you're looking to dance, Big Freedia is the place to be.
4. Kermit Ruffins' Tribute to Louis Armstrong
Every Jazzfest brings a new set of tribute shows, all-star affairs honoring a New Orleans icon. These one-of-a-kind shows can't be seen anywhere else and any of this year's tributes could easily go in the “must-see” category. But if you only attend one, make sure it's Kermit Ruffins' tribute to legendary New Orleans trumpeter Louis Armstrong. Ruffins alone is enough to make this a great show, but with a name as big as Louis Armstrong being honored, the list of potential guests lining up to pay tribute is nearly endless.
5. Tank and the Bangas
With such a storied musical history, it's easy to think of New Orleans as a music scene stuck in the past. But Tank and the Bangas are proof that the music of New Orleans continues to evolve in new and innovative ways. The 2017 NPR Tiny Desk Concert winners combine funk, soul, hip-hop, and slam poetry into a mix that is all their own. If you want to feel the pulse of New Orleans in 2018, Tank and the Bangas will be happy to guide you.