Tank & the Bangas
Tarriona "Tank" Ball is a tornado of lyrics, poetry and attitude. With Tank & the Bangas, she transforms spoken word, funk, hip-hop and R&B into a gospel sermon of galactic proportions. The New Orleans group's latest is The Big Bang Theory: Live at Gasa Gasa, which captures the band's precisely orchestrated yet wildly unpredictable gear-switching and genre-mashing live show. The band — outfitted with jazzy horns, swirling keyboards and soulful backing vocals — dreams up Erykah Badu's thoughtful neo-soul and Parliament's playfulness.
11:20 a.m.-12:10 p.m.
New Orleans-born R&B singer-songwriter Luke James rose through the pop ranks as a songwriter for the likes of Justin Bieber, Chris Brown and Britney Spears, among others, before his 2014 self-titled studio debut. The album was a low-flyer on the pop charts despite the stark single "Options," featuring rapper Rick Ross, earning a Grammy Award nomination — up against Usher and eventual winners Beyonce and Jay Z. James' journey to stand alongside R&B royalty began as a choirboy and at St. Augustine High School, where he formed a vocal trio, Upskale. He later moved to Los Angeles, where he became a go-to writer and, eventually, an opening act for Beyonce. On his self-titled album, James hits falsetto highs ("Trouble" and "I Want You") and shows off his powerful, flexible voice on an a cappella cover of Sam Smith's "Stay With Me." James also grooves comfortably alongside the '80s-inflected dance- pop of "Dancing in the Dark" and "Expose," two synth-powered, mid-tempo Michael Jackson spinoffs that glimpse James' potentially immense crossover success.
2:05 p.m.-3:05 p.m.
Congo Square Stage
Vieux Farka Toure
Mali multi-instrumentalist Ali Farka Toure ranked No. 27 on Spin's list of the greatest guitarists of all time. His son, Vieux Farka Toure, is the self-described "Jimi Hendrix of the Sahara." Both men conjure wild desert blues with rock instruments used as divining rods summoning Mali folk music. The younger Toure's latest album is 2013's Mon Pays ("my country"), a tribute to Mali and a reminder that his musical path almost was diverted — Toure's father insisted he become a solider to his country, where internal conflicts and violence have shaken the region — and avoid the career (and its pitfalls) that he had chosen. Toure, instead, took up guitar (in secret) and enrolled in art school. He replicated his father's harp-like finger-picked style and rose to international success — Ali's final recorded appearance before his 2006 death appears on Vieux's 2011 album The Secret. Mon Pays is Toure's love letter to home and country — "Future" and "Peace" offer serene, instrumental layers of guitar with West African stringed instruments. Lively percussion, group vocals and blissed-out guitar turn meditative compositions (like the album's middle act, "Nouhoume Maiga") into celebratory jams.
2:35 p.m.-3:40 p.m.
When we last left Lafayette's GIVERS after the band made its full-length debut In Light on Glassnote Records in 2011, the band began a seemingly endless tour — an impossible task for most bands, but most bands aren't GIVERS, whose ecstatic peace-loving, globally influenced pop is made for festival stages. GIVERS' Afro-pop influence owes more to the band's hometown — where band members fell in love with the global influence on stages at Festival International — than Dirty Projectors and Talking Heads fan worship. The band's joyous pop songs are beachball-bounce bright with island-hopping guitars, boy-girl harmonies and a thick rhythm section. In Light's follow up is due out this year.
3:25 p.m.-4:40 p.m.
& Mannie Fresh
In a recent episode of the decade-long tabloid drama of Cash Money Records — which has included financial disagreements, legal issues and breakups — Lil Wayne claimed he's a prisoner being held hostage (his words) by the label. Meanwhile, Juvenile returned to Cash Money after more than 10 years apart. This year's Mardi Gras 2 is Juve's first effort on the label since 2003's Juve the Great, when the rapper split with the group and started his own label and a deal with Atlantic Records. Mardi Gras 2 is a stacked, 20-track mixtape with appearances from Future, Cash Money's Birdman, and even Young Juve (Juvenile's son) and T.Y. (son of former Cash Money heavyweight B.G.). The album also brings together Juvenile and Mannie Fresh, Cash Money's former in-house hitmaker and now-revered hip-hop producer. The duo's collaborative relationship extends nearly 20 years, with Juvenile's first Cash Money effort (Solja Rags) and Juve's breakout hit "Ha," which contains one of Fresh's most recognizable beats — a spare, bounce-influenced skittering drum machine and Fresh's "woadie" in the chorus. Fresh's fingerprints are everywhere in New Orleans hip-hop — from UNLV's "Drag 'Em to the River" to virtually all of Cash Money's hits in the '90s and 2000s. Juvenile's signature gruff vocals are still in full force on Mardi Gras 2, which reunites Juve and Fresh for the goofball EDM banger "M.I.L.F."
3:35 p.m.-4:50 p.m.
Congo Square Stage
Singer-songwriter Duz Mancini moved from Los Angeles to New Orleans in 2010. Here he formed Coyotes, a breezy, introspective and brooding alt-country and Americana-inspired outfit. Lapsteel slinger Derek Duplessie (also of The Kid Carsons) adds cosmic twang to the band's reverb-heavy guitars. Its full-length album Crystal Canyons is due out later this year.
5:20 p.m.-6:30 p.m.
On his first album since 2011's slow-burn California alt-country effort Ashes & Fire, prolific rocker Ryan Adams returned with a self-titled 2014 release full of neo-heartland rock, big chords, heavy organs and driving rhythms. Adams' journeyman rock 'n' roll, from agitated punk and sensitive hesher to unfiltered roots rock revivalist, comes to its honest, unglamorous end with his recent album, which recounts "Trouble" and "My Wrecking Ball." He's "Tired of Giving Up" and asks to "Gimme Something Good." On album closer "Let Go," Adams resigns to his world-weariness ("maybe I'm asleep / my heart is paralyzed") and asks, "Cross your fingers behind your back and lie / Tell me it's OK if you'll fix everything 'cause I let go." Adams summons his personal demons, along with Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, and throws them against his punk and metal past.
5:20 p.m.-7 p.m.
Roger Daltrey opened for Eric Clapton at the Smoothie King Center (then the New Orleans Arena) in 2010. While Clapton plowed through his worn-out classic rock radio hits, Daltrey showed renewed energy with only a slimmed-down group with a couple of guitars, bass and drums. Daltrey — whether the too-cool '60s mod or microphone-swinging '70s rock icon — has remained the voice of The Who for five decades. As a solo act, Daltrey plugs into a comfortable pub rock role. But alongside Pete Townshend, his longtime foil and The Who's windmilling guitar icon, the duo are a much different kind of machine. Daltrey and Townshend are the remaining original members of the band (bassist John Entwistle died in 2002, the legendary Keith Moon died in 1978), though they've held brief reunions (a tour in support of its first album in 20 years in 2006, and in 2010, performing all of Quadrophenia). This Jazz Fest performance could be one of the band's last. For The Who Hits 50 tour, the band has admitted time is running out. Daltrey and Townshend still perform with the same urgency and electricity on display on the thriller Live at Leeds from 1970, but it's only a matter of time before they finally have to explode their amplifiers for good.
5 p.m.-7 p.m.