& the Whipper-snappers
Spencer Bohren arrived in New Orleans in the 1970s, drawn by the city's rich mix of indigenous musical forms of jazz, blues and gospel. The ace lap-steel guitarist plays an array of stringed instruments and is known for narrative songwriting with bayou-outlaw appeal. Bohren's son Andre followed his Loyola University education with what is now a decade-plus run as percussionist for local boogie beasts Johnny Sketch & the Dirty Notes. In recent years, Andre and Spencer built this compelling collaboration in partnership with fellow Dirty Note Dave Pomerleau and guitarist Alex McMurray — whose fellow stellar songwriters in The Write Brothers, Jim McCormick and Paul Sanchez, will join the Bohrens in the Blues Tent for a few songs.
11:25 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Ushering in what looks to be a jam-friendly day on the Acura Stage (with sets by The Word and Widespread Panic), this ascendant New York City-based quartet found its funky, prog-rock groove in 2012, when its lineup — together since middle school — of Matt Jalbert (guitar), Charlie Dolan (bass) and Alric "A.C." Carter (keyboard/organ) solidified with the addition of drummer Isaac Teel and switched to an all-instrumental sound. The tilt toward a hard-driving, experimental improvisation gained fans and gigs, and by summer 2014, TAUK was onstage at big-name festivals including Bonnaroo and fresh from the studio with the superb LP Collisions, produced by Grammy Award-winner Robert Carranza (Mars Volta). TAUK arrives at the Fair Grounds on the heels of a national tour in support of neo-hippie rock titans Umphrey's McGee.
11:25 a.m.-12:25 p.m.
Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience
Terrance Simien, an eighth-generation Louisianan with roots extending to the first Creoles to settle in St. Landry Parish, was our state's only artist to take home a Grammy Award in 2014, winning his second such honor for his ninth album, Dockside Sessions, recorded at fabled Dockside Studio along the bayou near Maurice, Louisiana. Over his 32-year career, Simien has expanded his repertoire of zydeco and Creole music to reflect Louisiana's African/Latin/jazz tinges. Unabashedly a flower child, Simien is equally adept at traditional tunes sung in French such as covers of Sam Cooke, Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead. Expect a high-octane show powered by Simien's hypnotic vocals and infectious good vibes.
2:05 p.m.-3:05 p.m.
Congo Square Stage
Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys
Blessed with a genie's mastery of pulling emotions from an accordion, Steve Riley's talent on the traditional Cajun instrument earned him notice early in his career. The Mamou, Louisiana native has been backed by the Mamou Playboys for 25 years. The group's music is marked by traditional French vocal harmonies, talented fiddling by Kevin Wimmer, who learned from the legendary Dewey Balfa, and Sam Broussard's sizzling work on slide guitar. It comes together with a blistering blues bent over a polished, cohesive Cajun style.
2:55 p.m.-3:55 p.m.
Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage
Sturgill Simpson is a breakout talent that set the country/Americana scene ablaze in 2014. The 36-year-old singer-songwriter from small-town Kentucky independently released his second album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, in May 2014. Songs such as "Turtles All the Way down" and Internet videos from Simpson's rapid rise reveal gruff good looks and a thick drawl well-suited to his low-key demeanor and air of world-weary wisdom — requisite traits for an outlaw-country icon. But Simpson, now signed with Atlantic Records, is not superficial sizzle. A workingman's troubadour, he's a slow burn, and one that graciously rages against life's defeats. Simpson sings with charming, good-old-boy defiance on "Just Let Go." His refrain: "I don't have to do a goddamn thing / Except to sit around and wait to die."
3:35 p.m.-4:45 p.m.
At 33, Tasha Cobbs represents a fresh face and star-power energy in the world of gospel music. A soul-stirring vocalist, Cobbs had a smash success with her 2012 debut album Grace, produced by Grammy Award winner and Motown Music labelmate VaShawn Mitchell, before spending a year on Billboard's Top 10 Gospel chart with its "Break Every Chain," Billboard's No. 1 single for 12 weeks. Like many in the genre's hallowed roots, Cobbs began singing as a child in church at New Life Ministries, founded by her late father, Bishop Fritz Cobbs, in Jesup, Georgia. Life circumstances took her to Atlanta, where Cobbs became involved in the city's thriving dReam Center Church and now serves as its team pastor and, of course, star singer.
3:45 p.m.-4:45 p.m.
A Tribute to
Lionel Ferbos feat.
The Palm Court Jazz Band & Friends
New Orleans lost a treasured link to its traditional-jazz past last July with the death of trumpeter Lionel Ferbos — a few days after his 103rd birthday. A dapper Creole gentleman, Ferbos stood for decades as testament to the timeless appeal of the city's indigenous musical form with long-running residencies in Jazz Fest's traditional jazz tent and at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe.
4:20 p.m.-5:20 p.m.
Peoples Health Economy Hall Tent
Expect great things from the expecting Amanda Shires. A fiery Lubbock, Texas-born fiddler, guitarist and vocalist with a knack for earnest lyricism, Shires has a down-to-earth sensibility — personified in an Instagram post captioned "Sonic is the best place to be pregnant," with her holding a half-eaten corndog in one hand and a big drink in the other. Proving enough of an allure to inspire former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell to abandon drinking and drugs in favor of marriage and fatherhood, the 33-year-old songstress lacks pretense on social media and onstage, where she's built a national fan base thanks to an engaging stage presence and tell-it-like-it-is tunes such as "Wasted on Rolling" that rock with a folk sensibility.
4:25 p.m.-5:35 p.m.
Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage
Idlewild String Confederation
An only-in-New Orleans musical collaboration, Idlewild String Confederation gathers all-acoustic instruments for performances. With backgrounds including rock, country and heavy metal, bandmates Vernon Harvey (guitar), Earl Roesch Jr. (banjo), Charlie McGinn (dobro), George Gouzy (bass drum and snare) and Andy Shepherd (upright bass) got together in 2011 and have developed a reputation for raucous, up-tempo live shows and are equally adept at old-timey originals and covers culled from Ricky Skaggs, the Allman Brothers and AC/DC.
4:25 p.m.-5:20 p.m.
To the uninitiated, the extended set alotted these Southern rock stalwarts might seem an aberration, dwarfing most of the festival's other headliner spots. As rabid fans of the Georgia-bred sextet will attest, Widespread Panic will apply its jamming blend of improvised blues, rock and boogie to every minute of the set. (Its Jazz Fest sets typically haven't featured a break.) On the cusp of Panic's 30th year, the band seems rejuvenated, despite death and departure, buoyed by the frenzy of now-ensconced guitarist Jimmy Herring and his son-in-law Duane Trucks, a recently recruited 26-year-old drummer of remarkable talent hailing from Florida's first family of rock with uncle Butch (The Allman Brothers Band) and older brother Derek (Allman Brothers, Tedeschi Trucks Band). Panic has collaborated with many local legends including the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and recently departed Big Chief Theodore "Bo" Dollis Sr. The band also is a contributor to local charities such as the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic and Make It Right Foundation. It has a long list of friends in the city and many are performing at Jazz Fest, so don't be surprised to see anyone from Steve Winwood to Ivan Neville make a guest appearance.
4:30 p.m.-7 p.m.
Alison Krauss & Union Station
The angelic voice and bucolic country stylings of Alison Krauss have graced Jazz Fest many times, often backed by this bluegrass band, which she assembled while she was a teen singing sensation; since 1998, it has featured the superb Jerry Douglas on dobro. In 2008 and 2011, Krauss performed at Jazz Fest with Raising Sand, her Grammy Award-winning collaboration with Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin). She also did stints singing with Phish and Sting. She's had health issues for a couple of years, but the 43-year-old Krauss arrives this spring not just as an acclaimed performer, but also as a breast cancer survivor.
5:25 p.m.-6:55 p.m.