For the most dedicated music fans, the two weeks surrounding the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival offer the opportunity to hear live music practically around the clock.
"Over the two weeks, I catch 26 to 30 shows," says Zander Andreas, who is a musician, music club owner and part-time New Orleanian.
Andreas runs the San Francisco music club the Boom Boom Room. His original partner at the club was bluesman John Lee Hooker, who was a fan of New Orleans music. They regularly brought New Orleans bands to San Francisco, including everyone from the Wild Magnolias to Galactic. The club also hosted an impromptu Meters reunion in 1998. For 12 years, Andreas also has booked a slate of shows in New Orleans during Jazz Fest, as well as other concerts during the year. Half of his Boom Boom Room Presents shows are late night jams that begin at 2 a.m.
While Jazz Fest hosts hundreds of musicians and hundreds of thousands of fans during the daytime, the evenings and gap between weekends have attracted all sorts of extra musical offerings, including mini-festivals.
Boom Boom Room shows sound like all-star shows, but Andreas says he has curated musician groupings he thinks will work and notes that some have turned into regularly performing bands. He cites the Stanton Moore Trio and Dragon Smoke (featuring Ivan Neville, Eric Lindell, Stanton Moore and Robert Mercurio) as two local groups that evolved out of Boom Boom Room shows, and Brooklyn's Pimps of Joytime is another group for which he claims paternity if not pivotal influence. Dragon Smoke performs Tuesday at One Eyed Jacks.
The Backbeat Foundation (www.backbeatfoundation.org) also schedules a slate of shows around town during Jazz Fest. While some shows blend in with the regular offerings at places like Blue Nile and 12 Bar, there also are shows at Tipitina's French Quarter and venues not generally used for music, like The Temple (619 Carondelet St.). Its concerts feature local acts like Johnny Sketch & the Dirty Notes and Big Sam's Funky Nation as well as special lineups, like the Dr. Klaw show at Blue Nile Saturday featuring members of the Warren Haynes Band, Dumpstaphunk, Soulive and John Scofield.
The Wednesday between Jazz Fest weekends is now the annual date of ChazFest, a festival initiated not to take advantage of the mid-week lull at the Fair Grounds, but in spite of the festival. When Washboard Chaz was snubbed by festival bookers, guitarist/singer Alex McMurrray organized his own event.
"It was meant as a one-off thing," McMurray says. "We never thought we'd go seven years."
While it has not outgrown its home at the Truck Farm (3020 St. Claude Ave.; www.chazfestival.com), it now features two stages. The lineup this year includes Hurray for the Riff Raff, Happy Talk Band, Debauche, TBC Brass Band, Narcissy, Tin Men with the Valparaiso Men's Chorus, Helen Gillet's Other Instruments and others. There also is food from local restaurants, including The Joint, Yuki Izakaya, Gianno's Fine Foods and others.
Growth has been manageable for the event, which has maintained its neighborhood feel.
"Last year got to be about as many people as we can handle," McMurray says. And they don't foresee a larger operation. "We've been doing some yard work. Our landlord is out there with a wheelbarrow hauling logs. It's gotten to be a lot."
One thing ChazFest has that Jazz Fest doesn't: a bar with hard liquor.
During the day, there are free in-store performances at the Louisiana Music Factory (210 Decatur St., 586-1094; www.louisianamusicfactory.com), which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. It features hour-long sets by local musicians from noon to 6 p.m. on the days immediately preceding and following Jazz Fest days. And there are performances on Tuesday, May 1 as well. Other appearances include authors such as Ben Sandmel, whose Ernie K-Doe biography was just published by the Historic New Orleans Collection, and on Wednesday, cast members of Treme will attend an event for the complete second season DVD release (see review on page 91). The Music Factory lineup includes Theresa Andersson, Galactic, Rebirth Brass Band, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Davell Crawford and others. Visit the website for complete schedule.
In an alternative music vein, Noizefest is Sunday (starting at noon) in the yard of founder Michael Patrick Welch (609 Lesseps St.). The lollapalooza of experimental music and sound experiments, it features Ratty Scurvics, Microshards, One Man Machine, Rob Cambre, the Noisician Coalition, DJ Rusty Lazer and many others.
For music fans, there's plenty to choose from during Jazz Fest time, both at and away from the Fair Grounds, and in variety as well.