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What to Know Before You Go


Free Agents Brass Band
8 p.m. Tue., May 15
Ray's Room, 508 Frenchmen St., 248-0801

After Hurricane Katrina, the Free Agents — led by bass drummer Ellis Joseph, who also plays with the New Birth Brass Band — formed when Joseph found himself evacuated in Atlanta with members of other New Orleans brass outfits who wanted to hear the sounds of home. As some players moved back to the Big Easy and some didn't, the Free Agents came together organically from former and still-active members of the Stooges, Showtime, Pin Stripe and other brass bands. They also wrote and recorded the early post-K second-line stomper "We Made It Through That Water." Living up to their reputation as, "the people's brass band," the Free Agents play almost exhaustingly, with several regular gigs a week. Now downtown denizens can catch them weekly; they'll be playing every Tuesday at Ray's for the rest of the month. Call for ticket price. — Alison Fensterstock


Classie Ballou & the Family Band
10 p.m. Fri., May 18
Circle Bar, 1032 Lee Circle, 588-2616

Guitarist Classie Ballou has worked with a laundry list of zydeco, swamp pop and R&B luminaries, from Boozoo Chavis to Cookie Thierry (of Cookie & the Cupcakes) to Big Joe Turner, but these days the former Excello and Goldband recording artist is keeping it close to home. Ballou's family band includes his son Cedric, daughter CeCean and grandson Cedryl. His sound is a weirdly compelling, haunting amalgam of influences, from swamp blues and Cajun to the mystically catchy African and Creole beats present on guitar-driven instrumentals like "Hey Pardner" and heavy Latin rhythms like "Classie's Whip." The Ballou patriarch is currently in town promoting his latest album, written and recorded as a collaboration with daughter and accordionist CaCean. Staying in the family, the show also features Cedryl Ballou and his Zydeco Trendsetters. The early part of the set may also bring an appearance from the band's youngest member, a drummer who can't be a day over nine. Tickets $5. — Fensterstock


Art & Soul Gala
7 p.m. Sun., May 20
NOCCA/Riverfront School, 2800 Chartres St., 940-2900;

The NOCCA Institute and Lupin Foundation present "Opening Doors," the 2007 gala to benefit New Orleans arts high school. NOCCA has provided education and training in a wide range of arts fields including music, theater, dance, film and visual art. It's been home to distinguished educators like Alvin Batiste, Ellis Marsalis, Clyde Kerr and many talented students, with alumni including Donald Harrison, Nicholas Payton, Wynton, Branford and Jason Marsalis, Troy Andrews and many others. The Art & Soul Gala will feature a special performance by One Mo' Time creator Vernel Bagneris with Orange Kellin's New Orleans Blue Serenaders. Two musical stages will include Michael Pellera Group, Jason Marsalis (pictured), Jesse McBride presenting the Next Generation, and students from the school's jazz and musical theater programs. The evening features a full bar and gourmet cuisine from the Hilton New Orleans Riverside. The patron party begins at 6 p.m. Tickets $100 general admission, $200 patron party. — Will Coviello


Big Easy Rollergirls vs. Memphis
7 p.m. Sat., May 19
Mardi Gras World, 233 Newton St., Algiers;

Photo by Scott Stuntz There's still a long way to go before any of the Saints don their padding or Reggie Bush shows anyone some speed. But there's fast, hard-hitting indoor action on the West Bank as the Big Easy Rollergirls finish their flat-track season against an allstar team from Memphis. The main den at Mardi Gras World has been a surreal home to the dangerous curves and flying elbows of Big Easy roller derby. But complete with bands, food vendors and a full bar, the matches have tended to be standing room only, most of it right at the edge of the track. The Big Easy Rollergirls have traveled to Las Vegas and Philly for matches and hosted teams from Texas and Oklahoma. They'll fight to stay undefeated at home this Saturday. The band will be the Bruisers and the evening's charity beneficiary is the Slaughter Volunteer Fire Department. Bring an item from the fire department's wish list (available on the Web site and receive a ticket for a free drink. The team postgame party is at Cosimo's (1201 Burgundy St.). Tickets $12 in advance, $15 at the door, $6 kids. — Coviello

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click to enlarge SCOTT STUNTZ


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