Mar 5, 201309:44 AM
Getting Around Greater New Orleans and Beyond
See Local Acts at Out-of-Town Music Festivals
See the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on the road this summer.
This year when it starts getting steamy in the Big Easy, I’m allowing myself a vacation. Sure I could surrender to the summer, stay in town, sweat ‘til I’m salty as a sea barnacle, turn red as a Ponchatoula Strawberry, but I’m really doing it this year. I’m leaving. I mean it. I’m giving myself one weekend away from the hissing black tops of New Orleans to enjoy what summer in the USA has come to be all about – live music. For if I’m going to be a sweaty, dehydrated version of myself, at least it’ll be among a sea of dancing bodies and twenty or so of my favorite musicians, a few of them hailing from New Orleans. Here are some out-of-town festivals I’m thinking about:
May 24 – 27; Quincy, Wash.
Someone recently asked me if going to Sasquatch would mean going for the music or going for glimpses of the Northwest during its peak season, but that’s why this festival ranks up there with the best of them – I can have my nature cake and watch Josh Tillman pop out of it, too.
When I see a festival lineup with Father John Misty, Grimes and Tame Impala stacked together like an unkempt Brady Bunch, it’s easy to forget that Quincy, which is 2.5 hours outside of Seattle, isn’t just an empty stage where my favorite acts are sure to get surly, but the area also boasts acres of waterfront views, surreal canyons and petrified forests. Why go to Sasquatch? Because curling up in a tent while enjoying the sounds of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band echoing down a gorge sounds pretty perfect to me, and because this sort of thing only happens in an alternate universe where two of my favorite worlds collide.
Past attendees have liked this festival not only for its killer lineup but also because the folks are friendly, the Porta Potties are clean and they were able to hit up other cities in the Northwest travel circuit after the encore.
June 13-16; Manchester, Tenn.
After discovering I was from Tennessee, there was a point in my life when people stopped asking about mash whiskey and doublewides and instead started asking me all about Bonnaroo, as if just living in the same state made me some sort of ‘roo guru. But guess what? I ain’t never been. I done been too busy just a travelin’ and edjukatin’ myself. Seriously though, how have I never been?
With a wide array of acts like Kendrick Lamar, Wilco, Beach House and Paul McCartney this year’s lineup is asking for an unprecedented turn out. It’s a good year for those of us migrating from New Orleans, too. Not only will the David Byrne and St. Vincent collaboration deliver sassy brass to the barnyard, Trombone Shorty and Preservation Hall Jazz Band will be in Manchester representing our city, too. (Someone clarify – what’s going on with Big Freedia? Will she be twerkin’ it into the wee hours of the Tennessee dawn?)
People dig on Bonnaroo because it’s two days longer than most other music festivals. There’s also free water which you can find on tap or drizzling out of a giant mushroom. When some of your favorite bands’ minor refrains start weighing too heavily on your heart, you can go to the comedy tent to lighten the load.
Aug. 26-Sept. 2; Black Rock Desert, Nev.
Pack a bag with all the essentials for desert living. Once you’re in, you won’t care to leave. There isn’t a published lineup, and that’s for a reason. Burning Man isn’t so much a music festival as it is an exercise in immersion. I may or may not be your cup of tea. What’s going on in terms of music? We are. Burning Man attendees become an instrumental part of every performance. In the desert everything is art. Bodies become canvases. Temporary structures reach high above the sand (I’ve seen pictures of some that resemble ottoman temples) and surreal desert vehicles crawl slowly across a desolate moon-kissed landscape. Needless to say, it’s a unique kind of gathering for a unique kind of person. While attendees are expected to fork out for general admission, once in the desert, money is no longer “a thing." Economic activity at Burning Man is governed by potlatch, an indigenous northwestern gift-giving system.
Burning Man is cool because it’s wonderfully uninhibited. In the desert, it’s easy to realize a good time is whatever you make it.The festival is incredibly non-corporate, and you sure as hell won’t find a similar sensory experience anywhere else on this plane.
Aug. 2-4; Chicago, Ill.
It sounds like the medical name for being terminally happy, doesn’t it? But I’d say it’s a solid name for a festival centered around sunny days navigating the soundscape of Chicago’s Grant Park. To me, Lollapalooza seems like a nice starter’s festival. Not only does Kidzapalooza make it a somewhat family-friendly affair, but the vast offerings of its lineup can prove more accessible than that of other music festivals. Acts are diverse and generally range from mainstream pop to popular indie offerings. Very recently, there have been a few controversial leaks of the festival’s 2013 lineup, but I’ve decided to omit rumored appearances as last year’s leaks weren’t terribly accurate. The official announcement happens in April, so keep an eye out.
Lollapalooza is a great festival because you’re able to explore Chicago while you’re waiting for your favorite acts to take the stage. The area around the festival is walkable. The city’s transportation makes getting around easy, so hotels are easily accessed. Also, keep an ear out for after parties. I’ve heard about some good ones.
Newport Folk Festival
July 26-28; Newport, R.I.
All right. You caught me. Blame Troy’s buccinators and Misty’s hips. The goal is to have as many people see Trumbone Shorty and Father John Misty as many times as possible this festival season — as if summer isn’t hot enough already. Though I could rant on about the two, I won’t. Instead, let’s talk local. I imagine there’s something really special about seeing a favorite hometown band doing your city proud on a festival stage hours away from home. Hurray for the Riff Raff, a longtime favorite of mine and proud product of New Orleans, will be headlining at Newport Folk Festival this year. Can’t make it to Newport? Catch Alynda and the rest of Hurray for the Riff Raff performing at SXSW in Austin, Texas, next week.
Back to Newport. I’ve heard the folks at this festival have a hard time organizing themselves in the face of a big crowd, but other than occasional problems with logistics and visibility, Newport Folk Festival seems to be a real good time, especially if you’re into discovering something new. In addition to serving up a few hard-hitting headliners, Newport offers smaller acts you may have otherwise never run across. I like the thought of Newport Folk Festival because I like the reconciliation of the familiar with exposure to something new. I also like the idea of a venue with views of sailboats skipping across the ocean.
Other people like Newport Folk Festival because of the laid-back lineup and because it's a good opportunity to take a water taxi (the best kind of taxi). It’s also enjoyable because the crowd isn’t as overwhelmingly large as it is at Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza.