NEW ORLEANS — The second weekend of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival kicks off Thursday. The festival, now in its 49th year, features an array of artists from New Orleans and Louisiana as well as out-of-town performers such as Beck and Aerosmith. Here's a look at some of what to expect during the festival's second weekend which starts Thursday and wraps up Sunday:
Thursday is often known as locals' day since many of the tourists who come in from out of town haven't arrived yet. Locals that day who produce a valid Louisiana photo ID can buy tickets at the festival for $50, compared to the regular $80 price at the gate. Among the headliners Thursday, festivalgoers will have to decide between Lionel Richie, Lyle Lovett and the Blind Boys of Alabama. On Friday, the headliners include Beck, whose 2016 show was rained out, Sheryl Crow and LL Cool J. Saturday's big headliner is Aerosmith while Cage the Elephant closes down the Gentilly Stage and Anita Baker closes the Congo Square Stage. Jack White, the Steve Miller Band and New Orleans' native Trombone Shorty all perform on the festival's last day.
MORE THAN MUSIC
The music may be the headliner at the festival but the art and food should not be missed. The food highlights the rich Creole and Cajun culinary traditions found in southern Louisiana and the local seafood. There's generally a long line for the fried soft-shell crab po-boys, and if you're eating a cochon de lait po-boy, make sure to have napkins handy. If you're looking for a dessert there's sweet potato pie, sno-balls, white chocolate bread pudding and the bright orange mango freeze.
Three venues — the Congo Square African Marketplace, Contemporary Crafts and the Louisiana Marketplace — showcase arts and crafts by various artists. Festival producer Quint Davis says artists send in images of their work to get selected, and the offerings generally rotate each weekend: "There's a broad range ... from an African trader to a Louisiana alligator belt maker to a glass blower."
Usually, visitors have to come to the city on Fat Tuesday or another special occasion to see the Mardi Gras Indians or on a Sunday to see the city's social and pleasure clubs rolling through the streets. But both those groups take part in regular parades or concerts through the festival grounds as part of Jazz Fest.
REMEMBERING MR. OKRA
For years, the man known affectionately as "Mr. Okra" would drive slowly through the city's streets in his colorfully-painted truck, offering his wares of fruits and vegetables for sale on a loudspeaker. Residents would go out to buy pineapples, tomatoes, bananas and okra from the man who became a New Orleans institution. Arthur Robinson died in February but his daughter Sergio has taken over his truck. And like her father, she — and the truck — are also making an appearance at Jazz Fest this weekend. Anyone looking to buy some fresh fruit and learn about a unique part of the city's history can swing by her truck which will be parked by the Jazz & Heritage Stage.
TAP, TAP, TAP
Renowned tap dancer Savion Glover closes down the Jazz Tent on Sunday. Festival producer Quint Davis said Glover will perform on a custom-made floor with special microphones built in to capture the sound of his tapping. "He's an instrument in the band, like the drums or something," Davis said. "His artistry and level of dancing is something we can't forget. Tap is an African-American art form that's always been a part of jazz. If you've never seen him perform, this is one to watch. The level at what he does is like no other." Glover won a Tony Award for his choreography in the musical "Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk" that he starred in and co-created.
OTHER MUSIC TO WATCH OUT FOR
Jupiter & Okwess from the Democratic Republic of the Congo has a flair for the offbeat — the drummer often performs with a Mexican wrestling mask over his head. Davis compared them to the theatrical, larger-than-life George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic but emphasized their music "is at a very high level." They have two performances on Friday and two on Saturday. Blues guitarist Walter Trout is making his second appearance at the festival with a show Saturday. Trout will also be interviewed on the Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage on Saturday. And while New Orleans may be most known for its jazz, blues and funk, it does produce rock music as well. The Revivalists, whose single "Wish I Knew You" recently hit it big, plays the Gentilly Stage on Saturday.