Still the greatest music fest in the country for diversity and sheer musical jubilation -- and not to mention for stuffing your face with food your doctors warn you about -- the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival announced its 2012 lineup today with another interesting mix of big names and cool lesser-knowns. Among the mainstream favorites are (hold your nose if you must!) the Eagles, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, the Foo Fighters, John Mayer, the Zac Brown Band, Bonnie Raitt and Ne-Yo.
There's also a pretty rich roster of legendary pioneers on tap, including Al Green, Herbie Hancock, Bunny Wailer, the Levon Helm Band (with guest Mavis Staples!), plus the usual list of local greats such as the Nevilles, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Irma Thomas and the Preservation Hall crew (marking its 50th anniversary).
One thing that stands out on the lineup for next year -- Jazz Fest happens over two long weekends, April 27-29 and May 3-6 -- is the increased number of hipster acts. Bon Iver, Florence + the Machine, Feist, Iron & Wine will all make their debuts there, and My Morning Jacket is also set to return. More notably, many cooler, young jazz/soul/R&B acts that NPR listeners all know are also on the list, including Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Janelle Monae, Jill Scott, Esperanza Spalding and even rappper Big Freedia.
It looks as if Jazz Fest organizers are hoping to keep up with the Joneses (as in the Bonnaroos and ACL Fests). Personally, I don't think that's a bad thing. Any exposure New Orleans and NOLA-affiliated musicians can get among young, hip, travel-savvy music lovers bodes well for everyone. And anyway, there are still plenty of old coots, obscure greats, worldly adventurers and genuine characters spread among the fest's eight stages. Click here to see the whole shebang.
Besides the almost-local Bon Iver, there is one other Twin Cities connection in the lineup: Soul Asylum frontman Dave Pirner, who lives part-time in New Orleans, is taking part in a tribute to Alex Chilton, who had also relocated to New Orleans before his death last year.