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Playlist: Bands that work, bands that don't, in the Jazzfest-mosphere

(Gulp) the Jazzfest lineup was announced, and there are some big names (some of whom we’ve seen before,  not too long ago ... ahem Bruce, ahem Arcade Fire) and some new exciting headliners (C. Aguilera!). My enthusiasm, and I am enthusiastic, is overshadowed by certain flashbacks to last year’s fest. Take, for example, the climax for many in 2013: Fleetwood Mac.

I attended Jazzfest that day with some friends from out of town, and we had a great time -- for half the time. Attempting to even walk toward the Acura stage to catch a glimpse of the screen, let alone actual real live musicians, was a nightmare. After giving up, with no view of the stage or the screen, and rubbing shoulders with (somehow) a good 10 other people, listening to Stevie Nicks was like catching an old VH1 concert on TV, with my eyes closed. In jail.

In an attempt to find refuge, a friend and I bailed mid-way through "Dreams" and made our way toward Frank Ocean, hoping for a less war-like listening experience. His set, with its sparse crowd, was an oasis: small, scattered groups spread across the mud, swaying to the coo-ing Ocean. I thought, ‘This is great! I can spread my arms, I can twirl, I can see, I can hear...." But after a few songs, songs I LOVE, this didn’t feel right either. The tracks fell flat, traveling through this tremendous, yet contained, space. I longed for a small club, or even a larger venue like the new Civic Theater, to capture the sound and facilitate some type of connection between myself and the crowd, and us to the performer. The Fairgrounds atmosphere made this impossible, and I  realized and now understand why artists often hate such gigs.

I don’t hate Jazzfest (don’t shoot!) but I do believe that it’s not always the best environment for a great show. Simply by virtue of it being a crowded, tough set-up. And, as Bacchanal said it best:

And I don’t hate fests! I’ve been to many, worked for some, and live in NOLA, for god’s sake. And what we all know we love about the fest is that it’s about more than just the music -- it’s the food, it’s the shared experience, it’s the bandanas, it’s the people watching, it's the game we play to find places to pee outside in order to avoid the porta-potties. But when it does come down to the music, I’d sometimes rather be in my apartment listening to the album than fighting for an obstructed view in a pile of ... well, you've been there.

So before I go pessimistic :), here are bands I think will do great in the fest-mosphere:

Vampire Weekend - They’ll be big, they’ll be loud, they’ll be energetic, they’ll be fun. And I hope they play this:

Phish - It’s fest music -- you can come in mid-song, you can talk, you can jam, you can be in your own world, you can know all their music, you can know none of it, and as long as you’re in a field (in an altered state), you’re set. Hope they play this:

The String Cheese Incident - Ibid. Hope they play this:

Santana - The reverb on those guitar riffs deserve to travel far and wide. Probably most excited about this guy- hope he plays this:

Eric - Will be fine too.

WHAT WON'T WORK:

Alabama Shakes- I start with the Shakes because these guys straddle both worlds; I could see them killing it at JF, but having seen them two years ago at One Eyed Jacks, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Hope they play:

Christina Aguilera- I move on to Chris Ags because she is the one who could prove me totally wrong. Who knows what this will be like?! She does know how to rock with a live band, and her voice can and will be heard in every rented Bayou St. John airbnb and beyond ... maybe I’m convincing myself out of this one. Hope she plays:

Trey Songz - It’s tough being one guy on stage, without a band, to really capture the crowd outdoors. Songz may be an artist I’d rather listen to recorded rather than live, period. Hope he "plays":

Public Enemy - Ibid, except for the legendary factor. Hope he plays:

Chaka Khan - This lady can handle an arena-sized crowd, but would perhaps do better in the Dome. Also, no one else should be playing anywhere, when Chaka Khan is performing. #Dealbreaker. Hope she plays:


 

Bobby Womack - Combine the comments on Chaka Khan and Public Enemy. Unless the Gorillaz and Mos Def show up to drop "Stylo" on us all:

Solange - Solange needs a lounge/bar/record store vibe. She would do well at the Republic, or at Domino Sound. Not Jazzfest. BUT what would make it all worth it is if the Dirty Projectors appear out of nowhere and they together play her cover of their "Stillness Is the Move." #Prediction. Back to reality...hope she plays:

Lyle Lovett- Rather see him act in an Altman film than sing anything. Sorry.

Big Freedia- Bounce music is meant to bounce from the window to the wall, neither of which Jazzfest accommodates. Hope she plays:

Walter Wolfman Washington and the Roadmasters - Rather see ‘em in Fortier Park. Hope he plays:

See you at Liuzza's.

Laine Kaplan-Levenson is a producer at WWNO, The Moth and Listening Post and cofounder of Bring Your Own.