Sneak Peek at the Best of Jazz Fest 2022

Jazz Fest Weekend One

April 29-May 1

Every January for the past fifty-two years, New Orleans Jazz Fest fans gathered around their computers (or newspapers) in anticipation of the band announcements that came out every January. Then those same fans from around the world decided which weekend they wanted to come to town for the fest. Then the local clubs would announce the night shows and those in the know would purchase tickets for the hottest shows in town. And finally sometime in March, the daily breakdowns were announced, followed by a few weeks later, the cubes, which announced the times and stages of each of the bands. Hundreds of thousands of locals and tourists would map out their days in order to see The Best of Jazz Fest and pack as much entertainment into the weekend as they could.

All of the above happened over the past two years, including a rescheduling of the dates to October in 2021, yet there was nary a Jazz Fest in sight. For the past two years, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival has been on hiatus due to Covid-19. Even after the schedules had been released and the bands paid, city regulations and exploding case numbers have resulted in postponements of New Orleans’ best-known festival.

Even with the Omicron surge and the reinstitution of mask mandates in Orleans Parish, there was optimism from local leaders and the Jazz Fest hierarchy that there would be a festival in May this year. Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis says, “there’s a 100% chance that Jazz Fest will happen this year.” 

So let’s take a look at the first of two weekends and try to map out the best of the fest.

The Who

Jazz Fest Acura Stage 

Saturday, April 30 5:30-7:00

The Who at Jazz Fest
Image Courtesy of The Who

Taking a look at the tour schedule is the easiest way to figure out who’s playing when. A quick glance at The Who’s spring tour shows them playing Jazz Fest on Saturday so that’s an easy closer on the Acura Stage. Those of you who stuck it out in the torrential downpour in 2015 were treated to an absolutely awesome show where Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend showed the audience exactly why they are one of the greatest rock ‘n roll bands in history. Word on the street is that Daltrey still has the vocal chops while Townsend’s guitar shredding has apparently slipped in recent years. Despite their well-publicized hatred for one another, expect the two legends of rock to entertain the crowd with a set of greatest hits to close out the big Saturday of the first weekend.

Foo Fighters

Jazz Fest Acura Stage 

Sunday, May 1 5:00-7:00

The Foo Fighters at Jazz Fest
Image Courtesy of The Foo Fighters

This is another obvious scheduling in that Dave Grohl and Company are playing Sunday based on their tour website. Having them close out the Acura Stage on the final day of weekend one is also the obvious landing spot. There’s no question that Grohl and his bandmates have an affinity for New Orleans and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band is at the top of their affections. Expect to see a few wind instruments getting down on the stage during this performance. The fact that Preservation Hall had to postpone their 60th anniversary engagement last year and rescheduled it for May 6th makes it even more likely that the Foo Fighters will hype up their friends. I wouldn’t count out a surprise appearance at the tiny club on St. Peter’s Street some time during the weekend.

The Avett Brothers

Jazz Fest Gentilly Stage

Sunday, May 1 5:00-7:00

The Avett Brothers at Jazz Fest
Image courtesy of The Avett Brothers

Alright, here’s another easy one as The Avett Brothers list May 1 in New Orleans on their website. When they first played the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, it was back in 2009 warming up for the headliners on the small Fais Do Do Stage. The last time they played back in 2014, the Avett Brothers graduated to the closing act on the Gentilly Stage. The country/southern rock superstars will return this year to close out the first weekend on the Gentilly stage up against the grunge rock Foo Fighters. The brothers Avett and their talented band will bring out the strings for a high energy set that will appeal to their jam band audience and the rest of the fans looking for something not quite as heavy as the Foos.

Lionel Richie

Jazz Fest Acura Stage

Friday, April 29 5:20-7:00

Lionel Richie at Jazz Fest
Lionel Richie at Glastunbury Festival. Image courtesy of Lionel Richie

Last time Richie played Jazz Fest in 2018, he closed the Acura Stage on Locals Thursday. This year, he moves to the first weekend and closes out the main stage on Friday afternoon. Not sure that Lionel Richie has the starpower to attract a huge crowd, but the Jazz Fest regulars will be out in full force after missing the festival the past two years. Expect the usual energy from Richie as he belts out classic Commodore’s hits like “Lady (You Bring Me Up)” and “Easy” as well as his timeless classics like “Hello,” “All Night Long,” and “Say You, Say Me.”

Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit

Jazz Fest Gentilly Stage

Saturday, April 30 5:00-7:00

Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit at Jazz Fest
Image courtesy of Jason Isbell

Grammy-award winner and former member of the Drive By Truckers brings his southern rock crooning to close out the Gentilly Stage up against The Who. While I will surely opt for the legendary rock n rollers, fans of Isbell will be delighted to catch him on the other lawn. His latest album with the 400 Unit leans a little more country and reflects his middle age as his beautiful voice has become a bit raspier and more mature. His guitar-playing remains top-notch and he is sure to put on a great set at the fairgrounds, but don’t expect it to be as rocking as some of his southern rock favorites.


Jazz Fest Congo Square Stage

Friday, April 29 5:15-7:00

Back before Katrina in May 2005, rapper Nelly performed to a huge crowd at Jazz Fest at the height of his popularity.’s Doug McCash lists it as the biggest show that year and one of the Top 50 Jazz Fest headliners of all time. Though Nelly may be listed a little lower on this year’s schedule, he is still one of the biggest rappers around, as witnessed by his half-time performance at the Chiefs/Bills playoff game in 2022. Nelly will likely go up against Lionel Richie at Congo Square where most rappers are staged.

Death Cab for Cutie

Jazz Fest Gentilly Stage

Friday, April 29 5:00-7:00

Death Cab for Cutie at Jazz Fest
Image courtesy of Death Cab for Cutie

This is where it gets harder to predict. The indie-pop icons are listed at the Shaky Knees Festival in Atlanta on Sunday so they’ll be playing Jazz Fest either Friday or Saturday. Since Jason Isbell is already scheduled for Saturday, it’s likely the Death Cab for Cutie will be the closing act on the Gentilly Stage up against Nelly and Lionel Richie on Friday. Though Death Cab for Cutie’s front-man Michael Hadreas, better known as Perfume Genius, is known for his high-energy stage antics, more recent albums and performances show the band leaning more toward the ethereal ballads than to the pop punk they became famous for.

Third World

Jazz Fest Congo Square Stage

Friday, April 29 3:00-4:30

Third World at Jazz Fest
Image courtesy of Third World

Third World is one of the last of a dying breed. While most of the other legends of reggae have gone on to greener pastures, the original members of Third World are celebrating their 49th year together. Their fusion of reggae, r&b, funk, pop, rock and ska has been entertaining audiences all over the world. Their classics “96 Degrees in the Shade” and “Try Jah Love” have been covered by just about every essential reggae band, including Bob Marley and the Wailers. Putting them on the Congo Square Stage before Nelly makes a lot of sense. The four original members are only scheduled for 14 shows in 2022 so this may be one of your last chances to catch reggae greatness.

Randy Newman

Jazz Fest Gentilly Stage

Sunday, May 1 3:15-4:30

Randy Newman at Jazz Fest
Image courtesy of Randy Newman

It’s anyone’s guess where the iconic singer/songwriter will end up on the weekend’s schedule, but according to my calculations, we are out of headlining spots, despite the fact that Newman got top billing on local’s Thursday last time he played at Jazz Fest back in 2008. Newman has a great stage presence, jamming on the piano in a New Orleans-style boogie woogie, but sometimes gets a little too political for the main stage. He’ll likely be the 3:00 performer on the Gentilly Stage before one of the southern rock bands, or perhaps on Friday before Death Cab for Cutie. I’m guessing that 78 year-old Newman pairs best with The Avett Brothers on Sunday, although it’s not out of the question that he opens for Lionel Richie on Saturday.

José Feliciano

Jazz Fest Gentilly Stage

Saturday, April 30 3:15-4:30

Jose Feliciano at Jazz Fest
Image courtesy of José Feliciano

This is a hard one. Although it’s listed on Feliciano’s website that he’ll be at Jazz Fest on Saturday, where and what time is the big question. I was lucky enough to witness the 76 year-old guitarist’s intimate performance at the Gretna Heritage Festival back in 2019. The legendary Puerto Rican guitarist who is blind since birth, is a master picker with a still soulful voice. Though it makes sense to put him on the Gentilly Stage before Jason Isbell, I would much rather see him in the Blues Tent closing out the big Saturday. However, that would put him up against The Who so if I want to see him at all, it would behoove me to catch his set before Isbell on the Gentilly Stage.

CeeLo Green as “Soul Brother 100” Tribute to James Brown

Jazz Fest Congo Square Stage

Sunday, May 1 5:15-7:00

CeeLo’s website doesn’t list any tour dates for 2022 so this is a one-off performance that could land anywhere on the weekend. Let’s assume that CeeLo will headline one of the three days on the Congo Square stage. That’s the stage that Pitbull performed to an overflowing crowd back in 2019. The pop-singer has a throw-back style that should lend itself well in a tribute to one of the greatest rock n roll stars of all time. I got to see James Brown once back in 1994 in Atlanta, and CeeLo may have the vocal chops to pull this off, but does he have the stage presence that Brown had to make this show epic? I have high hopes for this performance which means I’ll have to miss part or all of the Avett Brothers and Foo Fighters. 

Galactic featuring Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph

Jazz Fest Acura Stage

Saturday, April 30 3:00-4:30

Galactic with Anjelyka Jelly Joseph at Jazz Fest
Image courtesy of Galactic

It’s amazing that we have to scroll down this far to see a local New Orleans band on the lineup. But with the passing of legends like Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, and Henry Butler over the past few years, it’s time for the younger musicians to take center stage. Galactic has been performing their brass band funk jams since back in the early 90s when bassist Rob Mecurio, guitarist Jeff Raines, drummer Stanton Moore and Hammond Organist Rich Vogel met at Tulane. The sweet sounds of Ben Ellman’s saxophone and the vocals of Houseman Theryl DeClouet were added a few years later. DeClouet suffered health problems in the early 2000s so the band turned to several other lead singers over the course of the next twenty years. Galactic now performs with the powerful voice of Jelly Joseph who does well to break up the monotony of the New Orleans brass instruments.

Tank and the Bangas

Jazz Fest Congo Square Stage

Saturday, April 30 5:15-7:00

Tank & the Bangas at Jazz Fest
Image courtesy of Tank and the Bangas

Last time Tank and the Bangas played Jazz Fest in 2019, they were on the Acura Stage opening for Galactic who was opening for The Dave Matthews Band. Two years later and Tarriona “Tank” Ball and her accomplished band have grown exponentially, seeing them perform at festivals all over the world. Their website has them playing at Jazz Fest on Saturday, but I’m guessing it’s time that they headlined a stage, so this year we should be seeing them fire up their juicy New Orleans funk at Congo Square. It’s only a matter of time that Tank and the Bangas are closing out the festival on one of the big stages so let’s start by giving them their due this year.

PJ Morton

Jazz Fest Acura Stage

Friday, April  29 3:15-4:45

PJ Morton at Jazz Fest
Image courtesy of PJ Morton

Born and raised in New Orleans, the 40 year-old Grammy nominated artist has performed all over the world. Morton has played keyboards for Maroon 5 for the better part of the last decade, as well as released two albums that are homages to his hometown “Gumbo” and “New Orleans.” A perfect landing spot for Morton’s r&b would be right before Lionel Richie on the big Acura Stage.

Click here to see the 2nd Weekend Lineup

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