As a musical genre, the blues is an iffy proposition at best. Aside from a few genuinely brilliant innovators, the blues generally conjures up a very limited style based on a minor key shuffle and an even narrower range of song topics. It's a shame, because the history of the blues is a fascinating story whose most recent chapter plays out with a bunch of white guys in ponytails wanking out in ridiculously long guitar solos on "open jam" night.
Thus, it's forgivable if the phrase "Waterfront Blues Festival" doesn't inspire supernatural levels of excitement in the average Marcury reader. But amid all the normal "I've got the blues so bad" clichés that'll be bouncing around the Waterfront all weekend, there are a handful of great acts that have nothing to do with being a Hoochie Coochie Man.
Eric Burdon and the Animals—Before the final run of the Sopranos premiered, HBO's seventh season teaser featured a montage of Tony and the gang laid over a version of "Paint it Black" that managed to sound even more slithery, manic, and sinister than the Stones' original. That was Eric Burdon, whose back catalog is a treasure trove of pop songwriting that has gone largely unexplored by our generation. Aside from "House of the Rising Sun" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," Burdon and the Animals cranked out some incredibly tight Brit Invasion singles that have the sort of restrained rebellion that would feel right at home on the Rushmore soundtrack. After the Animals dissolved, Burdon went deep into groove mode to create some seriously impressive music with LA's War—their double album The Black-Man's Burdon (terrible name) is responsible for the Sopranos' "Paint it Black" cover. Your guess is as good as mine as to how Burdon's going to be with the reunited Animals, but if one of rock's most underrated talents wants to play at a park in the middle of my city on a July evening, I'm more than willing to take my chances. Fri July 6, 9:15 pm
Dirty Dozen Brass Band—It's unlikely that a New Orleans brass band will ever be as famous as the Dirty Dozen, although younger generations of musicians there are continuing to innovate the brass band style by combining traditional tropes with rap and hard funk elements. But the Dirty Dozen are like New Orleans royalty, and for good reason. Founded roughly 30 years ago, Gregory Davis & Co. updated the city's traditional parade music with playful bebop elements that were a shot in the arm to a musical form that was waning in popularity. Now, with an increased emphasis on traditional jazz over street music, the Dirty Dozen risk veering into "adult contemporary" brass band territory. Still, the guys are indisputable legends, don't play here that often, and are sure to inject a healthy dose of New Orleans funk into our honkified city. Sat July 7, 8 pm
Keith Frank & Soileau Zydeco—After the premature death of zydeco giant Beau Jocque in 1999, the field was wide open for someone to step up and take the reigns as the king of zydeco. That person turned out to be Keith Frank, a 35-year-old accordionist with a wicked rhythm sense and an ability to rock a crowd like nobody else in the very zydeco-saturated towns of southern Louisiana and east Texas. There isn't a single better zydeco band on the planet right now than Keith Frank's, and if you've never had a first-hand experience with the rural black dance music of the Deep South, you're probably not going to get a better chance than this without taking a flight to some Louisiana village with a crazy Cajun name. Fri July 6, 9:30 pm; Sat July 7, 4:30 pm