Jam band Widespread Panic headlines the Acura Stage for the opening day of Jazz Fest’s second and final weekend. From Athens, Ga., Widespread Panic returned to the road last month following an uncharacteristic yearlong break from touring and just a few performances in 2012.
A group known for following in the touring tradition of the father of jam bands, the Grateful Dead, Widespread Panic is playing a summer tour this year that includes four sold-out June nights at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colo. The band holds the record for sell-outs at the famous venue, 38 in all.
Appropriately for a group so defined by its concerts, Widespread Panic’s latest two albums are 2010’s epic “Live in the Classic City II” — (Athens is known as the Classic City) — and 2012’s all-acoustic “Wood.”
The band’s in-concert recordings also include 2000’s “Another Joyous Occasion,” featuring New Orleans’ own Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
Widespread Panic, incidentally, is scheduled to play longer than any other Jazz Fest act this year.
Punk rock poet Patti Smith makes her Jazz Fest debut following April performances in Rome, England and Austin. Her latest album, “Banga,” appeared in June. One of its songs, “Nine,” is Smith’s birthday tribute to her friend Johnny Depp.
Smith and Depp recorded a duet, “The Mermaid,” for the recently released, star-studded “Son of Rogues Gallery — Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs,” a pet project for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor.
Smith’s celebrity friends aside, she’s among the major, still relevant artists to emerge from New York’s 1970s punk-rock scene. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, she’s also a gifted writer of both poetry and prose. Her 2010 book “Just Kids,” a memoir about her friendship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, won the National Book Award for nonfiction.
Maroon 5, to say the least, is among Jazz Fest 2013’s big mainstream acts. Formed in Los Angeles in 1999, the band achieved international fame in the 2000s via such hits as “This Love,” “She Will Be Loved,” “Harder to Breathe” and “Makes Me Wonder.”
More recently, Maroon 5 hit the charts with the ubiquitously popular “Moves Like Jagger” from the band’s 2012 album “Overexposed.”
Producer Benny Blanco introduced “Moves Like Jagger,” mostly composed by Sweden’s Shellback, to Maroon 5. The band later invited Christina Aguilera — Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine’s co-mentor on TV talent show “The Voice” — to be a guest vocalist for “Moves Like Jagger.”
Despite trepidation about going in an even more pop-music direction than usual for “Overexposed,” the songs Maroon 5 created with big-named producers Ryan Tedder, Max Martin and Blanco became favorites of the band members themselves.
Congo Square Stage
Reggae and ska pioneer Jimmy Cliff released “Rebirth,” his first album in seven years, last summer. Tim Armstrong, front man for California punk-rock band Rancid and a fan of the 1980s British ska revival, produced the recording and gathered musicians to play for it who likewise appreciate the still vital Cliff.
Cliff’s international hits include “Wonderful World, Beautiful People” and his remakes of Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” and Cat Stevens’ “Wild World.” And Desmond Dekker’s version of Cliff’s “You Can Get It if You Really Want” became a massive hit in the U.K.
Cliff starred in the classic, music business-centered Jamaican film “The Harder They Come.” He also wrote and performed much of the drama’s soundtrack.
Like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and other classic Jamaican artists, Cliff was influenced by American rhythm and blues, including music from New Orleans. Born James Chambers, he chose his stage name, Jimmy Cliff, when he was a youngster in Jamaica to perform Fats Domino songs at talent contests.
Congo Square Stage
Rhythm-and-blues singer-songwriter Frank Ocean, a new national star from New Orleans, won a Grammy this year for best urban contemporary album. Ocean and the Black Keys received more 2013 Grammy nominations than any other artists. In addition to his Grammy win, Ocean, 25, got nominations for album of the year, record of the year and best new artist. Ocean moved to Los Angeles in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flood interrupted his plans to attend UNO. In L.A., he wrote songs for Brandy, Justin Bieber and John Legend and collaborated with Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Kanye West. After signing a recording deal with Def Jam Records, he released his 2011 mixtape, “Nostalgia, Ultra.” His breakthrough album “Channel Orange” followed in July 2012.
Ocean told MTV that his follow-up album may be influenced by the melody- and harmony-rich pop singing groups the Beatles and the Beach Boys.
Fleetwood Mac plays its only festival date on a 34-city U.S. tour at Jazz Fest.
The classic rock band’s landmark 1977 album “Rumors” sold more than 40 million copies. To mark the album’s 35th anniversary, a deluxe reissue of “Rumors” was released in January.
Fleetwood Mac’s 2013 lineup features four of
the five band members who participated in the group’s most successful years of recording: Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, members of the band since 1967, and Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, who joined in 1975. The absent Christine McVie, a singer, songwriter and pianist, retired from the group in 1998 following Fleetwood Mac’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A newspaper report about Fleetwood Mac’s April 24 show at Newark, N.J.’s Prudential Center says only one McVie song, “Don’t Stop,” was performed. The reporter says, however, that Fleetwood Mac, even without McVie, remains something great to behold.
The Black Keys
The Black Keys claimed three Grammy Awards in February. The Nashville-based roots-rock duo’s “Lonely Boy” won for best rock performance and best rock song. The Black Keys’ million-selling 2011 album “El Camino” won for best rock album.
Consisting of singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer-producer Patrick Carney, the Blacks Keys formed in 2001 in Akron, Ohio. Music buyers and critics alike embraced the duo’s 2002 debut album, “The Big Come Up.” The Black Keys’ popularity grew through the years, leading to the huge success of 2010’s “Brothers” album and even bigger “El Camino.”
Auerbach also produced Dr. John’s 2012 album, “Locked Down,” which won the New Orleans singer-pianist his fifth Grammy Award. Dr. John, the Blacks Key and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band performed together during the Grammy Awards telecast.
Aaron Neville will close Jazz Fest this year at the event’s second-largest stage. Pursuing the solo career he began more than 50 years ago but subsequently put on hold as a member of the Neville Brothers, Neville released his latest album, “My True Story,” in January. Co-produced by Rolling Stone Keith Richards, the album features Neville singing songs he’s loved since his childhood and youth in New Orleans. The singer had wanted to record a doo-wop project for decades.
“Everything I’ve done, really, you can hear some doo-wop in it,” he told The Advocate in November. “When I did ‘Mona Lisa,’ I ended it with a doo-wop thing. The song I did with Linda Ronstadt, ‘Don’t Know Much,’ I did a doo-wop ending on that. So it’s something that’s been in my heart for a long time.”
By John Wirt, Advocate music writer