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2013 Year in Review: Music

Alex Woodward on the highlights of the year in New Orleans music



Downtown New Orleans welcomed two major venues back into the musical fold in 2013: the Saenger and Civic theaters. Though each has a different look and caters to different tastes, the venues can house not-quite-arena-sized-but-bigger-than-mid-sized acts.

  The Saenger's opening season, which kicked off in September, hinted at its older crowd-pleasers, including Peabo Bryson and Jeffrey Osborne, Diana Ross and Bonnie Raitt, while the Civic had up-and-coming artists Laura Marling and Passion Pit, along with Steve Earle and The Black Crowes, among others. Jeff Mangum — who performed two sold-out nights at One Eyed Jacks in January — reunites with Neutral Milk Hotel for two nights at the Civic in January 2014.

  Beyonce strategically bookended and dominated 2013 — from her blackout-creating performance at February's Super Bowl and show-stopping tour stop for July's Essence Festival, both inside the Superdome, to her late-December album Beyonce. Queen B's arena-sized world tour wasn't nearly as ambitious as Kanye West's, who brought his headline-streaking Yeezus tour to the New Orleans Arena in December.

  The club scene buzzed with nonstop schedules: New Orleans glimpsed buzz bands Purity Ring (in January), Milk Music (in June) and Haim (in October) before their bigger breaks. Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant made a surprise harmonica-wielding drop-in at BJ's Lounge in the 9th Ward before a July gig at the Mahalia Jackson Theater.

  Several familiar faces made strong album efforts, including Preservation Hall Jazz Band's ambitious first-ever collection of original compositions, That's It!, and Allen Toussaint's Grammy Award-nominated Songbook. Toussaint will join fellow New Orleans nominees Terence Blanchard, Andrew Duhon and the Hot 8 Brass Brand at the 56th annual Grammy Awards Jan. 26, 2014.

  Other notable releases in 2013 include Brass Bed's The Secret Will Keep You (named one of NPR's albums of the year), Dumpstaphunk's Dirty Word, Generationals' Heza (its first for Polyvinyl), Trombone Shorty's Say That To Say This, and Truth Universal's Invent the Future, as well as Hurray for the Riff Raff's My Dearest Darkest Neighbor, released in June as the band announced it joined the ATO Records roster.

  Bounce star Big Freedia debuted his reality TV show Queen of Bounce, and Freedia wasted no time highlighting proper booty-shaking tecniques following the world's first mega-glimpse of "twerking" thanks to Miley Cyrus at the MTV Video Music Awards in August.

  In March, the second annual Buku Music + Art Project brought Kendrick Lamar and Public Enemy, among others, to a whirlwind, hyper-colored two-day festival along the Mississippi River — though public outcry over the event's loudness overshadowed some of the stellar sets. (The event returns to Mardi Gras World March 21-22, 2014, with headliners The Flaming Lips.) The similarly loud Voodoo Music + Arts Experience held its first outing at City Park's festival grounds and upset some Bayou St. John neighbors, but many of them watched The Cure, Nine Inch Nails and Pearl Jam on the main stage's big screens from folding chairs along the bayou.

  Fleetwood Mac (and a bug that Stevie Nicks said flew in her mouth) were the overall pick at the 44th annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which also welcomed back former New Orleans resident Frank Ocean as well as Hall & Oates, in full-on greatest hits mode — crowd-pleasing pandering in the best way.

  2013's end was bittersweet, with The Meters again denied entry to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Later that week, New Orleans guitar hero Walter "Wolfman" Washington marked his own milestone and celebrated his 70th birthday at the Maple Leaf Bar.

  The New Orleans music world lost several members in 2013: No Limit Records artist Awood Johnson, aka Mr. Magic, died in March; Bill Johnston, who opened the Warehouse music venue in 1970, died in August; Joseph LaCaze, drummer for metal behemoths Eyehategod, also died in August; and jazz preservationist, recording stalwart and Palm Court Jazz Cafe founder George Buck died in December.

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