It’s the last weekend in April, which for many means one thing (especially to Fred Kasten), and while we’re counting down for the gates of the Fair Grounds to open wide, let us not forget all that continues to live and breathe outside the racetrack gates. Here are some great things to do before, after, or (gasp) during this weekend’s main attraction:
The We and the I (6 p.m.) Acclaimed director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind, Science of Sleep, The Green Hornet, Dave Chapelle’s Block Party) brings his audience inside the confines of a high school bus on the last day of school with his newest film. Oretha Castle Haley’s own Zeitgeist screens the flick of these Bronx natives — spanning the length of just one afternoon — heading into a teenage summer. With only one week to catch this film, it’s worth the trip to see Gondry’s latest work, not to mention his cast of impressive first-time performers.
Instrumenthead (8 p.m.) Thursday marks the opening a new portrait series by photographer Michael Weintrob, who captured 70+ iconic musicians without ever revealing a single visage. "See" the late, great Uncle Lionel Batiste, Bootsy Collins, Mickey Hart and more, like you’ve never seen before, and hear live performances by many of Weintreib’s subjects. The event is located at 2121 Chartres St (enter through the Frenchmen Art Market), and 20 percent of the proceeds will benefit the Tipitina’s Foundation and the New Orleans Musicians Assistance Foundation.
Hurray For the Riff Raff /Lonesome Leash (7 p.m.) Call it folk-pop, call it freak-folk, call it contemporary or standard — whatever you call it, these two acts are coming together for an "intimate acoustic evening" downtown at St. Claude’s Allways Lounge. Lonesome Leash is Walt McClements’ (of Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship?) newest solo project, which comes equipped with accordion, bass drum and a French horn to start. McClements is a man of many projects and collaborations, and he returns from a night in Athens, GA to kick off the evening with new songs. We can only hope a transition to the Hurray For The Riff Raff clan will result in a few tunes with both acts on stage, followed by HFTRR’s lead Alynda Lee carrying us through original music and old-timey standard ballads that achieve feet tapping, tear-jerking and swing dancing. Caution: #emotional ! See you there.
Festival International de Louisiane (All Day) Okay, you’re right, this FREE festival actually started on Wednesday, but if you don’t have plans this weekend, and aren’t, say, going to a certain festival in New Orleans, Festival International is only a hop, skip and I-10 W ride away. This four day celebration of French cultural heritage in Southeast Louisiana is chock full of music, food, crafts (what’s a festival with no crafts?) and all things zydeco/Cajun/French. Bands play from 11 a.m.-midnight, and the streets of Lafayette become one huge block party. Imagine a free, francophone version of SXSW, without the film/tech/hoopla. See you there, and check back next week for photos from the fest!
New Orleans Puppet Festival (Varying Times) A duel effort by the Marigny Opera House and the Mudlark Public Theatre, this second installment of the now-annual festival is held over the same two weekends as this year’s Jazz Fest. Using each venue for separate purposes, a variety of puppet troupes will put on family friendly performances at the Marigny Opera House, and late-night, adult-only shows at the Mudlark Public Theatre. Catch performances at the Opera House April 25-28 and May 2-4 at 7 p.m., closing with a special screening of Quintron and Miss Pussycat’s “The Mystery of the Old Birdbath” on May 5. The Mudlark hosts on April 26-27 and May 3-4; all performances are $20GA/$10 Students/Seniors. Like the audience, puppets will be of all ages and sizes.
Andrew Bird (9 p.m.) For those who share the childhood aspiration of becoming a professional whistler when you grow up, you share one idol: Mr. Bird. Whistling his way through ten full studio albums, along with a slew of EPs and singles, Andrew Bird heads to uptown’s musical tour HQ (Tipitina's) for an intimate evening of strings, vocals, and stories. If you miss Bird at Jazz Fest (Saturday, 4/27) here’s a second chance to catch him before he flies. Either way, you’re sure to hear his tunes, both old and new.