Spring Into Action

Hurricanes be damned: Festival International de Louisiane and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival announce their 2006 lineups.

For six days and eight nights in late April and early May, Louisianans ' and visitors from around the country ' will get a brief respite from round-the-clock discussions about FEMA, levee boards and government funding of the rebuilding effort.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita didn't stop the organizers of Lafayette's Festival International de Louisiane and New Orleans' Jazz & Heritage Festival from assembling top-flight music lineups for their 2006 festivals. FIL performers include ska legends the Skatalites, Crescent City icons Irma Thomas and Allen Toussaint, Cuban upstarts Yerba Buena, soukous veteran Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca as well as hometown favorites BeauSoleil, Buckwheat Zydeco, Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys and more. As always, FIL is free, and organizers are finalizing plans for a shuttle from Cajun Field for FIL volunteers and attendees. Sunday morning French mass is also returning to FIL this year.

Jazz Fest headliners include Fats Domino, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Jimmy Buffett, the Dave Matthews Band, Keith Urban and New Orleans institutions like The Radiators and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, along with a traditional lineup of New Orleans' finest gospel choirs and jazz bands.

It's a minor miracle that New Orleans' Jazz Fest is happening at all. With so many New Orleans musicians displaced, extensive damage to the fairgrounds festival site and corporate funding in question, prospects for the 2006 festival looked grim last winter. But major funding from Shell Oil and American Express helped ensure Jazz Fest's viability. This year's Jazz Fest is trimmed from its traditional seven days to six, and the total number of stages might be cut back, but the lineup feels like a full-scale Jazz Fest.

Perhaps Cowboy Mouth drummer Fred LeBlanc summed it up best: "Jazz Fest this year is not about money or career," he told the Times-Picayune. "It's all about heart and soul. It's about singing to survive."

And at FIL and Jazz Fest, hundreds of thousands of people will be singing along.