Anderson.Paak’s Jazz Fest Weekend Felt Like a Family Reunion

anderson paak jazz fest
Anderson.Paak Waited a Lifetime to Play Jazz FestErika Goldring

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Even while having eight Grammys and having toured all over world (as a solo act, alongside the Free Nationals, and as one half of the critically lauded duo, Silk Sonic) Anderson.Paak still thinks headlining this year's Jazz Fest feels like a rite of passage.

While most of the country's buzzy music festivals lean towards lineups with a heavy pop focus, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival has always had a global point of view. It's a place where acts like local hip-hop legend Juvenile, country superstar Chris Stapleton, and even The Rolling Stones can all share space.

"Maurice, our trumpet player, has been talking about Jazz Fest for years. We've tried to come out here a couple of times whether it's to do a full set or a jam session,".Paak exclusively tells Harper's Bazaar ahead of the band's headlining set. "Sometimes we've thought, 'Damn, I wish we knew about this when we were broke playing in L.A. and no one gave a shit.' You don't have to have a penny to your name here and people will still come out and support—it's amazing. It's why I love this city so much."

Like many who venture to the Crescent City for the festivities (around half a million tourists come into the city for the dual weekends year after year),.Paak feels a certain magic when he's in New Orleans.

"You can feel it as soon as soon as you touch down here — there's something different," he says. "And as for the fest, it's one of the best lineups I've been a part of, period. To be able to be in the midst of all these legendary acts and up-and-coming acts and local acts, it means a lot to us. We really put a lot into this set to make it special for the fans and for everyone out here."

A global perspective is also what Paak had in mind when teaming up with Expedia (the festival's official travel sponsor) to curate their first Global Jam event to kick off the weekend. At the revered Joy Theater, the artist was joined onstage by Tank and the Bangas and Colombian group Bomba Estereo to celebrate the sounds that not only shape New Orleans, but the world. Anderson.Paak's musical alter ego, DJ Pee Wee, also made an appearance that evening, blessing the crowd with a late night, '70s-centric, vinyl set—and yes, his famous silk press was present and on point.

"I've never done anything like [Global Jam]—at least not to this extent and Expedia was great when it came to just letting me put together a jam session with people that I like and have wanted to collaborate with," he says. "We have Rhae Khalil who is an artist I've signed also from L.A. and it will be her first time playing here. We have Bomba Estereo who are so dope and I love being able to bring their flavor here. And [Free Nationals and I] haven't done a show since last December and so we're just excited to be performing again."

anderson paak jazz fest new orleans 2024 expedia global jam
DJ Pee Wee aka Anderson.Paak at the 2024 Expedia Global Jam. Erika Goldring

The event, which featured surprise guests like Grammy and Oscar winner—and the reigning king of New Orleans—Jon Batiste, felt more so like a family reunion for.Paak and the band, versus just another gig. It was a necessary reminder that they do all of this for a reason.

"It all feels like what we used to do—you know, just jamming," he says. "Sometimes [with success] you get so far removed from that and it becomes about something else. It's good to have these things that bring you back to the foundation of why you started and you fall in love with what you do."

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