Mardi Gras is not a frat party. Ignore commercials or whatever magazine features point at the French Quarter, the next two months are a communal celebration of everything New Orleans. Porches become the new living room, older couples are sipping Bloody Marys next to young families setting up front row seating for whoever is rolling that day (in virtually every neighborhood across the city and surrounding areas). And music is everywhere. 

“Do Whatcha Wanna” seems to be the unofficial theme, but Mardi Gras parades include more than brass bands. Jazz quartets or rock bands ride in beds, dance troupes and DJs have portable units with just enough bass. And after hours that celebratory theme spills into any club, bar and venue worth its salt. While the beginning of the year won’t be the most robust for fans of strictly major touring acts, it’s hard to complain about the quantity or quality of what’s on the calendar.

Can’t miss for Jan./Feb.

All the NOLA acts you’ve heard of—as well as the acts you should have heard of—play during Mardi Gras season. Big names like Trombone Shorty come home, local stalwarts like Kermit Ruffins, Rebirth and Hot 8 up their gig count and under-appreciated gems like Quintron or party-planning Attrition get seasonal spotlights. Music is everywhere for roughly 3-4 weeks (starting in late January through February 17), but there’s no shortage of it in the evening clubs just because everyone’s marching earlier in the day. 

Still, a handful of noteworthy touring acts are coming through that demand attention even if they’re separate from the season. Billy Idol is a wildman himself, but openers Broncho released some of the catchiest tunes of 2014. Legendary songsmith Robyn Hitchcock will bring one of the deepest song books around, typically for a marathon set. Diana Ross is a legend, Har Mar Superstar and The Hood Internet piggyback off big shows from the fall, and The Dodos keep Gasa Gasa’s streak of affordable, high quality indie offerings going. But for everything happening before Spring festival season kicks into gear, the most unusual would be Quintron playing with his Weather Warlock machine—a DIY synth he’s concocted to respond in realtime to changes in the weather. Add in the fact that the show’s being hosted by a repurposed church in East NOLA, and it’s unique enough to peel anyone away from whatever krewe rolls that evening.

If spending $50…

[King Tuff + Ex-Hex, 1/14 at OEJ—$12]

[The Hood Internet, 2/16 at Hi-Ho—$15]

[The Dodos, 2/20 at Gasa Gasa—$13] = $40

Curated calendar

King Tuff + Ex-Hex—One Eyed Jack’s (1/14) Wed

Kermit Ruffins—Blue Nile (1/16) Fri

Big Freedia—Siberia (1/18) Sun

Quintron + The Weather Warlock—St. Maurice (1/18) Sun

Billy Idol + Broncho—House of Blues (1/21) Wed

John Mulaney—Civic Nola (1/23) Fri

Attrition’s Star Wars Dance Party—Siberia (1/25) Sun

Vacationer—House of Blues (1/31) Sat

Zola Jesus—Republic (2/1) Sun

Glen HansardCivic  (2/3) Tues

Har Mar Superstar—Siberia (2/7) Sat

Robyn Hitchcock—One Eyed Jack’s (2/10) Tues

Rebirth Brass Band (Free)—Howlin’ Wolf (2/13-2/14) Fri-Sat

Better than Ezra—House of Blues (2/14) Sat

Hot 8 Brass (Free)—Howlin’ Wolf (2/15) Sun

Trombone Shorty’s Bacchus Bash—Tipitina’s (2/15) Sun

Quintron + Miss Pussycat—One Eyed Jack’s (2/16) Mon

The Hood Internet—Hi-Ho (2/16) Mon

The Menzingers / Taking Back Sunday—Civic (2/18) Wed

The Dodos—Gasa Gasa (2/20) Fri

Attrition’s Game of Thrones Dance Party—Siberia (2/21) Sat

A Place To Bury Strangers—Gasa Gasa (2/25) Wed

Diana Ross—Saenger (2/28) Sat

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