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Little Big Town, Fleetwood Mac at Jazz Fest

Jimmy Cliff performs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, Friday, May 3, 2013. AP

NEW ORLEANS— Little Big Town says that some networking they did is paying off with a chance to cross a couple of items off their “to do” list.

After playing Bayou Country SuperFest in Baton Rouge last year, group member Karen Fairchild said they talked to festival producer Quint Davis about other things they hoped to accomplish. They mentioned that they’d one day like to perform at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Davis was in a position to help since he also produces Jazz Fest.

Known for their trademark four-part harmonies, Little Big Town takes the stage in New Orleans on Saturday.

“Can you believe we’re opening for Fleetwood Mac?” said Little Big Town vocalist Kimberly Schlapman. “We’ve been wanting to play Jazz Fest forever and now we’re opening for Fleetwood Mac and can mark off two big things from our list.”

Schlapman said early in their career they had the chance to meet Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, which she described as an “amazing harmony band.”

“Being able to share a stage with them is one of our greatest wishes,” she said.

Fairchild said they’ve watched Jazz Fest from afar for years. “The who’s who of music shows up year after year at the festival. Who wouldn’t want to play there?”

Also playing Saturday are Phoenix, Frank Ocean, Los Lobos, Terence Blanchard, Davell Crawford and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Sunshine and blue skies were welcomed by fans of the outdoor festival, which has been drenched by rain in previous days. Finding a spot away from the mud was among fest-goers’ biggest goals. Some spread out plastic tarps to sit on. The field in front of the festival’s largest stage, where Fleetwood Mac will perform, was packed hours before their performance.

Little Big Town’s Fairchild said she hopes their festival appearance will help boost their fan base.

“This is a great chance for longtime fans to come out and see our set and a chance for us to discover and be introduced to new fans,” she said.

Phillip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook make up the rest of Little Big Town, which recently won two Academy of Country Music awards for their latest album “Tornado.” They go on tour with Keith Urban in July.

Fairchild and Schlapman said they’ve been friends for 25 years and the band was born through a brainstorming session. They said the four of them have been singing harmonies all their lives and were influenced by bands like Fleetwood Mac and Alabama.

“It started off as a crazy idea,” Fairchild recalled. “I already knew Jimi, called him on a whim and the three of us were singing in Kim’s living room. We knew a fourth person would balance the harmonies and give us more freedom and that’s when we brought in Phillip. When we heard the four of us sing together, we knew we had a band.”

Both Fairchild and Schlapman said the group’s foundation is traditional country music but they consider themselves modern traditionalists.

“We’re a fusion of so many things,” explained Fairchild. “You hear country but also bluegrass and a gospel tinge in the soulfulness of our sound. There’s also some of that southern California harmony that comes through.”

The festival ends Sunday, with closing performances by Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Aaron Neville, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, and Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra with special guest Dee Dee Bridgewater.


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