If you know what it means to miss New Orleans, you know about the transcendent feeling of rising at dawn to dance in the streets with thousands of others in your sparkliest get-up on Mardi Gras Day.
New Orleanians love to say, “Everywhere else it’s just a Tuesday.” but here in the Bay Area, there are enough NOLA expats, people with Louisiana roots and folks who simply appreciate a good party that Fat Tuesday (Feb. 21) in the Bay can be a suitable consolation prize to the real thing.
This weekend through next Tuesday, there are plenty of concerts, parties and parades to keep the good times rolling. Here are our top five picks. Happy Carnival!
For the 10th year, North Beach soul kitchen Tupelo and nearby LSU sports bar Northstar Cafe host a Mardi Gras parade accompanied by MJ’s Brass Boppers, a local ensemble that has opened for the likes of George Clinton & The Parliament-Funkadelic and Trombone Shorty. Maybe the closest thing you’ll find to a 7th Ward second line here in the Bay, the festivities kick off at Northstar and end at Tupelo with Creole snacks and plenty to drink. If Tupelo’s Instagram is to be believed, there will be a llama in attendance.
📍 1560 Powell St., SF
🗓️ Saturday, Feb. 18 | 1-7 p.m.
The Fillmore District, a storied neighborhood with deep Southern roots, is one of the best places to be in come Mardi Gras Day, when a youth-focused community group called the Village Project hosts an annual second line parade, masquerade ball and blues concert along the Fillmore Street corridor. Revelers will gather at Fillmore Center Plaza for performances by blues singer Niecey LivingSingle and Cajun combo BlackCat Zydeco. Next, SambaFunk and the David Hardiman 2nd Line Band will lead a parade down Fillmore Street, culminating with a masquerade ball at Origin Boutique Nightclub.
📍 1475 Fillmore St., SF
🗓️ Tuesday, Feb. 21 | 5 p.m.-midnight
🎟️ Free to $100
These jazz players got their start busking on the streets of San Francisco in the early 1970s, and this Fat Tuesday, they return to Downtown Oakland jazz mainstay the Sound Room for a night of danceable New Orleans-inflected grooves.
📍 3022 Broadway, Oakland
🗓️ Tuesday, Feb. 21 | 7-9:30 p.m.
For a Mardi Gras party more akin to those you’d find in rural Acadiana, zydeco group Aux Cajunals and soul-funk outfit Billy, Willie, & Lloyd hold things down at all-ages Berkeley mainstay Ashkenaz next Tuesday. Fiddler Suzy Thompson of Aux Cajunals apprenticed with Cajun legend Dewey Balfa, so you know she’s legit. They’ll offer a dance lesson before the show, so everyone will be ready to two-step. Bring your own beads.
📍 1317 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley
🗓️ Tuesday, Feb. 21 | 7 p.m.
New Orleans may be the birthplace of jazz, but thanks to SFJazz and dozens of other beloved venues, today San Francisco is a jazz capital as well. Jazz Mafia, a collective led by multi-instrumentalist and composer Adam Theis, headlines this annual tribute to the New Orleans tradition at the New Parish, featuring Theis’s 10-piece brass band, along with Oakland soul vocalist Erin Honeywell, DJ Lady Fingaz and more.
📍 1743 San Pablo Ave., Oakland
🗓️ Tuesday, Feb. 21 | 7:30 p.m.
Sarah Holtz can be reached at [email protected]