Saturday, Aug. 19, UW Memorial Union Terrace, 9:30 p.m.
Let's play the word-association game. Ready? "New Orleans."
Historians think "French port city." Frat boys think "Mardi Gras." Goths think "post-porn Anne Rice." Democrats think "horrible failure of government." Republicans think "French port city."
But I imagine, once you get past the politics, the parties and the vampires, everyone thinks about music - upbeat Dixieland, stringed-out zydeco and creepy funeral procession bands. I think Nashville may be the only city in the nation's consciousness more tied to a local music genre. And really, which would you choose?
Certainly not Boulder, Colorado, but that's where New Orleans native and brilliant jazz pianist Henry Butler now lives after losing his home and all possessions to Hurricane Katrina a year ago. Prior to the tragedy, he rarely toured. Don't miss this gig, part of the UW Memorial Union's blues festival.
Classically trained, rock-influenced and inspired by everything in between, Butler has the ability to conjure both the sweet memories and complicated realities of his city through deceptively straightforward piano playing. Whether through original works, a homage to Professor Longhair or localized translations of Mendelssohn or Joplin, Butler knows how to mix the gumbo while avoiding clichés that would otherwise spoil the dish.
Put another way: This is a man who, though blind since he was 3, is also a nationally acclaimed photographer whose love for his city and its people shows in every shot.
If only similar love and skill were shared by those tasked with rebuilding New Orleans and ultimately getting Butler back home.
Wednesday, Aug. 23, Overture Center's Overture Hall, 7 p.m.
Apparently also a blues musician of some notoriety, Bonnie Raitt is well known for the 1989 chart-topping single "Have a Heart," a song that ironically does not. Her other big single was 1991's "Something to Talk About," without which dozens of movies and television shows would have nothing to play over their empowering montage scenes.
I mock these songs because just about everything else Raitt has ever done, before or after, is a gem. The woman has more Grammys than the rest of us have genes, and like every show she's ever done, this one should be great. But where's the fun in writing that?