Today, the New Orleans Jazz Fest, which is formally named the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, opens. It will last for 2 weeks, from Thursday through Sunday each week. I’ve been to this event a number of times; it is one of the best music experiences and entertainment bargains imaginable.
Every day, the music starts around 11:00 AM and lasts until about 7:00 PM. There are 12 different stages, with some of the stages devoted to a specific genre, like gospel, zydeco, or blues. Others provide a lagniappe of music, where every couple of hours a different type of music comes on stage.
We’ll be going this Sunday. Here are the musicians that we’ll choose to see, out of the more than 50 acts that will be presenting that day. The first act that we’ll see is Erika Flowers, a local musician with a great range. We’ll then traipse down to the main stage to see Trombone Shorty. Then, we will go to the Jazz Tent to listen to Eliis Marsalis. Then, we’ll walk over to listen to Dr. John. Then, we will watch Cowboy Mouth, before finishing the day with either Springsteen or Al Green. You get all of this for only $50 per person.
Every one of the days is filled with music like this. Among the more famous acts performing are: Florence and the Machine, Irma Thomas, the Beach Boys, Tom Petty, Jimmy Buffett, Ziggy Marley, the Eagles, Foo Fighters, and the Neville Brothers.
Now, let’s talk food. As you might expect, in NOLA the food is taken seriously. There are so many food stands, with so many offerings, that I can’t list them all. Let me just tell you the different types of po-boys that will be available; hot sausage, crawfish sausage, roast beef, turkey giardinera, Cajun duck, fried shrimp, fried oyster, paneed chicken, Louisiana crawfish, fried gator, and crabmeat. There are about 25 merchants serving food. Most of it is incredibly delicious, and not very expensive. You’re not allowed to bring food or water in, but there are plenty of beverage tents. I assume water is available there, although we generally imbibe something else.
A few tips for newbies:
• Bring blankets and pillows. Have the women folk carry these while you get the food and beer.
• While you’re at it, take some umbrellas; the New Orleans heat can be oppressive; also, rain pops up down here without much notice. The music keeps going on unless it thunderstorms, and sometimes doesn’t bother stopping for that.
• Figure out in advance what you want to eat, and what you want to see. This saves you from the trek back to the food court, which, for some reason, by the end of the day, seems to take a long time.
• At some point, you’ll get separated from your friends. When this happens, don’t panic. Go to the nearest beverage tent, find a beverage to relax with, and go to the designated stage, and sit. At the end of that show, you’ll find them.
• Parking isn’t easy, as all of us know. We end up just paying someone to park in their yard. But if you’re a tourist, there are shuttles all over the place from the CBD and the French Quarter.
• For New Orleans, this is an incredibly peaceful event. I’ve never seen a fight break out, but maybe because there are a ton of cops there. If you’re a belligerent drunk, you might want to stay in the Quarter.
• If you have a favorite act, and it isn’t real famous, you can go up to the stage after their show and talk to them. They’ll sign autographs or just chat.
• At night, the music keeps going on at all of the different clubs in the area. Enjoy them all night long.
This is the last big event before we hibernate for summer. Come on down, y’all.