As a Jazz Fest veteran who has watched the festival evolve into one of the biggest music events in the world, it’s difficult to imagine what it looks like to someone seeing it for the first time!
There are many locals who remember a smaller and more locally-focused Jazz Fest, but this annual celebration of our culture, our music, crafts and our people set in the spring in New Orleans was destined to grow into the major event it is today. Lament about Jazz Fest in the past, but celebrate the fact that as a community we have created something very special that defines who we are as a city.
I’m a New Orleans native, but have lived in major cities around the country. While every city has its festivals, no other city could do what we do and do it so well! This was the most crowded Jazz Fest I can remember, and as I navigated through the massive crowds, I was impressed by the peaceful, though at times frustrated, attitude of the crowds. When you combine tens of thousands of people crammed together to hear major music acts with alcohol and heat, “peaceful fun” is not always a term that applies. And yet, that’s how I would describe Jazz Fest 2012.
Springsteen was excellent, The Eagles and The Beach Boys were legendary, but the band that gave the most exciting Jazz Fest performance was Better Than Ezra! Since reaching the national music charts in the mid-90’s, BTE continues to get better. Kevin Griffin’s voice is pure and diverse and the band’s on-stage personality makes them one of the best bands at Jazz Fest, or anywhere for that matter. These guys are true rock stars. Bass player Tom Drummond commented that all the years the band has been doing Jazz Fest, the crowd for their show this year was the biggest he’d ever seen!
Fest-goers love the music, but the two other main attractions are the food and the people. I can’t think of a better place to just “people watch!” Jazz Fest is amazing! The overall tolerance of people bumping into you, standing in long lines for your favorite food, and stepping on blankets and people as you work your way into the best position to see a band is all a reflection of the special place New Orleans is.
And while many locals refuse to accept the challenge of enduring Jazz Fest, we should all embrace this annual event as something that is totally New Orleans!