All of the words that can be used to describe New Orleans can also be used to describe Jazz Fest. Jazz Fest defines New Orleans!
The variety of music from jazz to rock, the wide selection of food from crawfish bread to sno-balls and the diversity of the villages provide a mirror reflection of New Orleans. If America is a giant melting pot, then New Orleans is an even bigger gumbo.
The uniqueness of our rich culture is vividly explained at the annual ritual of Jazz Fest. From an unassuming beginning in 1970, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival evolved into a party destination for America and the world! No one should be surprised that a small ‘jazz’ festival in the atmosphere of New Orleans would become such a celebrated event.
I have been to major music fests in Seattle, Portland, Oregon and Denver…and while in the context of those cities the festivals were big events and fun, there is something about the collection of the sights, the sounds and the people of our culture that make Jazz Fest a moment that cannot be adequately described with mere words – it must experienced!
Jazz Fest brilliantly brings together a variety of music that offers something for almost everyone’s musical tastes. This year, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel, The Black Keys, Phoenix, Willie Nelson, Widespread Panic, The Dave Matthews Band, Jeffery Osborne, John Mayer and Hall & Oates provide genres that span generations. And there are always the local favorites like, The Nevilles, Irma Thomas, Better Than Ezra and Cowboy Mouth.
The Fest is a venue that strips performers of their full-stage productions. Performing at Jazz Fest puts an artist’s raw talent on display. Void of the lights and the big productions, fans get to know the real talent of their favorite performers. I was not a Kidd Rock fan until I saw him as Jazz Fest. I was overwhelmed by his stage presence, his relationship with the massive crowd and most of all the depth and diversity of his songwriting. I saw him recently at the New Orleans Arena and with a stage production that was elaborate, but not distracting, I was equally impressed. But it was at Jazz Fest that I became a Kidd Rock fan! I’m sure you can think back on someone who made you a fan at Jazz Fest!
There are generally two types of ‘festers’: The ones who stake out an area early-on in front of one stage with their chairs, blankets and flags planted in the ground as if to claim their territory – and those who roam the grounds only to work into a position to see different acts.
The sights, sounds and smells of Jazz Fest give us a present-moment view of our past and with that perspective we get a sense of our future – and the future is bright! For all of the things that remind us what we don’t have in common, Jazz Fest is a perfect reminder of all we do have in common.
Whether you are from New Orleans or Louisiana or have moved here from another city, Jazz Fest is an annual reflection of who we are and how we live life! And a little mud will never stop us!