Up to this year, Jazz Fest, to me, had always been a puzzle of trying to figure out which day contained the most acts I wanted to see (read: knew who they were) and could therefore maximize my $65 ticket. We actually went on two days this year, thanks to a pair of free tickets from our neighbors. But the first Sunday, which we’d been planning to attend ever since we heard he was slated, was primarily about seeing Bruce Springsteen, someone Paul and I have spent many nights singing into the wee hours. He’s kind of a big deal in our house, if you know what I mean. Since we don’t arrive very early, we couldn’t get very close to the stage, but we still managed a decent far-away view and a good shot at the jumbotron:
And you know what? Bruce did NOT disappoint. In fact, he was better than I expected him to be. There’s a reason he’s called the Boss, folks. He inspired me to be a better performer (which I still do, from time to time) by reminding me that great performances are always more about the audience than the performer. So true! When I left, I felt like a new person.
But hear me when I say: there is so much more going on at Jazz Fest than the big names! So much more. While you’re waiting on the next big name to set up onstage, wander around to the smaller stages and stay a while. Set your beer down and dance! Sing along. Second Line. Make sure you see some Mardi Gras Indians.
THIS was my favorite place this year: the Heritage Stage. Here you can barely see some Mardi Gras Indians who were backing up Big Chief Monk Boudreaux. He’s a great performer, singing all kinds of classics like Little Liza Jane, Big Chief, Iko Iko, all the good stuff.
The second weekend, we caught part of TBD’s (a blistering, good-time brass band) set on the same stage. If you look closely, you can see a tiny drummer standing right in front of the tuba player. He’s got a snare strapped to him. Tiny!
There are some beautiful stages tucked away, also: the Lagniappe stage is in the racetrack paddock, so you have to go in the building to get to it. But it’s gorgeous in there! It’s also where you can get some raw oysters. Here are the New Orleans Moonshiners (with one of my favorite clarinet players) on the Lagniappe:
The People’s Health tent shows a lot of old-school jazz and big band, and has a little dance floor for those who like to jitterbug.
And the Blues Tent always has something worth checking out. Paul caught Glen David Andrews here last Sunday and said it was one of the best performances he’s seen in his LIFE! Dang. There are several other tents and stages, so just rest assured that if everyone’s going to Bruce Springsteen and you’re all like, “Not really a fan,” you WILL find something you like at Jazz Fest. So go! Don’t even think about it.
I was thrilled to get one of my old favorite fair foods this year, an Indian Taco!! Growing up in Oklahoma, Indian Tacos were one of the major hits at all our fairs and festivals. We do them a little differently up there, with a piece of fry bread as big as a plate so you can fold it around your taco fillings, but this one was still quite tasty, if a little small:
My soul was very happy to eat this. Also in that area, you can see people weaving traditional Chitimacha baskets, and Native American dancers in their show costumes performing. These dancers are from northern tribes and are following their festival circuit. I love seeing the fancy dancers: more memories of my Oklahoma childhood and field trips to pow wows.
A girl performing the Hoop Dance: she collects these hoops while dancing around really fast, and spreads them out across her back like wings. Amazing!
Fancy Shawl dance
And here are the Fancy Dancers, in their huge costumes, dancing at a furious pace!
I love it. Seeing these dancers was one of my favorite parts of the whole festival!
Then, there was food:
some awesome boudin balls from Food Area I.
so many choices…
My favorite new snack, from Food Area II: sweet potato chips dusted with powdered sugar. Sort of a more health-conscious version of a funnel cake. You know, because it’s vegetables.
But at the end of the day, Jazz Fest isn’t about just music or food; it’s about celebrating the city of New Orleans. You can do that by going to the festival every spring, or you can do it by going out to see live music and eat good food any old weekend: you certainly don’t need to go inside the gates to have a good time. There are shows all over the city once the gates close, and you can even catch a free dance party every night on Ponce de Leon, down the street from Canseco’s. It’s a blast!