Thursday, April 30, 2009

HAD Went To Jazz Fest - Pictures, Review

Early arrivals at the Gentilly Stage

Last weekend H.A.D. seized the moment and headed southeast for the 40th anniversary of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. We’ve had friends hassling us to go for years, now seemed like the moment; you have to believe we came for rock and roll, and we found that, but so much more.

Festival founder George Wein

Jazz Fest, as it’s familiarly known, was originally designed and produced by George Wein. Wein is the father of the festival concept, and started it all with Newport Jazz in 1954. We have to admit, when we made our way into the fest before the crowds in the early morning on Friday, we were overwhelmed. Jazz Fest is physically HUGE; it covers 145 acres inside the Fair Grounds Race Track in New Orleans. This is partially because it's not only a music festival: It celebrates Louisiana’s multicultural roots presenting history, crafts, food of startling diversity. Three crafts marketplaces offer contemporary, traditional and African wares, while the Folklife and Native American Villages allow you to see and hear first hand skills passed down for generations in the Louisiana mix of cultures.

Food stalls: not healthy, super tasty!

And then there is the food. We really did come to listen, but we did eat: pecan catfish meuniere for breakfast, alligator pie and fried green tomatoes for lunch and crawfish boiled, stuffed and puffed for dinner. Between times we snacked on beignets and raw oysters by the dozen, and recaffeinated with café au lait and the ubiquitous southern iced tea. After a few pralines we couldn’t even find room for a po-boy or a muffuletta. The wonder about the food booths is that they are all, even the ones selling canned sodas and beer, manned by volunteers and sponsored by community groups, churches and local restaurants and bakeries. Jazz Fest really is about the community. Everything was fresh and too, too tasty and we rediscovered a weakness for all things fried and sauced.

Leroy Jones

When the afternoon got a little too hot we stepped inside the grandstand for a history lesson; we were able to listen to icons of music and culture at the Alison Miner Interview Stage and then wander through this year’s special exhibits on Jazz Fest 1970-75, the King and Queen of Zulu, and Backstreet New Orleans. IT turns out Jazz Fest is actually owned by the nonprofit New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc., and that money spent here goes back to the community. Visiting Jazz Fest is helping to rebuild New Orleans; indeed, this week the foundation has turned nine musicians into new homeowners.

Ready to party?

What's more, We discovered that the spirit of Jazz Fest doesn’t stop when the Fair Grounds closes. New Orleans parties on every night ‘til morning in the streets and in the clubs; transportation is easy, with only a bit of time spent waiting in line you can grab a taxi or a shuttle, hop on the local bus or just walk the mile and a half down Esplanade to the Vieux Carre.

Weekend one winds down...

At the end of our three days we were exhausted but happy, wishing we could stay just a little bit longer. The party at the Fair Grounds is only half done, with a four day weekend from Thursday April 30 to Sunday May 3 still to come. It's definitely a more classic weekend, featuring Emmy Lou Harris, Tony Bennett, Dr John and Neil Young. Headliners include Bon Jovi, the Neville Brothers, the O’Jays and Kings of Leon you’re bound to find something that suits your ears - even if you're into late 80's New Jersey hair-rock. And if you can’t get there, you can still listen at the voice of the Jazz and Heritage Festival WWOZ, or stream video over at the AT&T Webcast.

Keep an eye out: we're going to be running a few stories relating to the music of Jazz Fest in the coming days!


Hanan said...

you are my hero
this is where I construct an epic poem to commemorate your brilliance...