For New Orleans residents, the Jazz Fest spirit is alive and well all year round. Celebrating 50 years, I was ecstatic to experience Jazz Fest for the very first time. As a relatively new jazz listener, I knew I loved classic players like Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane, but I had yet to dig into the history books of the genre. Even in this rudimentary state, I saw names that cemented my need to be there – Al Green, Earth Wind & Fire, The O’Jays, Chaka Khan, just to name a few. I was only to attend one day of Jazz Fest, but it was beyond my wildest expectations. This is a pilgrimage every music lover should make, regardless of your love for jazz. Attending Jazz Fest will amplify your appreciation of life, love and the city of New Orleans.
Consisting of two DJs, A Tribe Called Red are so much more than what you see upfront – this is a group you must see live to fully understand their musical mission. Promoting inclusivity and cultural appreciation by blending an array of genres from around the world, they are in a league of their own. Accompanied by Mardi Gras Indians during their performance, this celebration of human connection was the medicine I needed.
Catching the Aretha Franklin tribute at Congo Square, I was blown away by the musicianship on stage – each one of these players was a true master of their craft, and it felt like an honor just to be present for the collaboration.
Bonnie Raitt was in top form and her band was a pinnacle of perfection. The legendary Ivan Neville, one of the most important players in the Nola scene, performed in Raitt’s band in the 80s and was happy to once again combine forces for the 50th Anniversary of Jazz Fest. It was beautiful to behold.
Al Green graced the stage carrying a bouquet of roses, tossing a few into the crowd before happily exclaiming “Hello, New Orleans!” I cried numerous times throughout this set; a rush of childhood memories came into my mind as he sang. That will remain one of the top experiences in my life, and I hope to replay those moments as many times as I can.
Post fest, I headed out into the city to get more live music in my bloodstream, and I was beyond satisfied.
After spending all night drenched in sweat at The Maison for ‘Lett Us in The Dumpsta’, it was a slow recovery that eventually revived me. Around noon I found myself at Parasol’s for a much-needed catfish po-boy. Stanton Moore of Galactic was hosting a Drum Academy interview with Lettuce drummer Adam Deitch and I was grateful to be invited to sit in. After bringing back sandwiches for the guys, I was able to marvel at the expansive drum kit collection in the space below, all painstakingly sourced by Stanton himself. Interview here for your pleasure!
Mono Neon & Ghost Note at One Eyed Jacks was mind-blowing. Playing the music of the legend himself, Ghost Note successfully powered through their set catalog with the FONKIEST performance of my entire weekend. Moving in a throng of sweaty dancers was made easy; when you’re all riding the same wavelength, there’s no bumping or getting stepped on. It’s all vibes and groove.
It’s safe to say I will never miss another Jazz Fest – and you shouldn’t either. Watch out for the lineup drop in 2020, and we will see you on the Race Track!
-You will dance all day (at Jazz Fest) and all night (post fest activities make 75% of the total experience in my opinion). Pace yourself.
-Disco naps, aka the ol’ reliable; don’t do that in Nola. There is simply too much to miss.
-Make time for food. With 24 hour dining in abundance, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to load up on southern delicacies to keep yourself going. Bonus – tons of these joints are right next to the best late night venues like the Maison, One Eyed Jacks