The lineup for New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2018 (April 27-May 6) was just released, and (as usual) I am psyched. David Byrne, Aretha Franklin, a special Tribute to Fats Domino – featuring Jerry Lee Lewis, Jack White are among the headliners. It’s not just about big-star musicians (well, OK, sorta). It’s more that, bottom line, it’s #JAZZFEST!
If you’ve been, I need say no more. But here’s the more for those who haven’t.
I have never been able to convince any of my friends to come with me to JazzFest. OK, sure, maybe the idea of spending a long weekend away with me scares them. But more likely is that once they see photos of the giganticness of the event, masses of people, the litany of musicians in the lineup, they are turned off. One year, I almost got my husband to go; then he saw an aerial shot of the crowd, and that was that.
I understand the teeming masses turn-off. I am not a crowd person., But at JazzFest – as at many music or other festivals where everyone shares a particular passion – the crowd is a huge (so to speak) part of the joy (especially if you get VIP tickets that come with upgraded bathroom facilities and a little section where the people per inch ratio gives you a fighting chance at breathing/seeing a stage).
Back to crowd joys, though. An example: I’m dancing my head off in front of a band with a big crazy washboard player and a granny playing the spoons and a brass section and “zydeco” or “stompers” or “hellraisers” in the name. I’m by myself (as noted) and sweating under a merciless New Orleans in May sun and lots of swampish humidity, salt stinging my eyes, and everybody looking the same, like they just pulled us all out of the Mississippi. And all around me, people are dancing: some Brooklyn-esque hipsters with bookish spectacles all fogged up and sliding down; an old married couple with their matching leather-roadmap faces close together and steppin’ at a bayou pace; a woman in a red insanely big self-made hat (a J.F. thing) with her face toward the white-hot sky and a smile shaped like bliss. And I catch her eye and we smile and I realize my cheeks are beginning to smile-hurt. And the music, the joy, the moment, and the high somehow, unbelievably, get higher.
JazzFest is like the Northern Lights: It’s something I wish/ hope everyone can experience before they die.
And guess what, my friend Lisa, who pretty much says “yes” to any good adventure, finally caved on this one and we’re both checking out airfares now. I didn’t even have to mention the food, the exhibits, the crafts, and — I almost forgot — the second lines (parades) banging and glinting their way through the crowd.
For their commemoration of the 300th anniversary of N.O., seems like even more great homegrown musicians will be playing — along with a tribute to Fats Domino mentioned above, there’ll be a ton of Nevilles in a variety of permutations (funk, jazz, blues) the Radiators, the Rebirth Jazz Band, which blew my head off last time I was in the Big Easy. In the Neville family tradition, descendants of Rockin’ Dopsie Sr. (one of my faves) Dwayne and Rockin’ Dopsie Jr., will be at performing: Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers – Dwayne’s been called the “King of the Accordion” is in town this weekend, actually, for the Grammy Awards (his latest, “Top of the Mountain” is nominated for Best Regional Roots Album”). I’m going to hear the Hellraisers Saturday, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need to go to JazzFest.
Because being there changes everything…
JazzFest is over two weekends – April 27-29 and May 3-6. As always deciding which weekend to go can be painful. I’m staying for both weekends this year (YOLO, you know).
In a follow-up post (gotta get food for my dogs) I’ll give you my semi-curated and possibly snarky list of who’s playing when to help you decide. Also a few pix and vids of some bands and Jazzfests past….
Meantime, check out the official JazzFest site.