It had been a long time coming…
For years, I had been wanting to go to Jazz Fest in New Orleans. I had heard many great things about it and since I’d visited New Orleans once, I knew it was a place I had to return to. It just has a soul and a style different from any other place I have visited in my life.
Finally, this year I told myself I was not going to miss this festival. While most of my friends are into the more trendy festivals- Coachella, Burning Man, etc., I wanted the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Music Festival to be my first one.
Although I’m a singer perform live regularly, I was a little daunted by the idea of listening to music all day in the open air for three days in a row, so I opted to go to the first weekend for two days. It was a nice happy medium.
It was a long journey to New Orleans. My flight was delayed by an hour and a half, which led me to miss my connection, and have to catch the next flight. Luckily, I came in time to experience a little night life with my man before heading to the fest the next day. (In New Orleans, the night life lasts until 5 or 6 in the morning!)
The street bands and live music on Frenchmen’s street served as a nice precursor for what was going to be a weekend full of music! It was also good to connect with my cousin and his wife, who were also in town for Jazz Fest.
Then the day finally came, Jazz Fest day 1 (well technically day two out of three, but day one for me.) After a quick hotel breakfast, and a fifteen minute Uber drive, my man and I joined the masses to get through one of the many entrances to the Race Track and Fairgrounds where the outdoor event was held.
Before even entering the fair grounds, people were selling food and drink , including lots of water bottles, as it was a warm day. Also, the line to the fairgrounds went pretty quickly -a swift bag check and two scans of our tickets, and we were in!
Day 1, first stop: The Gospel Tent. What a way to embark on our musical journey, by listening to roaring and uplifting, gospel music! We clapped our hands, responded to the calls, and continued on to the next tent -The Blues Tent.
This is where the authenticity of New Orleans music began to be revealed and true music-lovers gathered. People weren’t in the audience chatting or distracted, they were up on their feet dancing to every tune. To me, it felt like home.
As the day continued, we made our way through the maze of venues, from small outdoor stages, to tents, to big stages where headliners, including the Alabama Shakes and Usher performed. As much as I enjoy these artists, my favorites were the local bands. They simply keep the soul of New Orleans alive. They danced while they played, some dressed in decorative costumes, and kept people elevated!
Another thing that exudes the spirit of NoLa is the food and people! As we left the racetrack for the day, the music and fun continued. While we walked to find a place to catch a cab to our hotel a few friendly party goers, invited us to have crawfish and drinks. I’d never had boiled crawfish before or knew how to eat it, so they taught us how to. It was a lot of fun!
We continued to enjoy the music scene in French quarter that evening, found more good eats, then called it a night- as we had one more music-filled day to go!
Day 2: Rain! That’s right, it was raining and we received the notification on the Internet that “the Jazz Fest is closed until further notice.” Did we really travel from far and purchase non-refundable tickets, to not be able to attend this long-awaited music festival? I felt terrible… until about 1pm, when it opened up again! By then we had purchased some gear to weather the rain, including waterproof shoes and umbrella. The racetrack was muddy, but it didn’t stop us from enjoying what was left of the fest. Lorde was great on stage and it was exciting to catch a live show of Tom Petty! Although my favorite again, were the local performers. This was the day the New Orleans marching band paraded through the track. Come rain or shine, the music played on!
This spirit that comes from the soulful and uplifting from music, people, and food are what I love about New Orleans and while things didn’t go quite as expected, I was so happy to be there and share the time with my family and partner.
My hope now is that I will one day perform at this awesome festival! (Can you visualize it? 😉 )