This is the second in our series on the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
If you have never been to the festival, the following photo essay may give you inspiration to go if you are heavily drawn to either music or culture.
Our first stop as we entered the festival grounds led us to the Jazz and Heritage stage, where Walter Cook and the Creole Wild West Mardi Gras Indians were singing and dancing. It didn’t take us long to get into the spirit of dancing and chanting along with the performers.
The festival has ten stages/tents that you are free to wander between after you’ve enter the festival grounds. The Fais Do Do stage is normally reserved for Cajun and Zydeco or country/folk influenced music, and if you are in the crowd, expect to see some couples two-stepping to the bands. Our favorite band that played on this stage was the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a young string band, who dip back into old traditional folk and country blues. The band members are all multi-instrumentalists, playing violin, banjo, guitar, harmonica, snare drum, jug and kazoo (yes, a kazoo).
It’s not hard to see Mardi Gras relics throughout the festival. Not far from the Fais Do Do stage, there was a craft tent that caught our attention with a table of decorated Krewe of Muses shoes. The Muses, an all-female Mardi Gras krewe, decorate old throw-away shoes with metallic sprinkles and various adornments and throw them from their floats to the Mardi Gras revelers. Chris is a member and rides on a Mardi Gras float every other year. She’ll be back in 2013 (and needs to get started on her shoes).
The second day of the festival was a bit hotter than the first, so I took the opportunity to wander into the larger tent stages to sit down and cool off, normally rotating between the Blues Tent and the WWOZ Jazz Tent. One of the highlights of the Blues Tent was Ironing Board Sam – he had a four piece band that rocked the socks off the entire crowd, dancing to the highly charged R&B songs.
No Louisiana festival is complete without a wide array of food vendors to choose from, and JazzFest is no exception. The vendors serve up anything from cochon de lait (roasted pig), gumbo, crawfish etouffee, po-boys (hoagies), and the list goes on. At Jazzfest, there are about three or four locations spread throughout the festival grounds – needless to say, I must have had a half dozen mini-meals each day.
Another favorite at the Blues Tent was Corey Harris. I am familiar with his work, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss this session. Corey is one of the new generation of musicians who focus on the kind of stripped-down guitar blues originating from the Mississippi delta and from players like Son House and Robert Johnson. It was strictly an acoustic guitar and harmonica set – as the harmonica wailed into its rhythms, Corey bent the strings into a steely twang and played slide.
The festival also has several areas dedicated to art and crafts – paintings, jewelry, clothing, folk art, etc.
One of my favorite artists at the festival, Nicario Jimenez of Andean decent, created little Day of the Dead scenes encased in colorful frames. All of his miniature pieces are hand made from plaster.
The festival always has major acts who play at the largest stage – sponsored as the Acura stage. At this venue, people stake out their claim as early as possible in the day with tarps, and many bring seats and umbrellas to their areas. Many people toward the front of the stage stand for the event.
Can’t find your spot? Hopefully, someone in your group brought a flag pole to mark your territory.
A view of the Acura Stage.
And the headliner performer… the Boss! (as seen on the big screen)
We didn’t want to forget the people who help keep the New Orleans music tradition alive – the local musicians and street performers…
… and they start young.
During the Jazzfest, the Louisiana Music Factory, a record store specializing in regional music, hosted free concerts in their store. We had a chance to see a few bands – standing-room only – including Trombone Shorty.
It’s hard to visit New Orleans and the Jazzfest and not pay tribute to those that helped form the New Orleans musical style, including Louis Armstrong, who brought the unique sound to the masses.
So, if you are ever wondering where American music and all that rock and roll you listen to was born, take a trip to New Orleans… and listen.
Don Faust | Partner, Contributor and Photo Editor of the travel site www.caroundtheworld.com, winner of 2010 Lowell Thomas travel writing award.