2007 – a stellar year according to the Times Picayune . But stellar for whom? The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation? Considering the number of attendees (375,000) multiplied by say an average of $40 per ticket (minus the raping fees per ticket of Ticketmaster), that equates to a hefty $15,000,000 for the NOJHF. Not to mention the revenue generated from all the turistas come to town on lodging and food to experience the New Orleans vibe at the Fest.
OK fine, I can sorta see the benefit of the turista dollars for the city, but the inflated ticket prices of the fest this year? In fact, Jazz Fest ticket prices have increased $20 per day, from $25 a day to $45 a day as reported in the Money section of the Times Picayune on April 22, 2007, in only THREE YEARS. I guess the NOJHF justifies this price increase by hauling in the Big Name Acts (BNA’s) like Rod Stewart, Joss Stone, John Mayer, John Legend, and those of that ilk. Rumor flying around New Orleans has it that Rod Stewart was paid $800,000 plus ALL travel expenses for a one hour performance at the festival. This explains why NOJHF has jacked up ticket prices to accommodate the inflated monetary demands of has-been rock and rollers, expending 5% (if the 800,000 dollar figure is correct) of its total 2007 intake on ONE PERSON. Wouldn’t one think that almost one million dollars would be better spent on musical infrastructure in New Orleans? Like perhaps supporting the Tipitina’s Foundation? And could someone please point out exactly to me the relevance of someone like Rod Stewart to Louisiana culture and music? Hell, at least Robert Plant, of Led Zeppelin notoriety came into town and played on a Fats Domino tribute benefit CD with the Louisiana Lil Band O’ Gold and he didn’t extract crazy monies from NOJHF coffers, in fact he left the day before Jazz Fest began…
So aside from the courting of the BNA’s, what about the local and regional musicians? There has to be a displacement of local/regional musicians and artists to make room for the BNA’s, no? The Jazz Fest originally intended to showcase LOUISIANA musicians and artists and culture, and it seems like that intent has been shuffled off to the side for the huge artists. Considering that Louisiana musicians have been struggling since Katrina, NOJHF has sailed far away from them, leaving them to tread water like the rest of the residents of the southern part of this state.
And getting back to the turistas. They have displaced the locals from the fest. One GLARING absence this year was all the unique flags that have flown high above the crowds. Most of those flags were probably erected by locals – I remember at least a dozen off the top of my head that I would search for every Fest, and once underneath the flag I was able to see an old acquaintance and catch up on what had been happening in their life. Well this year, I probably only saw a couple dozen flags by the main stage, whereas in years past there were hundreds of flags all over the infield. Where have all those folks gone? I searched for several of them the one day I was able to go this year, and didn’t see one familiar flag. And the people that flew them were nowhere to be found. Perhaps Jazz Fest has become more strict on flags coming to the Fairgrounds, but I honestly don’t recall a ban on flags on the 2007 website. I miss seeing all the familiar faces of people out and about at the fest. They have been replaced by the turistas and the Big Chief VIPS, Brass Passers, and self-important, well connected people of Acura, Shell and all the other corporate Jazz Fest sponsors.
I found Jazz Fest this year to be pretty sterile. Gone is the distinct New Orleans vibe, the vibe that can be generated only by her denizens. I hardly heard the NOLA patois being spoken, moreso only northern jargon and the midwest clipped speech. Jazz Fest has become out of reach for locals, so many folks I know have just let it go. With tickets approaching $300 to attend all six days, not to mention spending money on food and drinks and an occasional small token, plus with volunteering being more of a pain in the ass than fun, Jazz Fest has turned into a tourist destination as opposed to a Louisiana celebration, dropping far to the bottom of the list of priorities of people struggling to rebuild their lives destroyed by a man-made disaster. Yeah, yeah, yeah, New Orleans needs the turista dollars to boost the economy, but gearing Jazz Fest as a destination just leaves locals out in the cold and with a bitter taste for the fest. Ahhhh, but the poor turistas, they are getting deprived of a true New Orleans experience, but how will they know what they are missing? Locals cannot afford Jazz Fest in addition to other travel excursions to get the hell out of this town on occasion to save the sanity from the madness being played out here. And New Orleans powers that be are incapable of visionary exploration of anything other than tourism to base this crippled economy upon. So Jazz Fest, plenty New Orleanians have bid you adieu. Thanks alot…
so next year, I think I will go to Chaz Fest instead