Jazz Fest musings

Another Jazz Fest is upon New Orleans and here’s some observations

First, the articles from the Saturday Times Picayune about JF bargain versus burden, and a breakdown of how the price has increased by 100% in just 4 years

The current state of JF

JF a bargain?

JF a burden?

The cost of a ticket at the gate of the 2008 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell is more than three times higher than in 1998.
1998: $16
1999: $18
2000: $20
2001: $20
2002: $25
2003: $25
2004: $25
2005: $35
2006: $40
2007: $45
2008: $50

So today a friend and I went and confirmed my notion that Jazz Fest has become an experience for out-of-towners. Sure there were some locals, but the patois I heard all day was definitely NOT New Orleans-ese. There was no character to the crowd, it felt like the Geriatric Fest, all white-bread and mushy. Hardly any younguns. Folding chairs were everywhere, with no room to dance especially in the tents. Chairs take up too much space and leave nowhere to navigate – and heaven forbid you touch someone’s chair or the death stare will fall upon you. Plus the chairs do not allow for any kind of dancing, just sitting. And sitting leads to other activities such as reading a hard cover novel and playing an electronic Sudoku game. I mean what the fuck? You are at Jazz Fest and you are reading a fucking novel? Jeebus, give your damn ticket to the lady sitting on her porch on Mystery Street and I’ll gar-on-tee you she’ll have a better time than you and will probably get up and dance you under your damn folding chair. Wanna read your book, stay the fuck home…

We felt corralled in outside as well. Jazz Fest organizers have laid claim to practically every speck of free space on the infield and have closed off all access to the grass between the stages and along the perimeters. Cutting across the infield to avoid the cattle runs of the walking track was much more difficult. And if one wanted to drop a blanket between Fais-Do-Do and the Gentilly stage it wasn’t happening – there was a fence and at least 6 mobile home trailers parked nose to nose and fenced in. This repeated itself at every stage. Speaking of fenced in, the organizers have taken to erecting plastic and bamboo shields on all the fencing, all of which was 6 foot high, to close everything off. No more NOPD parade route barricades, just barriers. Barriers to sightlines, barriers to people, barriers for the well heeled and well connected and the worker bees. A bona-fide labyrinth.

And even more barriers to the big stages with access to the very front reserved to the ones lucky to have procured certain colored wrist bands with the “Grand Marshall” Pass. Even brass passers were turned away from the prime front and center stage real estate and there were some ticked off folks flashing that pass bling. Guess all that brass pass got you was some fruit and a chair to sit in, even the benevolent donation to WWOZ couldn’t get them to the front of the stage – must have been the Big Chiefers, the ones that perch on the second story covered scaffolding, looking down on the crowd and eye level to the musicians.

I did find out while chatting with one of the women serving up beer that the distributors take all the old beer that was pulled off the shelves, past the beer expiration date (what is it, a month?) and that is the stock that is served at the Fest. I knew there was a reason why I drink whiskey…

Parking in the fair grounds was out the roof – $50 and pretty much only handicapped spaces available. Some cock and bull story about the stables being under construction was the excuse. The food was priced high and the portions were smaller. And water… three dollars for a bottle of water. That was the last straw, that water was commanding such a premium that left the bad taste in my mouth. Before the rain came today, I noticed the crowd was thinner than I ever remember for a Saturday. Jazz Fest has priced itself out of the ballpark and locals have turned their backs on it. Even more sad, the New Orleans spirit has left the fest, which is unforgivable. In a small corner of my mind, I feel for the tourists, that they are getting a sterilized version of a New Orleans circus show…but then again maybe I don’t, especially if you’re one of those turistas bringing your latest novel with you to pass the time at the fest…

~ by maringouin on Saturday, April 26, 2008.

19 Responses to “Jazz Fest musings”

  1. […] The Mosquito Coast has a different take on things. Is the Jazz Fest no longer for locals? […]

  2. It’s a self-fulfilling outcome — the more those money-grubbing JF administrators charge for admission, the more they have to bring in big-act canned entertainers, and the more they’ll have to charge for those entertainers.

  3. food prices: the Crawfish Sack combo plate – crawfish sack, a couple of crawfish beignets, and a large oyster patty, was $9 last year, $13 this year. No way food costs jumped that high in a year. I doubt Patton’s is making that profit, rather they’re having to kick it back to the Foundation. Pure extortion passed on to the customer.

  4. […] Jazz Fest, New Orleans, NOLA, warrior drummer trackback I don’t know how many of the happy hippy mud dancers or tourists at the Jazz and Heritage Stage at Jazz Fest Sunday understood what it meant when little Dinerral […]

  5. Well, I WAS sitting on the fence about going to JF on Friday, but now I’m not even sure I can afford it.

  6. Well shit, I was there Friday and thought everything was well done, people were friendly and the gazillion folks there all seemed to be having a great time. The shuttle service (air conditioned) was great….$14 (roundtrip) from City Park and absolutely no waiting.

    Fact is, as I break down the cost of what I saw, it turns out that it cost me less than $8.00 an hour Friday. Head over to Ticket Master and see what a pair of Hornet seats will cost you for less than 3 hours of entertainment tomorrow night. Want to stack up that N.O. Arena $5.00 hot dog to a JF $5.00 Crawfish Strudel? Jazz Fest will continue to thrive well after the Hornets pull up stakes and head to Nashville or Seattle.

    As for me, I plan to be there every day this coming weekend and if I have ½ amount as fun as last Friday, they can charge me $60 bucks for an entire day of entertainment.

  7. I had a great time on Saturday. We got there early, had some great food, watched Dr. John and Billy Joel while getting drenched but loving every minute of it. Yes, we brought chairs but they have space in front of the chairs for people who want to stand and dance their hearts out.

    I don’t remember any of the food being any more expensive than it was last year, but perhaps I just enjoyed it so much that I really didn’t care. And on the way out I got a great deal on Crawfish Bread.

    I wish i could go more days this year but I will have to wait for next year instead. It was the first day in a long while where I just got to sit down, relax, do nothing and enjoy the day with my wife. And at the end of the day, that was the most important thing.

    Sometimes you just have to sit back, relax, and enjoy what you have and not dwell on what you wish you had.

  8. One good thing about the escalated admission price was the crowds were thinner so we were able to navigate slightly better around the Fairgrounds. And I got to see everyone that stuck out to me on the schedule – Hadley Castille, Germaine Bazzle, John Cleary, Eddie Bo, James Cotton, and a little of Billy Joel to name a few, and enjoyed every minute of it while I swirled and danced. But when it was all said and done, I had burned through $100, when 10, heck FIVE years ago I could do all 7 days for around $300 total, and still have a little left over to take a T-shirt home.

    And to echo your comment Schroeder, all those trailers, all that fencing, all that scaffolding and the additional barricades adds to the price tag – differentiating the haves (VIP’s) from the have nots (the mud wrestlers) costs money to pull off that segregation – it definitely was constraining, confining, and not conducive to a laid back experience.

    If I want to go to a festival like this, I want some culture, not to be surrounded by cookie-cutter humans like one would see at the Summerfest in Milwaukee. Its the Disneyworld-Epcot effect taken hold of Jazz Fest – let us give you a reasonable facisimile of New Orleans culture without the effort. Instead I’ll take a real trip to Europe/Jazz Fest of 10 years past thank you very much…

  9. As long as they’re brining in Billy Joel and Tim McGraw, people with only the most tenuous links to New Orleans culture, you’re going to draw big crowds that skew what the big picture looks like. Man, there were a lot of twangy accents following me on my walk home down City Park Avenue last night. And I wanted to deck the peach top knuckle head who glowered and the NOPD office for telling him not to walk on green while the officer was directing traffic.

    I don’t mind the tourists. I have some aura that brings people looking for someone to talk to (including unattended children and street people) and I always end up talking to the out of towners, and most of the ones I talk to aren’t there for the big names. They are there for the whole experience, the one you couldn’t get in a month even with inside guides.

    And maybe it’s just me, but the people–local and out-of-towners–who crowded up to the stage for Voice of the Wetlands All Stars and stayed when the sky opened, singling along to Sassonne’s Poor Man’s Paradise, the ones who stayed in the Jazz Tent for Nicholas Payton after the rain stopped, who stood in calf-deep mud to catch the Hot 8 have the Right Stuff, wherever it is they call home.

    And we do have French Quarter Fest. I just wish there was some way to keep that manageable without ropping it off and requiring a La. drivers license for admission.

    The fest does get some comp tickets out there. My son has one for next weekend, courtesy of his music teacher (who happens to be named Kent Jordan, Jr., which probably helps). I think the Fest should do a better job of pushing out comp and low price tickets. Maybe they could do some advance, in-person-only sales well in advance so that it’s locals who score the tickets. Still, I think anyone who cares to get in can probably find a way. I knew people who volunteered for booths or picked up garbage when I was in college (and paid for all their beer one rainy day selling their garbage bags as ponchos).

    I hope that everyone, except maybe that nasty goat roper dissing the NOPD, who comes to Jazz Fest goes away another evangelist for New Orleans. Lord knows we need ’em.

  10. OK, I was going to agree with this post. I felt like Friday that it felt like Disney’s version of JazzFest. But Saturday, in the rain and all, was different. Then I read Wet Bank Guy’s comments, and I used to be the guy that would befriend all the tourists and give them the best tips on food and shortest bathroom lines and things to do after the fest. But I stopped doing that for some reason. That is actually what I think made New Orleans a great tourist place – we like to talk and share our best things to do with whoever will listen. Seems like some of that gentility has gone missing.

    When I taught down there, JazzFest was great because I could afford (barely) to go all 7 days even if it was just for a few hours at the end of the day. Now there is no way. I couldn’t even afford to go this year on Sunday.

  11. I think Katrina blew all that gentility far, far away, and left behind in her wake a bunch of ticked off folks with short fuses

  12. COME ON!!! While I’m sure everyone, including myself would’ve absolutely drooled for an $18 ticket to the fest, let’s get real!

    You’re not going to find better music, line-up, setting, offering, food, ambiance, people, layout, etc. ANYWHERE for that price… A Billy Joel ticket anywhere else starts at $90.00. Jon Cleary will not be there, nor will Dr. John. If you’re hungry you can enjoy a ballpark hot dog or some popcorn, but certainly not a softshell crab poboy, crawfish bread, etc. Beer will set you back $6.00 at any major music venue and you know it… And it’ll be in a plastic cup, not a can, and you won’t be bringing several back to your BLANKET in a box filled with ice to put into your cooler.

    You won’t have 20 other possible stages and acts to see if Jon Cleary isn’t the groove you’re feeling. There will be no art exhibits, dancing indians, or second lines. The guys from Philly behind you will not be enamoured with your being a local and offer you the booze they snuck in, and the people on the tarp next to you from Tahoe will not be there tomorrow or the nezt day and become old friends by the end of it all, nor will they offer you some of the kindest bud you ever smoked.

    If it rains, there will be no lakes to splash around in, nor will there be the characters who bask in the opportunity to do so. You will not be able to walk right up to within 20 feet of the stage. There will be no big screen if you choose to stay in the rear. And, you’ll never see Elvis Costello, Tim McGraw, and Al Green all performing in the same hour anywhere either.

    If you ask me, I think you whine too much and take too much for granted. The Jazz Fest is an amazing deal, and a fantastic experience for locals as well as tourists, and always has been. Suck it up and realize you’re being totally unrealistic to think that you’re getting a raw deal.

    In fact, you’re being ridiculous.

  13. Nah, I am not whining, and yes I DID take Jazz Fest for granted 5-10 years ago cause now I CANNOT afford it and it sucks. Its called being realistic and not ridiculous. But you are entitled to your opinion as am I, especially since this is MY fucking blog.

    I’d venture to say your first Jazz Fest was five years ago – haha. And lemme guess, you don’t live here do you – if so, I rest my case…

  14. I still think it comes back to the Foundation not forgetting the part of its mission about preseving the culture, and not forgetting it is a living culture. They need to find way to get more cheap tickets and comps out on the street to locals. I think they need to look at how the big acts link back to Louisiana and New Orleans. I can buy Tim McGraw at a stretch. Santana at a Jazz Festival. Absolutely. Billy Joel? Jimmy Buffet? Not so much.

    (Disclosure: I will be at the gates super early Saturday for the mad chair people dash to Acura to see Jimmy Buffet. We all gots our guilty pleasures).

  15. To this post, I say AMEN. It’s easy to say what a great deal it is when you can afford it. And at this price, a lot of people will e left out. And don’t get me started about how most of the local musicians are treated. I think I’ll post on this subject this week, but for now I’ll just say this: One of my most heartbreaking Jazz Fest moments occurred a few years ago when I was in line to buy a ticket and saw a friend who was a member of what is, without dispute, one of this city’s most influential groups ever (long disbanded, but with very rare reunions) standing in line to buy a ticket so he could sit in with his old band mate.

  16. […] Best Rant on the Foreigners Taking Over: Mosquito Coast’s Jazz Fest Musings. […]

  17. You’ve been blogged on the WWOZ Jazz Fest Blog:

  18. I’ve been going to Jazz Fest since 1981, and since 1986, I’ve been visiting as a tourist, which means saving up all year for airfare & lodging in addition to the admission price. My wife & I were married in New Orleans on the first weekend 10 years ago. I remember when the grass was thick & lush in the gospel tent, dancing was more the rule than the exception, the few chairs were for people who could barely walk through the gates, and out-of-towners were welcomed as the lucky & happy anomalies they were. IMHO, the big names and the chairs have altered the face of Jazz Fest forever, and I mourn that change.

    As the change has come, we’ve tried to adapt and continue to enjoy ourselves, and we’ve been pretty successful. We generally stay away from the stages with the big names, and bury ourselves in the smaller crowds that follow the local acts. We still don’t bring chairs, but our friends do. We lay our sheet out, an island amidst the maze of metal & plastic, and we close our eyes and listen to the music, and dance. We did this year, anyway. Next year, and beyond? We’re not sure; it gets harder to justify the expense & the effort without the old magic.

  19. Looks like NOLA.com yanked it Loki, guess it was too (((negative))) for their sterilized presentation of the fest happenings – guess the T-P doesn’t want to piss off the tourism gods 🙂

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: