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 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.
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…