I’m sure at one time the festival was all about jazz, and the organizers wouldn’t change the name after all these years. But the festival now has eleven stages and tents, with the music ranging from blues to jazz to gospel to pop.
You could go to the N.O. Jazz Festival and never actually hear any jazz, but why would you do that? Because you can spend all day for seven days over two weekends listening to some of the most amazing talents around. Of course, that claim can be made of any of the stages – the challenge is to plan your day so you can hear the performers you know you love, while making time to discover new favorites.
The headliners demonstrate the eclectic nature of this festival. Here are some of the biggest names performing in 2010: Lionel Richie, The Black Crowes, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, Simon & Garfunkel, The Allman Brothers Band, Anita Baker, Widespread Panic, The Average White Band, Elvis Costello, Blues Traveler, Buckwheat Zydeco, Aretha Franklin, Jose Feliciano, Kirk Franklin, Pearl Jam, Jeff Beck, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, B.B. King, The Neville Brothers, Richie Havens, and Van Morrison. Whew!
The Festival originated in 1970, when New Orleans city fathers hired George Wein, the man behind the Newport Jazz Festival, to create an idea for a similar event in New Orleans. His concept was to focus on the local heritage in music, food, even crafts. That first year’s event had a whopping 350 spectators, less than half the total number of musicians who performed! Today, that two-weekend total is somewhere near a half million music fans.
And food fans. Because the only thing that rivals music in New Orleans is the cuisine. So don’t go to the Fest expecting “carnival” food, because you won’t find it. But if you have a hankering for a crawfish beignet, or a po’boy made with hot sausage, soft shell crab, alligator, or duck, you’ve come to the right place. Laissez les bon temps roulez!…