It’s That Time Of Year

An insider's Q&A to navigating Jazz Fest
David Shaw of The Revivalists (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

 

It’s that time of year again. A season of curiosity, complaint and compliance. In other words: Jazz Fest. Herewith, as a public service, we offer an insiders Q&A to help you understand the many mysteries and negotiate the many challenges presented by this most beloved annual event. Enjoy.

Why isn’t there any jazz at Jazz Fest?

There is. Plenty. Picture it this way: If Jazz Fest had just five stages – a very solid number for a music festival; more than most – and you cherry picked the WWOZ Tent, Economy Hall, the Jazz & Heritage Stage, the Lagniappe Stage and the Gospel Tent, you’d have at least four venues, if not all five, playing jazz at the same time.

Wait, you’re saying that Gospel music is jazz?

Yes I am. And the most kicking jams at the festival.

Why wasn’t my favorite local band booked this year?

They either suck or, somewhere along the line, they were late for a gig or otherwise pissed off Quint Davis – and he never forgets.

Why are the Tin Men always booked in a morning slot, when most of their fans – and sometimes band members – haven’t even woken up yet, and when their slow-burn, bluesy, boozy music seems far better suited for later in the day?

Somewhere along the line they pissed off Quint Davis. But they’re way too good to completely cut from the line-up.

Don’t you think Jazz Fest has become way too expensive?

No. A one day ticket costs less than half of what it would cost to get crappy seats to see just one of the day’s headline acts in a theater or arena. It’s also less – far less – than any other major festival in the country. Quit your bitching, get off the New Orleans Free Train, and either go or don’t.

That said, shouldn’t they lower prices later in the day for folks who want to go after work or are otherwise delayed?

Yes they should. But they don’t. You wanna see Katy Perry, pony up.

Is it wrong to present my kids at the ticket booth as younger than they are to take advantage of the discounted $5 ticket price?

Morally, yes. Practically and economically, hell no. Go for it. Eighty five bucks is a lot to pay for a kid who starts complaining that he wants to go home at 1:30. Spiritually? That’s between you and your maker. And Jazz Fest says its mission is to spread the joys and lessons of Louisiana culture among our young population. If that’s the case, then charging $425 for a family of five to attend – plus food and drink – is harshly counterproductive. Families don’t – or can’t – go. Raise the discount age to 16 and everyone wins.

The music choices at any one time can overwhelming. So many stages, so many bands. How do I choose?

Make a printout of the Cubes. Take a yellow highlighter and mark your preferences. Then go to the festival. Follow your ears. If, at the close of the day, you only saw two or fewer of your intended selections, then you are probably doing it right.

Help. The group in front of me got there super early and laid out huge tarps and blankets and chairs and basically wandered off for the day, taking up all that space in a gratuitous land grab. That seems really rude. What should I do?

What you should do is gather all their belongings in a pile, douse it with lighter fluid and set it on fire. But that’s against the rules. Being an asshole apparently is not. So just deal with it like everybody else and hope that they all spent the day in the medical tent getting eyewashes because they got too much sun screen in their eyes. Or tripped over someone else’s empty chair and sprained their ankle.

What does the “fais do-do” in the Fais Do-Do Stage mean?

That’s a Cajun French short hand colloquialism roughly translated as “watching people from the major coastal cities who wore day-glo pajamas to the festival dance like the Ten Lords ‘a Leaping from that Christmas song.”

Do people still do that watermelon sacrifice at the Fais Do-Do Stage every weekend?

I don’t know. It’s hard enough to sneak a pack of Altoids into the festival these days. I suppose if you wore a pair of really loose pajamas, it could be done.

Why can’t I bring Altoids to the festival? It’s just a breath mint, for crissake.

Because some rules are stupid. And made to be broken.

What’s with all the flags and totems out there?

That’s a way to keep your group together when folks wander off. Their introduction to the Fair Grounds in the early ’80s was a godsend for folks who frittered away half of their days waiting for friends under the flag pole, still a traditional, centrally located meeting spot. The proliferation of cell phones has diminished the importance of such unwieldy accessories; now they’re as much to show state, school or beer brand allegiance as anything else. And speaking from personal experience, after many years of carrying the same totem, you begin to find yourself encountered by some guy you see only once a year who walks up and loudly asks, “How’s work?” in the middle of a blistering guitar solo by Sonny Landreth, triggering deep-rooted homicidal urges. I ditched my stick back in the late ’90s.

What’s the best food?

If you have a bad meal at Jazz Fest, it’s probably your fault.

I’ve heard stories about something called the Snake Club from years past. What is it?

If you have to ask, maybe you’d rather not know. But since you asked: Picture the Mile High Club and move it to the Fair Grounds during Jazz Fest. Yup, that’s a thing. The Snake Club is technically still active but its membership has been severely thinned out over the years by changes in festival policies, particularly the ban on enclosed tents. You can see how that might inhibit prospective initiates from joining, when you consider the alternatives. Port-O-Lets anyone?

What’s the Mile High Club?

Google it.

Are you a member of the Snake Club?

None of your business.

Speaking of Port-O-Lets, what’s your best tip on how to find a clean toilet?

No. That’s my business. Literally.

I’ve heard people say it’s really uncool to wear this year’s Jazz Fest commemorative shirt to this year’s Jazz Fest. That’s just a joke, right?

No, that’s not a joke.

So, sometimes I’ll go to the Kids Tent area because my pregnant wife back at the Acura Stage is craving a PB&J and a popcorn ball. But then I hear what sounds like a really cool show on that little stage and want to check it out. Is it inappropriate to be an unaccompanied adult checking out music in the Kids Tent?

Yes.

Say I’m overheating really bad and need some immediate relief but am really far away from the medical tent. What should I do?

Go to the temporary faux Acura car lot next to the Acura Stage and fake like you’re interested in one of the new models on display and ask if you can check out the interior. Climb in, roll up the window, crank up the AC, recline your seat, turn WWOZ on the radio and listen to the Fest from there. Ten minutes max, or they get suspicious.

How ya gonna clap?

Put your two hands together and rotate your arms in and out in a horizontal fashion.

I thought the Rolling Stones were playing this year but I don’t see them anywhere on the schedule. What happened?

OK, we’re out of time and room, folks. I hope this has been helpful. Happy Jazz Fest to all.

 

Categories: Festivals, Me Again, Music

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