The storm really set in on Saturday. The rain was pounding, the wind was blowing it sideways, there were puddles the size of ponds and there was mud… everywhere. Nonetheless, many faithful festival goers still occupied every stage, withstanding the disgusting weather long enough to make it to Ryan Adams and drunkenly sing along to every song.
Thankfully, by Sunday the storm had passed, but the rain left the fairgrounds muddy, hot and humid. I graced myself with the sounds of some of Jazz Fests’ usual suspects and New Orleans’ favorites, beginning in the Blues Tent with Little Freddie King. Though at an age that would suggest otherwise, King still has the soul, funk and moves he had as a much younger man, and he did not disappoint. I quickly bopped over to the Gentilly Stage to catch what I could of Jon Cleary and his beloved voice, not to mention that funky band of his. Afterwards, I found myself once again in the Gospel Tent, where I believe I may have momentarily found Jesus. I’m not a even religious person, but I believe anyone who has the opportunity to hear Pastor Shirley Caesar sing will feel the same and have the urge to convert that very moment. That being said, my plans were derailed and, thankfully, I wrapped up my day in the Gospel Tent.
Next, I made sure to make a couple of food stops, since I had neglected to do so in the beginning of the weekend, a blasphemous misstep considering all of the satiating delights that are next to unattainable for non-natives. I first grabbed a must have of mine, the Cochon au Lait, which is essentially a pulled pork po-boy: tender, juicy pork slathered in slaw mayonnaise and hot sauce. Basically an orgasm in your mouth. My next food selection was something I had never had before, the Duck Po-Boy, which of course, didn’t disappoint (I know, I know, another sandwich? Who am I? Joey from Friends!?). My mouth still waters when I think about all of the food I didn’t get to try.
Save for a couple of more recent absences, I’ve now been a proud Jazz Fest attendee for 12 years, and within that time period it has changed in so many ways. I should note, however, that this is only a small window of time in terms of how long the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival has been running, so perhaps the changes I’ve come to witness are miniscule in comparison to changes at work since the festival’s inception in 1970. One of the greatest differences I’ve noticed, besides its population growth, is the garish expense of attending which seems to have resulted in far less diversity amongst attendees. This alienates a huge population– a huge New Orleans’ population– who cannot be present for an event that is meant to represent them and celebrate their culture and music. With that being said, the preservation of New Orleans music and culture is the key of the entire event, so as long as the festival continues working hard to do just that, it will always be important.
– Alicia Gallagher
Photos by Kyra Kverno