Jazz, New Orleans
there are a few things in new orleans you wont want to miss...one of them being the rebirth brass band @ the maple leaf lounge..I took the street car there.. but you might prefer to take a taxi...I like to go early to see the place in all its glory...pressed tin ceilings...my all time favorite decorating details..pressed tin ceilings...go out back and have a drink in the terrace...enjoy it because in an hour or two...the place will be so packed..you wont be able to move...rebirth is at this piont (sorry boys) similar to menudo (I apologize sincerly for that) they started out years ago with kermit ruffins..now he has his own place and they play the maple leaf every tuesday when they are in town...be prepared to drink a lot and dance a lot...they are indescribable...Jazz Funk Wild Crazy...out of tune sometimes...drunk sometimes...enjoy
While I can help you with lots about New Orleans itself, Kate, I don't know how helpful I would be for "insider information" for the JazzFest, per se. I have not been to the JazzFest in more than ten years. I generally try to get back to New Orleans at other times, since New Orleans gets so very crowded at JazzFest time. I generally like enjoying New Orleans on its own, separate from the big spectacles. And I'm not especially fond of getting in the midst of massive crowds. For a good example of how crowded it can get at one of the main stages, take a look at the cover of Amanda Shaw's album, "Live at 2009 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival" (you can see it at Amazon.com). It's not that I'm claustrophobic (which would really be a problem), but I simply like it more relaxed.
In general, JazzFest time in New Orleans consists of two aspects.
The principal event --- what people refer to as "JazzFest" --- is the huge fair out at the Fairgrounds racetrack. There are usually five main stages, plus three or four large tents and a number of small gazebos. Music (of a fairly broad range of types) is almost constantly going on at each and they're thoughtfully spaced so that none interferes with any other. There also are food booths. Lots of 'em. Those are cleverly planned, also, so that no booth competes with any other in terms of a particular kind of food. If you want gumbo, there's only one booth that sells it. If you want boudin, there's only one place to get it. And so on. Booths for drinks, too. The beer companies and soft-drink companies purchase exclusive marketing rights, so if you want Heineken when Budweiser's got the contract, or if you want Pepsi when Coke's got the contract, you'll just have to suffer. Other booths sell lemonade, ice tea, ice cream, cotton candy and so forth. Various craft demonstrations are there, like blacksmiths or weavers or chair-makers, whatever. And, of course, there are lots of stands that are selling souvenirs, knick-knacks, doo-dads and so forth.
JazzFest is on Friday-Saturday-Sunday for the first weekend and starts on Thursday for the second weekend. Tickets this year (2010) ran $45 per person per day if purchased in advance and $60 if bought at the gate. Tickets for young children (up to age 10) cost $5. It used to be that you could bring stuff in (like ice chests of beer and boxes of fried chicken and even barbeque grills and stuff). That ended long ago, and they've gotten increasingly restrictive. I understand that they now even want to look into knapsacks and large purses and diaper bags to make sure you're not bringing in something that somebody inside wants to sell to you.
The other aspect of JazzFest is the myriad concerts and shows elsewhere in the city. Dozens and dozens, from big-name acts to smaller stuff and lots of local shows. It's a very busy time. The difficulty is that, if you spend all day at the JazzFest, out in the sun and getting all toasty (and perhaps a bit tipsy), you can be rather tired in the evening. Break away early from the JazzFest and get a nap before starting out for the evening's adventures.
One other thing. Be very, very careful about parking. Free spots are next to impossible to find and the competition for them is fierce. Parking on the streets immediately adjacent to the Fairgrounds often requires a resident's parking permit. Taxis are good things. Paid parking in a lot (or in the driveway or back yard of some enterprising local resident) is cheap insurance. The legions of tow trucks are quite eager and stay busy all day and all night. This is true not only around the Fairgrounds but also downtown --- from the Faubourg Marigny, across the Quarter and throughout the CBD. Having to ransom your car from the tow lot is a major pain (not to mention expensive, and perhaps risky if you're not quite as sober as someone might prefer).
Steamboat Willie plays in the Cafe Beignet courtyard on Bourbon Street. It was so nice to listen to them in the courtyard under the stars. They are alot of fun and there is no cover charge or any pressure to buy drinks. It is free to sit and listen to some amazing jazz. But they do appreciate the tips! Say hi to their black dog, he appreciates tips/treats too!
Almost everywhere you go in New Orleans there is music. It's not just on Bourbon Street. This was a cold windy December Saturday, and yet these performers were playing on the levee near the French Market for tips. A little farther along next to a restaurant in a little park there was a band performing. And then when we took the streetcar out Canal Street, there was another little band at an art fare.
Visiting New Orleans, you will have plenty of opportunities to experience live music. You can visit jazz clubs on Bourbon Street, or you can just stumble across it on the street. The photo shows musicians playing in Jackson Square.
French Quarter Festival signals the end of Lent and the return to booze and all out gluttony for so many people here in Nola...and FQ Fest 2004 was a barnburner indeed. Yours truly did his personal best to never be caught without a beer in his hand (not that I gave up anything for Lent either).
This festival is the prelude to the big one, Jazzfest, but in a way, FQ Fest is New Orleans' own festival....most of the musical acts are local, so there aren't a lot of bands butting in from outta town.
The only problem is that there are so many bands and stages that there's simply too many choices to choose from....but the weather is turning nice, not too hot, not too cold (as if it gets cold here), all the girls are breaking out their summer dresses, the beers are flowing and brass bands are pumpin' funky grooves.
My highlights for FQ Fest 2004 were Bonerama. With more trombones than you can shake a stick at, Mark Mullins and the boys blew more hot air through their horns than Edwin Edwards did during his entire tenure as Governor of Louisiana. My favorite highlights of the show were Matt Perrine's cocky Sousaphone solo and Mark Mullins running his trombone through a wah-wah pedal....great stuff for any fan of the brass band....
On Sunday, I caught Washboard Chaz, who is always fun to listen to. And over on the Satchmo Stage, the Treme Brass Band was in full swing, a classic act to watch. It does the heart of any music aficionado good to see these old dudes blowing their horns, beaten' their drums, strummin' their banjos and belting out lyrics from days gone by....
Naturally, Coco Robicheaux and Spiritland was a must see in the late afternoon, but the night belonged to the charismatic Mr. Henry Butler and the Game Band.
It's easy to spot good musician everywhere in New Orleans, in the bar, on the streets, in the park... How amazing everybody play very good music! The Louisiana music trail follows a path that meanders through countless cultures and generations of history. It cuts its way through major urban centers and then spreads out to the rural countryside, echoing the constant refrain of diversity as it twists and winds its way through Louisiana. All along the way, it carries the melodic dreams, hopes, laments and boundless spirit of Louisiana. While best sums up the people and the music of New Orleans - joie de vivre (the joy of living).
Don't look for any signs or markers along the Louisiana music trail. You won't need them. You'll know you're there when your heart stirs at the brassy sounds of a jazz trumpet on a glorious New Orleans night.
Jazz was born in New Orleans. There is probably no city in Americ that is as strong as a magnet for jazz talent... those one-of-a-kind composers, musicians and singers who have blended and shaped this music form... as New Orleans.
What is Jazz Funeral? Click to enlarge the picture, you'll know (^0^)
Walk the whole Quarter while there. Bourbon St is fabulous, but the crowds and con men aren't quite so bad on the side streets, which also offer great food. But if you want to find great music at any time. Hit Bourbon St!
Jazz Fest, held every spring, is something everyone should see once, come spend a week with all the live music and folk crafts you could ever want to see. New Orleans is full of live music nightly for those who cannot make Jazz Fest. 'Street Musicians' play throughout the French Quarter every weekend, from Bluegrass to Jazz. Local artists sell all sorts of music related art work too.
Listen to jazz music. This is the birthplace of jazz.
Rows upon rows of jazz bars and honky tonk pubs. If you're a party animal, and love to have a drink or two whilst listening to toe-tapping music, this place is just sensational! Just feel free to wander around the street and come inside the smoke-filled rooms, if you like what you hear from the streets. Most of these bars have balconies upstairs. Head up there and enjoy the music and the view!
We went to the Old Opera house during the day. They had 3 for one specials (unheard of in NY) and had an amazing band playing Zydeko. Was awesome- you can watch/listen to them for hours.
When in Rome, do as the Romans did... when in New Orleans, go out at night and enjoy a Jazz band. This old guy was the life of the band!