Jazz Fest, New Orleans
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).
aka JazzFest....This annual event takes place over a two weekend period, usually around the end of April/beginning of May. It's next scheduled for April 22-May 1, 2005. What started back in the 1970s as a relatively small scale tribute to honor the city's cultural and musical heritage has grown into an international festival of distinction today.
I've attended several JazzFests over the years, and whereas the earlier ones really showcased local talents like Mahalia Jackson, Al Hirt, Pete Fountain, and a personal favorite band - The Meters - my favorite one included a great performance by an older, wizened Bob Dylan back in the early 90s.
What adds even more character and nuance to this program are the "cultural" aspects, as well as the logistics of the layout. With stages spread out across the New Orleans Fair Grounds Race Course, there are musical performances happening concurrently - you can move from one stage to the other and spend the whole day intermittently jamming to gospel, zydeco, blues, jazz, folk as well as some popular artists, while visiting crafts and cultural booths depicting Acadian (Cajun) activities and history - and equally important, there are food booths set up everywhere.
This is not your average Carnival Food Court - this is a Food Festival Extravaganza where you can eat anything from alligator to shrimp etouffee...I could go on and on about the food here but it's probably better that you go directly to the jazzfest website and check things out for yourself!
New Orleans is all about festivals... Hell, I even think that it's a proven fact there are more festivals in New Orleans than there are days in the year... Perhaps one of the most famous festivals in New Orleans is Jazzfest which attracts jazz, blues and folk musicians from all over the world (as well as many from right next door).
Being the birthplace of jazz, this festival is not to be missed... It's two weeks of music, beer, Creole food and more beer outside in the warm Louisiana spring sunshine. There are several stages (7 to 10 stages) with a wide variety of musicians to choose from and all the whacky people that you'd expect to see partying in New Orleans.
And the festival definitely spills over into the streets, bars, and music venues throughout the crescent city. It's absolutely amazing how many bands cram into the city to play during Jazzfest.
Jazzfest and Voodoofest are AWESOME! Both reel in some of the best muscial entertainment you can find. Jazzfest is definitely the better known and it brings in more crowds, but Voodoofest is gaining in popularity and doesn't have the intense commercial feel that Jazzfest has. Both are well worth the effort to experience. Jazzfest is held APRIL 25 - MAY 4 (2003), which means get ready to sweat. Last year I was so hot, I thought I was going to evaporate away. Voodoofest was held November 2nd this year and the weather was perfect. However, last year it was freezing, so such is life, right? It is a safe bet that Jazzfest will always be accompanied by seriously hot and humid weather.
Examples of musical guests:
Jazzfest 2001: Melissa Etheridge, Lenny Kravitz, Counting Crows, The Neville Brothers, Jimmy Buffett, Better Than Ezra ,etc.
Voodoofest 2002: No Doubt, Garbage, Crystal Method, Counting Crows, Macy Gray, 311, Jack Johnson, etc.
An annual event held every year during the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May, this festival attracts some of the best jazz, blues, rock and other bands. The festival is held at the Fairgrounds. There are numerous stages setup throught the Fairgrounds and you can walk around to check out different bands.
Some great bands play here every year. To see who is playing, go to the website below.
This is one of the best events held here and is a must see for all music lovers.
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.
During Jazz Fest spend your days at the Fairgrounds listening to countless bands playing on at least a dozen stages. The food is also great.
Also consider a trip to the AudoBon Zoo.
Riverboat casinos are also a good option
New Orleans Jazz Festival
April 27 - May 6 2001. This is an annual event, with some of the best Jazz music found anywhere on earth. If you like Jazz, you need to be here. Make your plans NOW.
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival - Great music, great food!! What else do you need? Try the Crawfish Monica - its a cheesy crawfish pie - ohhhh so good!
Second largest gathering in the state, (behind Mardi Gras). Lots of awesome music, from the Beastie Boys to Herbie Hancock. Early May. (flyer by George Rodrigue)