Fans of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival used to have to wait until after Mardi Gras to get a glimpse at the acts that will grace the stages at the New Orleans Fairgrounds this Spring.
This year the list of bands came out earlier than ever. The full schedule is due in March. Here are my initial thoughts.
Almost immediately after the list of acts was released, social media sites lit up with comments. What are they thinking—the Eagles (pictured above) at a jazz fest? I am so psyched they got the Eagles! The Foo Fighters? Who’s next Black Sabbath? Where’s the jazz at Jazz Fest? I am so pumped for Herbie Hancock!
What these comments, and hundreds more if you care to spend your time reading them, prove is a fundamental disconnect between two segments of fans of the annual event. Old timers, who remember the fest before it got all “corporate,” true jazz lovers and fans of niche styles bemoan changes that have actually been the status quo for years.
While fans of specific artists, who generally are attending the event just to see their favorite act, relish the opportunity to hear them in a setting as cool as the Jazz Fest.
What’s fascinating for me as a generally open-minded music aficionado, who is also a long time attendee, true jazz fan, and niche style lover, is the opportunity to see how the other side lives. I rarely get all hot and bothered about a specific artist, but I do get excited about the event itself.
In the past, all I ever heard was the griping from like-minded music fans. Why isn’t so-and-so on the bill? I can’t believe they sold out and got so-and-so. I never felt the buzz of anticipation for the large segment of the audience that heads out to the Fairgrounds on any given day, to wait all day, for a specific act. Social media have changed that.
Perusing the Jazz Fest message board and Facebook page, it appears that the posters are split in half. For every person lamenting the booking of the Eagles, there’s someone who is counting the days to see Joe Walsh and Don Henley, and sing along to “Hotel California” at the top of their lungs.
What the naysayers don’t seem to realize is that the big time acts pay for the hundreds of smaller and niche acts. Jazz fans are excited to see Esperanza Spaulding’s name on the list. Outlaw country fans are psyched about Steve Earle. World music fans are pumped about Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 (pictured above) and the list goes on. Get over the fact that Tom Petty is playing.
Personally, I am psyched about some of the local bands that I have heard about but have yet to see live like Empress Hotel. I am glad that Dave and Tommy Malone are booked as the Malone Brothers. I hope schedule conflicts don’t keep me from checking out some of the buzz bands I have heard about like Florence + the Machine, Bon Iver, and Feist. I couldn’t care less that Zebra, one of the three New Orleans rock bands from the 1980s that had a major label deal, finally got a Jazz Fest gig.
But trust me, there are people out there who are totally thrilled.
Herbie Hancock Photo: Francis Wolff