Last Saturday, I attended my first New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and I loved it. It was so great to drive just a few miles and end up at this huge music festival with a great combination of local talent and "living legends." I know some people complain that Jazz Fest has become too big and too crowded, but I think New Orleans is lucky to have it. Where else can you see Billy Joel play with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band?
I only went for one day (April 27) last weekend, but I'm planning on going another day during the second weekend that starts Thursday, May 2, and lasts until Sunday, May 5. Here are my highs and lows from what I've seen of Jazz Fest so far:
I learned from the chatter around my office that some people look forward to the food at Jazz Fest more than the music. And I was told I MUST try the Crawfish Bread. I was a little confused about the whole Crawfish Bread concept, but it quickly made sense when my first bite hit my taste buds. Crawfish Bread is basically delicious bread with crawfish and melted cheese inside. It’s not the most nutritious thing you will ever eat, but it sure is tasty. Next week I want to try the Crawfish Monica and the Mango Freeze.
The Flags by the Acura Stage
My group and I had a hard time looking for a place to watch Billy Joel, so we ended up fairly far away from the Acura Stage. But I enjoyed sitting there because I loved seeing all of the different flags that showed where people were from. There was a California flag, a Canadian flag and some with more creative sayings, such as the one for Long Island that said “Sandy Kiss My Ass: Strong Island.” Seeing all the flags throughout the crowd made the world seem smaller and I was proud to live in a city that people want to come to no matter how many miles they have to travel.
Billy Joel and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band
I had one ticket to use for one day of the first weekend, so I chose Saturday, April 27, because of Billy Joel. He did not disappoint. He played his usual hits, such as “Piano Man” and “Movin’ Out,” but he also played more obscure stuff like “Downeaster Alexa.” He even invited the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to play for “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” which was a definite crowd-pleaser. My goal for the second weekend is to see more local bands and check out the Gospel Tent.
I loved walking around Jazz Fest and hearing music coming from every direction. I know that's a standard at any music festival, but it was cool to have this happen so close to my house. There's so much musical talent in New Orleans and to have everyone come together over two weekends is pretty impressive.
The Fashions and General Hat-Wearing
I was really excited to wear my hat.
Thanks to the widely-reported street style at Coachella, music festivals have become a mecca for fashion. There were lots of great styles at Jazz Fest, too, which gave me some great fashion inspiration and fantastic people-watching. Did anyone else see the shirtless guys wearing kilts?
I also love that it is socially acceptable at Jazz Fest to wear floppy hats. I purchased one from Target specifically for the event, and the hat instantly made me feel more festive. It also kept my face from getting a sun burn, which made the whole weekend better.
Jazz Fest Express Shuttle
Chris and I had been told by multiple people that we should not drive to Jazz Fest. So I did some research and found the Jazz Fest Express Shuttle that takes you to and from Jazz Fest, and leaves every 15 minutes. It was a little expensive ($14 round trip per person, departing from the corner of Marconi and Harrison Avenue) but I thought it would be worth it to make our first Jazz Fest experience a successful one. And the trip to Jazz Fest was delightful; the shuttle took us straight into the festival and it was painless.
However, after Billy Joel's performance, which was the last one of the night, we walked back to the shuttle location and the line was incredibly long. It was also disorganized because there were multiple lines that meant different things. It took forever and with all the people cutting in front of us, Chris and I became very frustrated. We decided to walk home since we live less than 3 miles from the Fair Grounds, but we got lost and decided to take a cab home. While this is not the fault of the Jazz Fest Express Shuttle, the long lines made for a very frustrating end to a nice day of Jazz Fest-ing.
I will definitely be wearing rain boots to my next Jazz Fest excursion. While I know it’s bad to complain since I went on the sunny Saturday instead of the rainy Sunday, I decided to wear flip flops which were not conducive to walking through mud. They kept getting stuck in the mud when we were looking for a spot to sit. My feet were gross. There's obviously nothing the festival organizers can do about the mud, so it's just something we all have to accept. Your feet may be disgusting, but at least you're at Jazz Fest and that makes up for it.
See you this weekend at Jazz Fest! I hope you've enjoyed this year's festival as much as I have.