This week, we find our population divided neatly in half between those who are profoundly affected by the cancellation of The Rolling Stones gig at Jazz Fest, and those who feel the same way about the cancellation as they did about the original booking, which is to say: Meh.
Subsequently, those passionate about the matter are themselves neatly divided between those who are disappointed, pissed off or simply despondent – and those who smugly believe that Jazz Fest got the comeuppance it deserved by creating this awful mess in the first place.
Adding an additional Thursday to the schedule was great news, to be sure. But then they screwed it up by dedicating full attention and priority to accommodating the Stones and their fans at the expense of all the other music acts booked that day, and their fans, and then creating a new and inflated ticket pricing and distribution system in what appeared to be nothing but a money grab operated with the efficiency of the original Obama Care roll-out.
Even folks who were able to secure rarefied and costly tickets for that day seemed oddly non-celebratory as if – even in their successful efforts — something felt wrong about it all. It turned into a colossally expensive, chaotic and off-putting example of: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Don’t get me wrong, Jazz Fest is deeply broken. But every attempt to fix it over the past two decades has failed miserably. Moving music tents onto the concrete parking lot to alleviate overcrowding. Superstar bookings which create total infield discord and hazard – and overcrowding. Private bleachers and cordoned off VIP areas to alleviate overcrowding but which take up so much space and service area that they exacerbate overcrowding. Et cetera.
Am I suggesting it’s too crowded out there? Yeah, I guess you could say that.
Jazz Fest tumbled the dice only to discover you can’t always get what you want and its many loyal if frustrated customers feel exiled on main street. And there is more than a little reproachful gloating by those who think everyone involved got suckered.
I am one of those. Hindsight in this case is as easy as it gets, but tens of thousands of starry-eyed and hopeful fans jumped through hoops of fire and cashed out second mortgages to get a chance to see their rock and roll heroes in a pricing and scheduling arrangement that seemed destined to implode from the start.
Don’t get me wrong: As a rock and roll kid at heart, I desperately wanted to see Mick, Keith, Charlie, Ronnie and whoever that other guy is. But that was thirty-five years ago. And while a lot of classic rockers still crush it live – Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Paul Simon to name a few – I haven’t seen a Stones performance or heard a song that juiced me since Taylor Swift was born.
Maybe it’s just one of those I don’t get it moments. I missed my chance to see the band back in the Stones Age, and I regret that. They join The Clash as one of the two bands I really wished I’d seen in their prime during my lifetime. But no matter, here we are.
There’s been no shortage of helpful suggestions online as to whom should replace the Stones in some way that would salve the disappointment of so many fans. A reunion of Led Zeppelin – or what’s left of it – seems a great choice. The power and rarity of such a show would indeed be a spectacle to behold.
A lot of others have recently played the Fest: Springsteen, Elton, Paul Simon, The Who. Other popular notions are our own beloved Britney Spears, Beyonce or Taylor Swift. All of whom certainly bring star power, but they’re not quite in the same demographic.
Prince is dead. Frampton is coming alive later this summer. McCartney is booked at the Smoothie King in May. That leaves ABBA, if they ever agree to play again, or Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. They’re all still alive, amazingly.
I’d like to offer a simpler suggestion: Refund all the suckers. Build out from the rest of the schedule that day. Go ahead and seek out a couple national headliners, but flush it out the many unfilled slots with tons of local bands whom Thursday festgoers have come to love and appreciate.
And next year, move the damn festival to City Park, where it should have gone years ago. That way, no overcrowding. And no need for such strange and disturbing debacles as were are witnessing now.
Meantime, while not forgetting Mick Jagger, whose health issues caused the sudden cancellation of the tour, let’s try to keep in mind what kind of world – and Jazz Fest – we are leaving behind for Keith Richards long after the rest of us are gone.