Going back to work after Jazz Fest is always hard.
Jazz Fest has sort of been the “cap” of the festival season, with French Quarter Festival in April being the lead-in.
A word about French Quarter Festival: I’ve always believed that FQF was a fabulous event. I personally love the fact that all the musicians are all local, the food is from local vendors, we get a chance to play in the French Quarter and enjoy the river views at Woldenberg Park, and best of all, the festival is free. Did you know that the estimated attendance at French Quarter Festival was 435,000 people versus the Jazz Fest’s 400,000 attendees this year? The Jazz Fest’s crowds are always lauded by local media, but you never hear much about the economic impact of the French Quarter Fest. Why not?
Next year, the French Quarter Festival is the weekend before the first weekend of Jazz Fest. In 2009, we have a great opportunity to promote both festivals together. All this could possibly do is to create additional attendance at each event. Let’s start the process now!
The Jazz Fest and French Quarter Fest are totally different events, of course. but both are momentous because they draw attention to our lovely city and state’s music, arts and culture.
The Jazz Fest is a money-making machine, in some respects. (Multiply 400,000 by $50 a ticket). The French Quarter Fest, on the other hand, still struggles every year to put on a great festival because it is a free event. There’s no way to pay musicians the same wages as Jazz Fest because there’s no gate. All revenue comes from sponsorships, beverage sales, vendor fees and merchandise (the Jazz Fest has this revenue too, as well as ticket sales).
I’m not slamming Jazz Fest. The event is stupendous. What I really am pleased to see is that the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation is plowing the money it makes from the festival back into the community—very visibly in the last couple of years since Katrina. The foundation’s programming has been geared up to an unprecedented level, with the creation of several festivals not affiliated with Festival Productions New Orleans (Quint Davis’ company that produces the Jazz Fest with AEG). These are events produced solely by the Foundation. Moreover, the Foundation has created other programs that benefit the arts community, and the music industry, including the very successful “Sync Up” event during Jazz Fest and the new Talent Exchange, an outgrowth of Sync Up. It’s attempting to put money into local musicians’ pockets by matching their specific talents up with buyers who need music for festivals or music for commercial purposes such as movies. See Talent.JazzandHeritage.org for more information on that effort.
In last year’s June issue, I bemoaned the perception that June is a “dead month” in New Orleans. No more. There are so many things happening this month. There are three festivals taking place in New Orleans on June 13-15. The New Orleans “Vieux-to-Do” is comprised of the Great French Market Creole Tomato Festival, Louisiana Seafood Festival and the Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival, taking place in a “half-mile of food, music and fun, along the riverfront, from the French Market to the U.S. Mint.” The French Market’s historic Farmers’ Market will finally reopen, and of course, will feature our delicious Creole tomatoes. There will be cooking demonstration with those luscious tomatoes and with Louisiana seafood, 50 food, beverage and retail booths (with Deannie’s, Red Fish Grill, Antoine’s, Bourbon House, Saltwater Grill and more), cooking demonstrations, and free music on four stages, including jazz, Latin, brass bands, and of course, Cajun and zydeco musicians. Grammy winners Terrance Simien and BeauSoleil will perform, along with Keith Frank, Waylon Thibodeaux, Bruce Daigrepoint, Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars, Creole Zydeco Farmers, the Figs, Guyland Leday, and the Lost Bayou Ramblers, and many, many more. Ahh, another great weekend of festivals in New Orleans!
July and August will also bring their share of great events: Essence Festival, which this year beefs up its superlounges with local musicians, and early August brings Satchmo SummerFest, a celebration of all things Armstrong.
By the way, OffBeat will be heading to the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival this year, where Superfly is capitalizing on its New Orleans roots by creating a replica of a New Orleans club and presenting New Orleans musicians, including Walter “Wolfman” Washington, among others, as well as New Orleans-themed food. I hear Crawfish Monica may even make an appearance. We’ll also be out in force at Essence to cover local musicians there and pass on a bit of local culture to Essence-goers from out of town.
So summer in New Orleans isn’t the dead time it used to be. It may be hot, but it doesn’t mean that we still won’t be partying!