This year, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival marks its 20th anniversary as one of the world’s great musical events.
The Fest is probably one of the outstanding bargains in music festivals. For under $10, Fest-goers are treated to a full day’s worth of music and Louisiana home cookin’.
To a good many New Orleanians, Jazz Fest is the second Mardi Gras—and in fact, the Fest has pretty well captured the attention of the media—though not quite to the extent of Fat Tuesday. I think many locals love the Jazz Fest because it reminds them of Mardi Gras when they were kids—more relaxed, more family-oriented. Jazz Fest keeps locals here but Mardi Gras often sends them scurrying to the peace and quiet of the Colorado ski areas.
If nothing else, the Jazz Fest satisfies every local’s craving for two things that are probably the most important to the laid-back N’Awlins lifestyle: food and music. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, in this case), the other basic component of New Orleans living—a fascination with politics—is sort of left out of Jazz Fest. Unless you consider the finagling for backstage passes.
Every year, music lovers anxiously await the Festival’s announcement of its headliner concerts during evening hours. This year, there’s been quite a bit of speculation as to where the larger concerts would be held. The Riverboat President, for several years a mainstay for the evening concerts, just left the city for an upriver home in St. Louis. That left a big gap in the nighttime concert sites for the Festival in terms of size, but more importantly in the so-called “ambience” of location. Somehow, a concert presented in an indoor theatre location just doesn’t quite have the same draw that the Mississippi River has.
So, always the one to encourage good times and serious boogying, the Jazz & Heritage Festival up and developed The River Tent, the newest Jazz Fest nighttime concert spot. The new River Tent will be located right on the Mississippi River behind the New Orleans Convention Center at the foot of Calliope Street. Of course, other locations will still host a few of this year’s evening concerts: Riverboat Hallelujah Concert Hall at 3615 Tulane Avenue (it’s not a boat), Snug Harbor at 626 Frenchmen and The Saenger Performing Center on Canal Street at Rampart.
This year’s anniversary celebration is a milestone for the Fest, and the lineup of evening concerts is bigger and better than ever. The Heritage Fair, held at the New Orleans Fair Grounds during the daytime hours on April 28-30 and May 5-7, once again combines the best of New Orleans and Louisiana’s talent with performers from all over the world. OffBeat presents a complete list of evening concerts below, plus just a taste of some of the performers that will appear during the Heritage Fair.
Tickets for evening concerts can be obtained from the Jazz Fest Official Office at P.O. Box 53407, New Orleans, LA 70153 (send a stamped self-addressed envelope) or from Ticketmaster (504) 888-8181. For more ticket information on the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, dial (504) 568-0251 or mail inquiries to the JazzFest office. Travel arrangements can be. made through Travel New Orleans, the official travel agency for the Fest (local 561-8747, 1-800-535-8747 or 1-800-654- 0577 in Louisiana).