Filthy Lucre

No denying it: the 2012 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell was an outstanding success. Great weather, good music, big-drawing performers, and huge crowds equals big dollars. This year’s fest was probably the biggest and best ever (at this writing attendance numbers haven’t been released, and one can only guess on the revenue they made as those figures are never made public). According to 2010 figures, the festival pulled in over $24 million. I’d speculate that that figure may have topped $30 million in 2012.

The problem is, I felt really shut out of enjoying Jazz Fest music this year at the bigger stages.

I don’t know what the latest demographics of the festival are (they’re never made known to anyone but sponsors), but based on observation, it seems to me that your 45 to 54 age group are probably the demo that the festival is going after, based on its booking policies (Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, the Eagles) with the 55+ demo being almost as large. This latter group are the hard-core Jazz Festers who literally have made the event what it is today, in terms of growth, size and music orientation. It is the demo of the original producers, Quint Davis and his mentor, George Wein, after all.

It’s also significant to note that these two demographics, particularly the older one, are the people who have the money it takes to attend an event that has a $50 to $60 ticket, plus the disposable income to travel to New Orleans, stay in a hotel, buy the expensive food and artwork that the festival presents to the public, and blow some more dough eating in local restaurants and shopping in local retail stores.

Thus, the city has got to love the Jazz Fest market: they’re older, they don’t get drunk and stupid, and they appreciate the music and finer cultural aspects of the city. More importantly, they spend money here. A lot of money. Ask any restaurateur or retailer in the city who is a more lucrative crowd for the big events in the city—hint, it’s not Mardi Gras.

The producers have been able to devise all sorts of ways to capitalize on the Jazz Festers’ wealth and devotion to the event. In the past few years, they’ve also been able to come up with ways to cater to the wealthier demos by establishing “classes” of Jazz Fest ticketing to make attendees feel special and privileged (In my experience with the Jazz Fest over the years, the “I’m behind the police barricade and you’re not” mentality has always permeated the event, so in some ways there’s always been sort of an elitist mentality; who you know and all that crap). The revenue from the addition of the “Big Chief,” “Grand Marshal” and “Krewe of Jazz Fest” tickets now are slowly but surely creating a wider and wider class divide amongst attendees.

This year’s Jazz Fest must have really raked in the dollars; all these elite ticket categories were sold out weeks before the festival. Without including ticket fees, Big Chief tickets go for $2,050 for both weekends; Grand Marshal, $1,400; and Krewe of Jazz Fest, $1,000.

The hoi polloi behind the barricades that separate them from the corps d'elite at this year's Jazz Fest Acura Stage. Notice: no wheelchairs.

Big Chief ticketholders get to sit on shaded bleachers and enjoy a cleaner private porta-potty. Grand Marshal ticket holders get into the so-called “Golden Circle,” which means you get to stand right in front of the stage—but no seating. The Krewe only gets seating at the Acura Stage (probably for dilettantes who should be going to an arena show for the band and who really don’t care about the other music at the Fest).

This year, the Grand Marshal Golden Circle space effectively wiped out the entire handicapped seating area from both the Acura and Gentilly Stages. It also reduced the guest areas to a mere sliver of what they used to be. To accommodate handicapped people (in wheelchairs, on mobility scooters, crutches, blind, etc.), the festival moved the handicapped seating area to a small platform near the Big Chief seating, with access that wasn’t exactly easy.

I heard about this the first weekend from a woman on a mobility scooter who told me she had spent her ticket money to see Tom Petty, but she not only couldn’t get into the handicapped area that’s been there for years, but she couldn’t access the newly designated spot because of the massive crowds. So basically, she was totally out of luck. And boy, was she upset.

Most of our readers know that I was handicapped when I was in my late 20s due to a car accident; the older I’ve gotten, the worse the damage. So I was upset when I tried to get my mobility scooter into the Gentilly Stage handicapped area to catch some of Bonnie Raitt near the beginning of her set, and myself, a blind guy and a few other handicapped people were turned away because the area was full. The woman working the entrance politely apologized and told us to go out into the crowd and try to find a place (!). Listen, babe—when you’re on crutches, in a wheelchair or on a mobility scooter, or you’re blind, that ain’t happening. You’re just screwed. My old friend Bonnie wasn’t in the cards for me this year.

The Jazz Fest seemed to have made a lot of progress accommodating disabled individuals in past years, but this new policy was, in my opinion, really unfair to the handicapped. It certainly reduced the size of the area available for those who can’t physically muscle their way to the front of the stage to see an act they love. Remember, too, that most handicapped people can’t stand up; they are sitting and can’t see the stage from the crowd, so they need to be up front.

This new policy also absolutely favors the wealthy ticketholders who could afford to pay mega-bucks for the Golden Circle. In other words, the handicapped area was 86’ed by the elite ticketholders—remember, those tickets sold out weeks before the festival.

Shame on the Jazz Fest for doing this.

I have a suggestion: the only way we disabled will be able to enjoy the festival in the future may be to buy an expensive “Big Gimp” ticket, which if it’s anything like the Grand Marshal ticket, will set us back at least $1,400, with a premium, as the producers will have to figure out a way to get the disableds’ chairs and vehicles into the so-called Golden Circle. Certainly the organizers know that with the aging of baby boomers, there are bound to be a lot more of the hardcore festers who are going to need a little extra help getting around in the next five to 10 years. I just hope the disabled among us have the money to spend.

How ‘bout it, Jazz Fest? Can we buy an accessible Big Gimp ticket next year so we can enjoy the festival, same as our richer friends?

  • Frying Bayou

    The first thing new I noticed at Fest was the platform walkways by economy which I thought was a huge improvement for that slippery area, well suited for the gentile crowd. We need these walkways painted yellow to the handicap areas in front of stages. We need walkways through Fais Do to Congo stage as there use to be a band-that is now occupied by chairs etc… I noticed the pit areas full of these people smug injuns. The challenge at the Fest is ignoring the blatant disrespect by people who refuse to clap after a song is finished. I challenge these people by whistling LOUDLY and or Clapping creating some elbow room or convert a few!  The bottom line is there people that attend the Fest and those of us that Make the Fest. Happy JazzFest!!!!

  • Bill

    We attended Jazz fest for over a decade to see Louisianna music, and the ticket prices kept going up. Meanwhile French Quarter fest, Zydeco Seafood fest and International fest and a host of others remain free. Good for Jazz fest for catering to folks that want to spend that money to stand in a crowd with folks playing on their IPads, talking constantly, guarding their blanket space instead of listening to the music, It’s over for me.

  • Anonymous

    I couldn’t agree more.  I attended the Jazz Fest several years in a row during the 1970’s, the festival’s first decade, when I still lived in the South.  Aside from the music itself, the great thing about the Fest was the sense of community it created.  There was only one admission price to the Fairgrounds in those days, and it was really cheap.  Also, there were only regional acts, mostly from Louisiana.  The biggest ‘name’ draw was B.B. King.  Aside from the music itself, that sense of community, the fact that everyone from rich to poor could attend, is what made Jazz Fest great.  Now the Fest seems to have descended into a pre-French Revolution mentality like we see at Mardi Gras, where the Boston Club and others have their elite seating, and while a commoner might be able to buy a ticket to the Rex Ball, he or she could only sit in the balcony and watch.  I did that once only.  This elitist policy of selling different levels of premium seating may be wildly profitable, but it definitely takes away from the original appeal that helped make Jazz Fest great.  Of course, with those attendance figures, Quint Davis is laughing all the way to the bank.  As for me, the next time I attend Jazz Fest, I will skip the Fairgrounds and just hit the clubs ~ which are plenty good enough for this music lover!

  • Willowhaus

    Every year it gets harder to believe that the Jazz Fest has not jumped the shark…

  • You make all perfect points that Jazz Fest has lost sight of an important element of its core audience and, in a sense, a humanity that was always a part of this joyous festival.  That is why I stopped attending Jazz Fest some time ago (and yes, I’m part of that demographic you mentioned…)

  • Skye

    Last year I was able to attend Fest after a year long recovery form major orthopedic surgery. What had been a joyful ritual of  many years became a challenge. Simply getting to the handicap area proved to be difficult, then dealing with the people that jammed in companion chairs, coolers, and a rotating group of “companions” climbing over and around for primo seating proved to be my undoing. When the a$$hat in the wheel chair repeatedly backed and filled over my feet, cane, and recently reconstructed knee I had enough. His answer was that he was in a chair and I did not appear to be handicapped. My worst Fest experience in 12 years.

  • Beadhead

    Couldn’t agree more with the other comments. Bought a Brass Pass two tests ago, and will not return to Fest again. The division of attendees into haves and have-nots is contrary to the very spirit and soul of the Fest, which should be to bring together music lovers of all ages, races and economic classes. I’m in their prime demographic, by the way, but never again. 

  • Mayorofkendall

    We were disappointed to see that the “chair line” was more like an “invisible fence”  and that nobody adhered to it when it came to the big acts.  We are willing to come and stand and as we all know chairs count as 2 people when counting spaces. So we get penalized for not bringing a chair and taking up less space?  We attend very large festivals all over the world and nowhere except at Jazz Fest do they even ALLOW chairs anymore.  So get with it oganizers and ban them.  Standing does people good and I’ve noticed the larger the people the bigger the chairs and they are the ones that could use a little standing time.

  • Mojorepairshop

    the money thing is all what’s goin’ on in the country and the world…class or income divide…more money doesn’t get you closer to god..i did 2-3 big stage shows, and not even close…telluride bluegrass limits ticket sales and now does a lottery…limiting tix limits income for fest, which is anti-american….lol…grin and bear it i guess,it’s still a great bargain, but people bitch about tix prices ,but will drink $100.00 worth of brew…..i’ve been to fest since 1985, it’s changed,i’ve changed….it is what it is…..i go to more nite shows, less time spent at fest, even though i go all 7 days…..cochon du lait, we don’t meet at the flagpole anymore we text and call with our exact location…..see ya next year, god willin’

  • MJ from Iowa

    You are right on as usual, Jan. A group of us have been coming for 20+ years, have been in wheelchairs ourselves (for various reasons) a couple of those years, and notice that the difference in the fest re accommodating difficulties, “class distinctions”, etc. is disappointing and wrong. I sat by people in several tents several times who did not even look up from their “toys” to watch the show, let alone clap at the end. The fest is in danger of killing that golden goose.  It is about the music, not the money.  

  • Jfitzpat

    Jan, I’m sorry this happened and I agree with you on the misguided attempt by the Jazzfest organizers to cater to the wealthy. Have you considered filing a lawsuit under the American with Disabilities law? From what you have written it seems most appropriate. 

  • Spike

    I was at French Quarter fest with a brace on my leg with a torn tendon-boy is Nola tricky if you’re mobility impaired!  Two things that would be great: sidewalks(curb cuts) evened out, and clubs-it would be so nice if you had a seat or two on the side for people who literally can’t stand it.  

  • Deddancer

    Jan, the degeneration of the handicap areas and parking has been going on for a couple years now .. I’ve been lucky to have only missed 10-11 Fests since ’75 and have been attending the Fest via a Power Chair and Handicap Parking for the last 12 (even 10 years ago it cost me an extra $20 .. now $50 .. to be able to use handicap parking).  

    Starting around 5 years ago handicap parking became more limited .. we would drive by empty “Big Schmuck” (sorry I don’t keep track of their different names) parking areas to be turned away at the Gentility Gate due to no more “handicap parking” spots available .. a real pisser when you already have your Brass Pass paid for and in hand.  When I called the Fest about it they told me that if I wanted parking where I could unload my power chair then I should buy one of the Big Schmuck packages that included parking. Instead I started coming earlier ..  you had to get there by no later than 12 to get a parking spot in handicap.  

    This year they graciously found parking for me the day I got there at 12:45 and of course handicap was full,  in one of the Big Schmuck areas which was less than 1/2 full, however then I found that the accessible area by the big stages was totally gone.   They had already taken 1/2 of the handicap area by the stage a couple years ago for one of the Big Schmuck groups .. where handicap used to cover the front 1/4 to 1/3 of the stage it then shrunk to being even with the speakers on the corner of the stages so that your view was of the opposite corner of the stage.  As you saw this year that was gone and now it was by Big Chief seating .. but the platform only held about 1/3 of the people in the handicap area .. the rest of us were on ground level .. yea 4′ tall seated and we have 40 yards of standing people in front of us and are parallel to the screen so we have no view of it either.

    Admittedly I had never been a big user of the handicap accessible area in front of the stage as I preferred being up on the rim   .. but since walkways off the gates on the rim have disappeared  (I recommended using spray paint to paint the grass to show where the walkways should be including the one across Fais Do Do) its sometimes impossible to get my chair up there. 
     
    They can do a Big Gimp ticket .. but unfortunately  while my income became fixed 8 years ago the cost of my going to the Fest has over doubled (now $110 a day with parking) and a Big Gimp ticket will probably be double that.  However I hear that the Fest in Lafayette is really nice so think I will try that out next year.  And its not like I don’t go see live music 2-4 nights a week .. so the bands and clubs in NOLA are already getting my support.

  • Kidlit43

     I am 69 years old and have been coming to Fest for at least 25 years. I do not “camp” in my chair, but I do need it. If they ban chairs, they will ban the likes of me. By the way, I do go to a fitness trainer three times a week in an attempt to keep the knees working, but there’s only so much standing I can do. Think before you speak, please.

  • Janramsey

    They had hired a firm many years ago (“Everyone’s Invited”) to put together the plan for handicap access, and they did a very good job,. Since the Jazz Fest still does provide access, albeit limited and difficult to get to, I doubt seriously if they could be sued under ADA guidelines. I just think that it’s shameful that they are slowly but surely edging out access for disabled people, obviously for the sake of the Big Chief crowd. Not only does it go against the spirit of the Fest, but it also demeaning and somewhat discriminatory to handicapped people, many of whom can’t afford to pay for expensive tickets. In addition, it’s obvious that there are real class distinctions that have been created now for all fans. I agree with the posters here that the Fest has always been and should be about the music. It seems that it’s become more about being seen and partying, which may be one reason why the big stages are so jam-packed. A lot of these people are lightweights regarding music. They don’t know a Mardi Gras Indian from a cigar store Indian, and they’re not interested in learning. Perhaps it’s just a younger, less musically-appreciative audience, I don’t know.
    Popularity breeds monetary success, but it also changes the character of the event itself; it changes the vibe and the community.It’s unfortunately the nature of a lot of events in the city: Mardi Gras is a good example. The monthly gallery openings used to be fun, and a good way to connect with the artistic community. Now it’s more about the party, rather than the art.
    I just think we need to be careful or New Orleans events like the Jazz Fest will become another Mardi Gras (please read my blog last week about the women “showing their tits” when Bruce Springsteen played. It’s on its way to being a party rather than a celebration of music and culture).

  • Jan Ramsey

    Have you ever been to the Endymion Parade where people stake out territory with blankets, tarps, chairs and ladders? That’s what Jazz Fest is turning into. I agree that some people do need chairs. How about if they RENT them at the Fest, and don’t allow you to bring your own chair in? That would cut down on some of it. Or hire people to make sure that there are clear pathways throughout the crowds. They do this in the tent area, where people are seated. You cannot block the rows or they will move you out. The situation is going to get dangerous soon. Us old folks are too mellow to start any fights, but get a few of those 20- and 30-something young guys drunk, angry and obnoxious that someone stepped in their “territory”, and it could get ugly.

  • T3

    Once you attend the Voodoo fest, you realize how much the Jazzfest sucks.  Voodoo has much of the same music, but even more diversity, more parking, more shade, more seating, more open space, nicer people, nicer employees, better weather and temperatures, no mud, no attitudes.  

  • Bhumble1949

    I don’t think theres to much more to say,Jan said it all,ARE YOU LISTENING JAZZ FEST FOR ALL THE GIMPS.

  • Chicago Rex

    As a seven year Jazz Fest vet, we couldn’t mnake it this year so we attended FQF instead. As much as I love JF, FQF is our new first choice with JF as the backup plan. To see up close and very comfortably, the back to back to back combo of Teedy Boutte, Honey Island Swamp Band and Glen David Andrews while watching the boats glide by along the river was an incredible experience.

  • Chicago Rex

    As a seven year Jazz Fest vet, we couldn’t mnake it this year so we attended FQF instead. As much as I love JF, FQF is our new first choice with JF as the backup plan. To see up close and very comfortably, the back to back to back combo of Teedy Boutte, Honey Island Swamp Band and Glen David Andrews while watching the boats glide by along the river was an incredible experience.

  • Tito Mambo

    After New Orleans musicians for obummer day,it’s no surprise that Quint is following obummer’s class warfare policies. NOLA is  a socialist city as evidenced by the numerous
    knucklehead musicians who performed to raise money for obummer. Useful idiots,all!
    And suckers,to boot!  As one who was born in Hotel Dieu,i won’t ever return to chocolate
    city. It’s a sewer,infested with the dregs of society,and the same old tired-ass musicians.
    There’s a beautiful world outside of NOLA with much better and more diverse music and musicians.

  • Lynn

    Even ACL Fest in Austin allows chairs. They even have a nightly chair check so you don’t have to carry your chair home each night. The no chair zone is great!

  • Lynn

    I still love
    Jazz Fest, but it isn’t the bargain that it used to be. I started going in 1996
    and the tickets were less than $20. You could even go up in the air-conditioned grandstand when
    it got too hot. Now it’s Big Chief only. Now that really bothered me.

  • summer

    Come on now.. give those youngsters a break.  If they’re paying $60 a ticket they must have some interest in the music.  I first skipped school and attended Jazz Fest in 1984 when the cost was almost nothing (yes mostly to party and socialize.. the music was secondary)  I have come to love and appreciate the music and the culture and have only missed 2 years since.  Maybe they fell in love with an indian this year, maybe they’ll fall in love with a new local band or 2 next year, maybe they saw a band and will now see them at a night show..  I’m more concerned about the young being priced out at this point.

  • Lit

    Jan, I understand your point.  I have heard similar comments from others about problems that persons with disabilities had accessing the main stage areas this year and I believe it is a serious issue.  I also believe it is an issue as to which the ADA and similar laws might provide remedies to those motivated enough to raise them.  In any event I laud your efforts to create greater awareness of these issues.  I hope that you have also made your concerns known directly to the NOJHF.

    As both a professional journalist and a person lobbying for support of a cause, however, you have done both yourself and this cause a disservice in my opinion by painting with a broad, pejorative brush those who purchased the VIP tickets–even going so far as to claim that “the handicapped area was 86’ed by the elite ticketholders.” 

    I’ve been attending Fest since ’95, and this year–for the first time–I decided to buy a Grand Marshal pass for the first weekend of Fest because there were some main stage acts that I really wanted to see, and I knew I would not see them otherwise.  I will not camp at a stage, and I do not enjoy watching live music performances from hundreds of yards away on a video screen.  As a result, I also sacrificed other things, like more Fest days, merchandise purchases, expensive night shows, etc.  I shopped for less-expensive flights at less-convenient times, and I sacrificed another festival I regularly attend, as well as some concerts in the area where I live, all so I could justify the added expense of the Grand Marshal pass.  Other than God, my family and friends, I value live music more than anything else in the world, and I decided to make it my priority to maximize my first weekend experience by purchasing a Grand Marshal pass this year.  You might be surprised to learn that the vast majority of the people I encountered in the Grand Marshal area were very much in the same situation.  We are not “elite,” “elitist,” “richer,” “dilettantes,” “wealthy” or any of the other ill-informed, stereotyped, class-based distinctions you seem very eager to assign in your misplaced anger.

    Most importantly, we had nothing to do with the decision of who goes where.  We just purchased the tickets that Fest made available and went to the area assigned for those tickets.  Your beef is with the NOJHF, and you are not helping your cause by alienating gratuitously those who simply chose to spend their hard-earned money differently–especially when these same people could otherwise be enlisted to support that very cause.

  • Brad

    Thank you Jan for your excellent observations and comments. Though perhaps Jazz Fest administration thinks it’ll be able to withstand a court challenge, I am forwarding your commentary to The Advocacy Center and I will be exploring a follow-up action (lawsuit or otherwise) regarding their treatment of the handicapped in front of the Acura and Gentilly stages. We need to make a change for 2013 and beyond.

    My friend who otherwise needs a wheelchair assist came out Sunday expressly for the Neville Brothers’ closeout. Jazz Fest workers WERE GREAT in affording us accommodation during earlier performances in the Gospel Tent, Blues Tent and WWOZ tent. But for the Neville Brothers at the Acura Stage we were left to find ourselves unable to view them live (we watched the giant screen of them performing instead, forced to breathe fumes from the stage generators when we tried to move close). On that day there was plenty of room for the handful of folks needing this accommodation vis-a-vis the Jazz Fest elites to usurp the rights of ADA accommodation.

    In addition to any legal challenge, there is also the prospect of economic persuasion (Perhaps Acura and other sponsors need to be pressured to afford ADA accommodations or THEY could also be held liable for not doing so).

  • Lit

    How ironic is the banner ad above this article for the NOJHF Patty Austin concert, with Gold Circle seating?  Offbeat has no problem accepting the “filthy lucre” for advertising I guess.

  • Kim Strother

    Jan, I couldn’t agree with you more. You also failed to mention the $50 fee for parking in the handicap lot. I had a transplant and may not “look” handicapped, but due to anti rejection drugs, I am severely limited in walking distance, and fatigue quickly.After 38 years of Jazz Fest, I find myself wondering if I can make it next year. I was very disappointed that no concessions are made for us with limited mobility. It seems the fest has given in to greed, and cramming in more people every year. All that made it the best place to be on earth, is slowly giving away to a huge mosh pit of the haves and have nots. I am in for the Big gimp ticket next year!!!!

  • Jariatti

    The JazzFest should go back to making better access for the handicapped. Regarding cost. I have been going to JF since 1978. I have never tried to get real close it’s always too crowded. I can’t talk about the cost of the Bib Chief and other tickets. I think it is ridiculous to pay that kind of money. However, $50 a day for JazzFest is a bargain in this country! Check out the price of otehr festivals like Bonaroo. Its much more. Those that can’t afford it or don’t want to can go to FQ fest or one of the other free festivals. I go from 11AM to 7PM. I need to have a chair. The sun is hot and you need a rest. The chair section is back aways and that is OK with me. I live in NC now and before that CA. However, I was born in New Orleans and spent the first 34 years in the city. New Orleans is in my blood and so is JazzFest. Ninth ward John A

  • Deddancer

    They do and always have tried to make accommodations .. they used to be one of the best festivals on accommodating for handicapped but I do think that they have been overwhelmed on the number of of both the overall crowd and the number of the audience need the handicap facilities.  And its not just us oldies, there are quite a few younger ones that need the handicap areas.  

    It was a obviously a mistake on putting the handicap area by the big chief stand .. there were way to many of us to fit on the raised platform and the ground level area didn’t work.  The crowd size on first Sunday was unbelievable and the track was solid audience but that is a crowd control problem.  But even in a wheel/power chair the smaller stages and tents were still accessible and that is all great music.

    One of the problems seems to be traffic control, the roadways wind up being blocked by chairs, and the old paths are virtually gone.  I don’t know if it the influx of new Fest goers and they don’t know what was considered a pathway like the valley at Accura, the path between Fais Do Do and Congo and the paths down from the entrances off the track or that the number of Fest goers have just overrun the Fairgrounds.  But without those access paths those of us in Power or Wheel Chairs have no choice but the handicap areas at the large stages.  

  • CKola

    I am so happy that Jazzfest is a major attraction for NOLA- and that it brings great revenue at a time when the city can really use it. BUT. 

    After having to stand in the Acura stage crowds the first weekend- I couldnt help but feel like greed had found its way into the planning. There has got to be a cap on the amount of people they allow into the festival. The safety of the attendees is now being compromised.

    I felt like I was in a very dangerous crowd situation while I was trying to enjoy even 10 minutes of Tom Petty. Not only could I not see a screen-(let alone the stage) all I could really hear was people around me singing. I was forced to stand close enough to another human being to hear them blink. (I have had more comfortable stands in a packed Japanese commuter train). If anyone around me had needed any sort of medical attention- it would have been very difficult- if not impossible to get that. Oddly enough- as my friend and I literally pushed, shimmied and stretched our way through the mass- we came upon a struggling wheel chair who had gotten caught up in the crowd- and was trying to get out of the standing mass. We were able to form a single line train behind the chair and baby step out of the situation. I felt horrible for that woman in the chair- and grateful at the same time- for being able to move out of there right behind her.

    I couldnt help but think that it might actually take a fatality or tragedy of some type to create change for the crowd control- or lack of it.

  • Lit

     Jan, if handicap access is truly your issue here, why are you (mis)directing so much of your anger at the crowd?  The more I read of your inappropriate comments, the more it becomes clear to me that your issue is less about handicap access and more about your own musical snobbery and material jealousy.  If Jazz Fest needs to provide better handicap access, why not focus on that, instead of taking gratuitous potshots at the crowd.  Your comments are doing far more to create class distinctions that anything Fest is doing.

    I have been a subscriber to Offbeat for many years, but your irresponsible “journalism” here is really making me question whether I want to continue supporting someone with an increasingly obviously personal agenda that is obscuring her ability to provide objective coverage.

  • I have dreamed of going to Jazz Fest all my life – but it’s always fallen at a time that I couldn’t swing due to my work schedule, or at a time when I had no work or money.  This has been an ongoing pattern over the past 30 + years that has left me longing and fantasizing about this supposedly great event.  

    The only time thing we can afford to attend in New Orleans (due to hotel rates and such) is the Satchmo Fest, and have attended each year. However, I’ve been told that it’s nothing compared to the “real” Jazz Fest.  

    The more I hear about Jazz Fest, the less it sounds like the things I love most about the Satchmo Fest . . . the sense of community, the lack of a class system, the accessibility of the artists, the local focus, the history, etc.  

    I guess I’ll just stick to Satchmo and forget about Jazz Fest – it seems more in keeping with what I love most about New Orleans.  I’m just worried it will get too popular, like everything else, and become inaccessible . . . like everything else.  

  • summer

    I realize you are just throwing out ideas, but your suggestions that people who need chairs RENT them seems very insensitive considering your disability status.  Besides parking, do you pay for your disability access?  Just what Jazz Fest needs is another $15/$20 day of our money.  If this ever came to be, I am sure you will see a very large increase in the number of disabled vying for what sounds like is already not enough space.

  • Deddancer

    The lack of passage ways now at the big stages is a major safety issue .. all it would take is one person dying because they could not be accessed or extradited from the crowd .. some way of marking the pathways and some enforcement of the pathways would reduce the probability and liability.  As someone commented, they do this in the tents and grandstand .. if you are not allowed to block the aisles in them.  

  • Deddancer

    I think she was referring to lawn chairs being rented .. not wheelchairs or power chairs used by the handicapped .. the Vets offer wheelchairs there already. I would say 90% of the people there in lawn chairs are not handicapped.  Now I prefer to just carry a small blanket or sarong to sit on on the ground and when I’m in the back I actually put one down next to my pwr chair and fold my pwr chair seat down as it does block more view than a lawn chair (its taller) and I sit on the blanket next to my chair.  That way I don’t block the view of people behind me .. but I have the ability to get in and out of my chair which not everyone who uses wheelchairs has, and I also have 4 wheel drive so I can use the lawn areas which a lot of power chairs can not go.  Also something I see a lot of wheel chair users do .. running them on grass is a little harder but doable if you have the upper body strength or a helper to push you.  I try to save the handicapped areas for those that can’t use the lawn areas, but that’s because I know that a lot of the pwr chairs I rented before buying mine could not handle the grassy areas.

  • Deddancer

    Sorry but Bonaroo is $259 for 4 days and that includes your car.. that is only $65 a day with parking ..  parking at the Fest is $50 a day and that does not include the $50 pre-purchased or $65 at the gate per day ticket.  Without pre-purchasing my tickets that is $115 a day so 4 days of Fest is $460, with pre-purchased tickets its still $400 with parking.  I think your math is a little off.  If you pre-purchase Bonaroo you can go as low as $204 for the 4 days with parking.  And Bonaroo includes camping in that price.

  • summer

    That is what I was referring to.  Her suggestion that lawn chairs be rented out to those that NEED them.  While I am not certified handicapped I do need a chair to sit in as do many people I know.  With the targeted demo being 55+ (the age of hip & knee replacements)  I don’t see sitting on the ground a viable option for a lot of people. I don’t have the answers but eliminating chairs, or charging for them, is not one.  

  • Deddancer

    I’m not sure what the answer is either .. I have been to venues where chairs were only allowed in certain areas or had to be rented but that is not how it is at the Fest .. as you probably remember it used to be that chairs at the fest were in the back behind the field speakers where families camped .. but now they are within 50 ft of the stage .. which had been standing/dancing area ..  and also on the paved road and in front of the  gates/ramps.   I’ve come into gates off the track to run into a wall of lawn chairs on large blankets basically blocking the gate .. less than a foot of clearance from the ramp.  If emergency personnel had to get to someone they wouldn’t be able to .. I personally feel that is dangerous and asking for a lawsuit which I would not like to see happen.

  • Deddancer

    I’m not sure what the answer is either .. I have been to venues where chairs were only allowed in certain areas or had to be rented but that is not how it is at the Fest .. as you probably remember it used to be that chairs at the fest were in the back behind the field speakers where families camped .. but now they are within 50 ft of the stage .. which had been standing/dancing area ..  and also on the paved road and in front of the  gates/ramps.   I’ve come into gates off the track to run into a wall of lawn chairs on large blankets basically blocking the gate .. less than a foot of clearance from the ramp.  If emergency personnel had to get to someone they wouldn’t be able to .. I personally feel that is dangerous and asking for a lawsuit which I would not like to see happen.

  • Mfrankkk

    Have you ever been to Bonnaroo?  I went the last two years. Let me tell you it is hell getting around, getting to the bathroom and getting food because of the layout and the overpopulation!!  Everything is expensive, food is yuk, and hot!!! Most of the people camp out.  By the second day, the populus’ odor is something to behold when you are packed in the crowd like sardines(no chairs late in the day).  As far as those $204 dollar, presale tickets, they are very limited in number.  Most of the tickets sold are the higher price or scalped even higher.  Jazz fest is country club compared to Bonnaroo!

  • Mfrankkk

    Have you ever been to Bonnaroo?  I went the last two years. Let me tell you it is hell getting around, getting to the bathroom and getting food because of the layout and the overpopulation!!  Everything is expensive, food is yuk, and hot!!! Most of the people camp out.  By the second day, the populus’ odor is something to behold when you are packed in the crowd like sardines(no chairs late in the day).  As far as those $204 dollar, presale tickets, they are very limited in number.  Most of the tickets sold are the higher price or scalped even higher.  Jazz fest is country club compared to Bonnaroo!

  • Deddancer

    Yes her beef is with NOJHF .. they could of easily put the Grand Marshal area on the other side of the stage with an entrance off of the track instead of using the area that used to be the handicap area off the paved road side of the stage.  Grand Marshall ticket holders overall are not handicapped so they can use the track, where the majority of the handicapped need paved access.  If someone has a Grand Marshall ticket is handicapped and doesn’t own a chair that can handle the track they of course could use the handicap area and still be up front though that would sort of be a waste of money at that point.  Or they could of put them behind the old handicap area .. would still be up front though not quite as close .. the handicap area was only about 10- 15′ deep and most of us are seated so we wouldn’t block your view.  When I rode the rail I would just get to the stage early enough to get a place on the rail .. I knew if I came late to a show that I wouldn’t get a place on the rail .. but if being on the rail was that important to me I would make the effort to get there in time.  Its similar to the parking issue .. as a Big Chief, Grand Marshall or Krewe of Jazz Fest  you can pre-purchase parking and therefore be guaranteed parking .. as handicap I can not pre-purchase parking .. I have to get there before noon and hope its not full .. I have been turned away 3-4 times due to the handicap area being full the previous couple years and since I’m a Brass Pass holder sort of irritating as I already had paid for the day ticket.  If NOJHF would allow pre-purchase of handicap parking that would solve that problem .. and they would also find out how much handicap parking they really needed (my guess about double of what they currently have).  Where I parked one day this year was a Big Chief area .. it was completely empty when I got there at 12:45 and was at least 1/2 empty later that day.  I would love to be able to go to the fest at 1 or 2 in the afternoon but since I needed the handicap parking I have to get there before 12 even though a 7 hr day at the fairgrounds is much harder on my body.

  • Deddancer

    we were not talking facilities .. we were talking price .. ACL is horrible too ..  Bonnoroo does not advertise handicap accessible, to be exact their web site does not even have any mention of handicap accessibility .. Jazz Fest does.  ACL is about the same price as the Fest (about $4 higher) but facilities suck and food does too .. heard they improved some of the facilities .. first few years the food was only in one place so the lines were ridiculous as well as hard to get to and the toilet facilities weren’t much better. Kerrville is accessible only if you have the strength or a 4 wheel power chair but still works for me.  Lack of handicap accessibility rules out several of the festivals for me and I have a lot of tour brats as friends that are always trying to talk me into other festivals. And Jazz Fest is not $50 a day unless pre-purchased .. its $65 a day at the gate.  However there are several fest in Louisiana that are low cost or free and also somewhat handicap accessible .. such as Satchmo or FQF or the International Fest in Lafayette.

  • Lit

     I can’t speak to the parking because I know nothing about it.  I would rather the Grand Marshal area be aligned as you state and enter from the track.  Much easier than fighting the crowd inside the track to get there.

    But all of this is besides the point. If Jan’s beef was with the NOJHF she didn’t need to cast aspersions on those who simply attended the Fest like she did.  Her reporting and comments were lazy and irresponsible in my opinion, and suggest to me that handicap access is not her real issue; rather, she is using it to manipulate a different issue. 

  • Mfrankkk

    Price and facilities go hand-in-hand!  There are handicap accessible allowances, but stage access is not up front. It is about 100 feet back on the side in the bleachers.  There is also parking provided for free as close to the gate as you can get.

  • Deddancer

    Well since we all have our grousing out of our systems, why don’t we come up with a list of recommendations for the Fest Organizers. remembering that the Fest Organizers can do nothing about ill mannered fest goers that don’t clap for the work the musicians have done, etc.

    From reading over the comments .. including my own, here are 3 items that the Fest  Organizers could consider doing .. and some benefit all fest goers not just us gimps.

    1) Allow pre-purchase of handicap parking .. this would allow the gimps (me included) to arrive at different times just like the Big Chiefs and other premium fest goers or just regular fest goers who aren’t limited in where they can park and would let the Fest Organizers have some idea of how much handicap parking and facilities are needed.  Most of us gimps are on limited incomes so buying the other premium packages just to be able to unload and load our chairs/equipment is not an answer.

    2) Consider moving the Golden Circle over to the track side of the stage with access from the track rather than the paved interior roadway.  They would still have their premium space and the old handicap area could be reinstated.  I think this would be less expensive than building raised platforms for those of us in wheelchairs so that we have some view of the stages as they did with part of the handicap area at Acura by the Big Chiefs stand,

    3) Find a way of marking the old pathways on the lawn areas and enforcing them.  This is both a “health and safety” issue as well as would relieve some of the congestion in the handicap areas as those of us gimps that could use the lawn areas if they had access routes would use the lawn leaving the up close handicap area for those who can’t access the lawn area. For my first 25 yrs of going to the Fest pathways from the gates down to the lawn were kept open but just by the Fest goers, just like the valley path at Acura and the path between Fais Do Do and Congo.  This would allow medical personnel access if a health emergency arose and would also seem to make emptying of the garbage cans by the staff easier.  

    Feel free to add but make sure it is something that the Organizers could possibly do.

  • Deddancer

    Yes she should of worded it ” the area 86’s by NOJHF for the elite ticket holders”  .. however elite as an adjective does mean “representing the most choice or select” which is a proper usage of the word.  They are sold as the “most luxurious way to attend the fest”, ” with special viewing privileges” and “exclusive access” and therefore meet the definition of elite as in being the most choice or select ticket.  The words in quotes come directly from the Jazz Fest site. 

  • Lit

     How ’bout “elitist”?

    This isn’t a grammar test.  Anyone reading her comments in context can see that she is repeatedly slamming the ticket holders themselves as much as NOJHF.  That is misguided, period.

  • Blueschipper

    Quint is still around, but most of the people who conceived and created the Jazz Fest have now retired or quit. Night Concerts are a thing of the past. It is now run by corporate flunkies who want all the best viewing areas. And the Foundation wants to keep control of everything for their little club of friends and families. Many hard working locals have quit working the Fest because, “it just isn’t fun any more.” Bigger is definitively not better.