Photo: Jerzy Bednarski,

Heart Derailed By A Heart

How will the Jazz Fest (booked by Festival Productions New Orleans—FPI) replace the Rolling Stones, now that they’ve cancelled their performance due to Mick Jagger’s heart condition?
Huge question.

I sent a query to FPI’s office today and was told that all they could say was that they would let us know as soon as they could. Let’s hope it’s before our Jazz Fest Bible goes to press…

Quint Davis and his team pulled off a tremendous coup in booking the Stones for the Jazz Fest 50th anniversary. This was no small feat and it was a gift from Davis to lovers of the Jazz Fest (methinks it was probably a dream of his to have the Stones at Fest, too). This was most certainly a multi-year endeavor in terms of timing with a national tour, figuring out how to pay the band, upsetting the Brass Pass Brigade, most probably commissioning event-specific merch (I hate to think of the tens of thousands of dollars spent on that), and totally skewing the Festival’s talent and operations budget.

It also might have a negative impact on the operating budget of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, whose major support is derived from profits from the Festival. Who knows how the money will go down after all of this turmoil?

The logistics of refunding tickets, mending fences with Brass Pass holders and WWOZ, booking new bands, arranging for sound, lights and backline, dealing with press and promotion…it simply boggles the mind. I truly do feel sorry for Quint and FPI.

This was a great, heartfelt idea, and worthy of a 50th anniversary, but I suppose when you’re dealing with bands that are made up of old dudes (Mick will be 76 later this year; Keith is 75 and Charlie Watts is 77), you probably have to expect that there could potentially—no probably—be some health issues. But it’s not something you necessarily think about because, let’s face it: we may be old codgers, but in our minds we’re all still in our twenties and we never, ever anticipate that musicians and bands are anything less than immortal. But this is a hard-learned lesson that they are and we’re going to have to deal with it more and more.

It certainly is a lesson learned the hard and unlucky way that upsetting a smooth-running ship by putting all your eggs in the Rolling Stones basket might not have been the way to go. It was, to be truthful, a very risky and audacious thing to do, done as a heartfelt gesture and tribute to the Jazz Fest, but one that fate derailed by Jagger’s heart.

And so, we move on.

This could happen more and more often as the music icons emblazoned in the brains of the primary market for Jazz Fest—baby boomers with the disposable income to travel to New Orleans and spend thousands to be a Big Chief (or even to buy a Brass Pass @ $700 a pop)—age and either stop performing or become too ill to be on stage.
I think we can all agree that there is absolutely no band on earth that can replace the Stones in terms of popularity across a broad age demographic, a connection to blues and roots music, knock-out performances by band members, and just the sheer appeal and charisma of the band. So there is not going to be any band that can take the Stones’ place. Not ever, ever gonna happen.

The best to expect is that FPI moves all the “5 p.m.” headliners on Thursday May 2 to a later performance time and that they fill in with local bands. If nothing else, I think that more local bands will be able to get a gig at the Festival this year, and bully for them. More local bands is good anyway, as far as my tastes are concerned.

But that still leaves the Stones’ slot.

I’m assuming that the FPI folk are calling in a lot of favors at this point to see who’s on tour and who can take over the Acura Stage at 5 p.m. on Thursday May 2.

We’re interested in knowing who the Jazz Fest audience might really like to see. Take our Weekly Poll and give us your ideas.

And yes, it’s all gonna work out fine if we can get used to replacing our musical icons with younger, healthier ones. Can we?