As a veteran festival-goer, my routine usually involves staying away from the “big names.” I know that the headliners at the big fests are the ones who are the big draws—and the ones who actually keep the festivals solvent—but I’m sort of the “been there, done that” kind of festival person. No musician or artist at this point in my life blows my socks off (well, that’s not entirely true). I know the hard work and dedication it takes to be successful in the music business. It’s a constant squeezing out of every drop of creativity, all the time, combined with a knowledge of how to work the system, hopefully with a team of people who can and will take care of your interests as an artist. Traveling on tour is a bitch, and wears you down. It’s fun when you’re a kid, but the older you get, the more it sucks. Big namers have paid (or are paying) their dues.
But I digress, as usual.
At Jazz Fest, I like to experience personal faves, perhaps catch a little of big-namers (usually on the outskirts of a stage as I float from one to another), and try to catch performers and musicians I’d really don’t have that much experience with. Over the years, my curiosity has led me to happily experience and thrill to Esperanza Spaulding, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Jupiter & Okwess from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Samantha Fish, and so much more. This year, my little gem of discovery was Tatiana Eva-Marie and the Avalon Jazz Band who played a couple of gigs at this year’s Jazz Fest, one of which was Lagniappe Stage, which often hosts some gems. I never expected a gypsy jazz band from Brooklyn, but it was well worth dropping into Lagniappe. Very nice indeed.
The problem with Jazz Fest is that there is so much music to experience, and so little time. All I can recommend, though, is to step outside your comfort zone, not only at festivals but in local clubs, and you may experience something fantastic. Keep an open mind—and shoot us an email when you find something extraordinary you didn’t expect to hear in New Orleans.