The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival can be an expensive experience for out-of-towners. Between fest tickets, after show tickets, accommodations, transportation, food and more, it’s easy to see how one could end up shelling out a good bit of cash.
One thing that you probably shouldn’t spend a lot of money on, however, is a few presentations about New Orleans music from LA Times writer Randy Lewis. I only bring this up because the LA Times appears to believe that people are willing to do just that.
As part of its brand new Los Angeles Times Expeditions program, the popular California newspaper is offering a $3,995 Jazz Fest travel package that comes with “insights and anecdotes provided by LA Times expert Randy Lewis.” Lewis is generally pretty good at his job, so I have nothing against him. In fact, I commend him for figuring out a way to get paid to do this.
My issue is with the people who would spend good money to hear a music critic from California talk about New Orleans for a few hours when they can get plenty of free insights and anecdotes from WWOZ (or OffBeat’s equally free Jazz Fest Bible, for that matter). The Expeditions website explains that “this is not a fancy affair” on the same page where it also explains that this is a $3,995 affair, so I’m not entirely sure what the target demographic is here.
Even after the cost of lodging (four nights at The Monteleone), ground transportation (to and from the fest, airfare is not included), a few tours (Preservation Hall sans a performance), a “drumming session on Congo Square,” and some other amenities, you’re still looking at—at least—a few hundred dollars going to insights and anecdotes about New Orleans from a man who has spent the better part of four decades writing about pop music on the West Coast. If you’re in the mood to drop that kind of dough, I know plenty of natives who are looking for a side hustle and who almost certainly have better anecdotes to offer. Any schmuck can point out Cosimo Matassa’s old J&M Recording Studio, but only a real New Orleanian can tell you where they were and what they were doing on the day Frenchmen Street stopped being cool.
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this hefty sum of money—which doesn’t include after show tickets, airfare or most of your food, and which requires you stick to a strict schedule while vacationing at a music festival—is totally worth it. Maybe this is a fantastic business plan from a bold newspaper in a time when the future of print media is far from certain. If that’s the case, I’ll eat my words and get to work planning the 2018 launch of OffBeat Magazine Explorations with OffBeat expert Sam D’Arcangelo.