We made it to another Jazz Fest.
There was a time, just a few months ago, when we had no idea if there would even be another New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival — and neither did the organizers of the event. We didn’t know if OffBeat would be around either, but even more to the point, we didn’t know if there would even be a New Orleans.
The catastrophe of Katrina and the chaos she caused only emphasized something I learned over 25 years ago after I almost died in a horrendous car crash: what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. Okay, it’s a cliché, and when you’re in the midst of trying to figure out whether or not you’re ever going to be able to walk or work again — or be able to rebuild a ruined city — sometimes it seems that you’re never going to be able to dig yourself out. But, we must and we are, slowly but surely.
Unfortunately, we now live in times that are geared towards instant gratification, and New Orleanians are notorious for living for today, and thinking about tomorrow when the hangover wears off. But we can’t think like that anymore. New Orleans — and the music that’s the lifeblood of this city’s culture — must be saved. It’s going to take a long time, many dollars, and a lot of dedication from many people to do that. Instant gratification isn’t going to cut it anymore.
We’ve lost thousands of our citizens who want to return, but who can’t. There’s no place to live. We’ve lost hundreds of musicians who have moved to cities around the country who have found that it’s easier to live someplace else, especially when there’s adequate housing and plentiful gigs.
But of all the people in the New Orleans music diaspora, I know very few who say they don’t want to come back. If you’re a musician, there’s something about New Orleans that you’re not going to find anywhere else. In the upcoming documentary about New Orleans Music in Exile (airing on the Starz network in May), there are a few scenes of Cyril Neville playing at Threadgill’s in Austin. Now Cyril can lay down a groove anywhere he plays, but to me, it seemed as though he was a fish out of water. God knows I love Austin and the music there, but it just isn’t here. The Hot 8 Brass Band played on Sixth Street during South by Southwest and was busted by local police for playing on the street. God forbid we don’t have music on the streets of New Orleans!
If you’re visiting the city to attend the Jazz Fest, I may be preaching to the choir, because most people — once they attend one Jazz Fest — will certainly return. But if this is your first time here and you’re looking at the abandoned cars, the ruined neighborhoods, and people struggling to preserve a culture, look deeper than the festival and the party. I hope you’ll be able to get some idea of what makes this place so unique, so special, so different, and worthy of saving. Stand up for New Orleans, and do something tangible to help the city. Just coming here and spending time with us certainly helps — not only economically — and it lets us know that you care.
New Orleans has always been a celebration. Everyone knows that all you need is the most minor excuse, and we can figure out a way to make it into a parade or a party. We’re still celebrating, and we need you with us. We need you to keep our culture alive, and even more importantly, to make sure that our city, wetlands and coast are protected so that there will be a New Orleans to come back to next year. So when you go back home with that post-Jazz Fest glow, remember that we need your help in keeping our government focused on protecting not just New Orleans, but the entire Gulf Coast.
You may notice something different about this issue of OffBeat, well, a lot of different things, actually. Post-Katrina, we lost our entire staff, and our printer. To make a long story short, we were “rescued” by a host of friends and supporters who thought so much of the magazine that they contributed to keeping it alive through donations and advertising. But the one overriding factor in bringing OffBeat back was the support of our readers. We now have an exclusive support group of Lifetime Subscribers, and we will be forever grateful to them for their financial — and moral — support. Gee, you love us—you really love us! With the help of those people, OffBeat was the first magazine that came back to New Orleans. That’s a mighty big testament to the love for the city’s music and musicians. We could never give up on that.
Joseph and I also decided to take the plunge and make OffBeat a glossy magazine, one that would have the same mission of promoting New Orleans and Louisiana music, cuisine and culture, along with more the “offbeat” music we cover in these pages.
We enlisted the services of a new editor (and longtime OffBeat writer), Alex Rawls, and graphics artist Elena Reeves, the city’s finest publication designer (in our humble opinion!) to redesign the magazine. We were lucky enough to find two young people who are both dedicated to ramping up revenues for the magazine (Megan Harris and Chris Lang), and they’ve done an outstanding job in promoting OffBeat advertising. We’ve managed to keep most of our writers and add a few new ones, and we’re forever grateful that you are continuing to make OffBeat a respected national publication.
We hope you like the look and “read” of the new magazine. Write us and tell us what you think. Enjoy New Orleans, keep us in your thoughts and prayers, and support the music!