Happy Jazz Fest, Ya’ll

A BONNAROO GUIDE TO THE BEST FESTIVAL IN THE WORLD*

by Alison Fensterstock and Paul Peck (@paulnpeck)

It’s Jazz Fest time! If you’re lucky enough to be heading down south to New Orleans you’re going to see so much great shit you’ll need a pen and paper to remember it all (or at least a fully juiced phone).

New Orleans Jazz Fest is a sprawling experience that takes place in the Fair Grounds during the day and spills throughout the entire magical city until well beyond daybreak.  It’s a music mecca of just about every type known to this world so be prepared to do some serious learning while you’re doing some ridiculous dancing.  Flip on WWOZ (90.7FM) the second you cross the city line and get going. And if you’re not attending, stream from http://www.wwoz.org/ for live broadcasts from the Fair Grounds.

The 2013 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival kicks off on April 26. We know some of you will be attending – we definitely will be. Here’s a quick guide to squeezing every last drop out of your Fest and going home with a weird smirk on your face.

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Important rules and tips from some people who’ve done this:

1. Manage your partying:  Take a hint from the bands and remember to take a set break. Instead of partying til 10am, go home at a sensible hour, like 5:30.  You don’t want to compromise your ability to rock the fairgrounds.

2. Comfortable footwear:  We don’t want to hear you complain ’bout hurtfoot. Wear sandals or sneaks so you can focus on what matters — having fun.

3. JazzFest is almost as much of a food festival as it is a music festival.  Come to the fairgrounds hungry and don’t get hung up on nighttime dinner reservations.

4. If you’re a hot sauce person: dump Krystal hot sauce on everything.

5. Sun hats are goofy but useful and sunblock is essential to protect your beautiful face.

6. Introduce yourself to some friendly people.  Always fun and eye-opening.  Amazing people watching to be done at this event.

7. Share food with friends to maximize your flavor-sposure. A team effort is a good effort.

8. We don’t typically drink during the day at Jazzfest. Too risky in the sun.  We get by on a potent mix of caffeine, fluids, good food and bread pudding.   We get to drinking when the sun goes away and the heat index dips below 105.

9. Keep a loose schedule at the Jazzfest.  Don’t be afraid to miss your favorite band if you already seen ‘em plenty.

10. The best part of most sets is the last 30-40 minutes.  Be strategic in your move arounds for maximum rockoutedness.

THE HERITAGE

Jazz Fest boasts great music, but it’s also a unique gathering place for representatives of Louisiana culture. In the heart of the festival grounds, you’ll find Cajun craftsmen demonstrating age-old artisanal techniques, Mardi Gras Indians and brass bands parading, and Louisiana Native American tribespeople offering up their culture.

THE FOOD

Jazzfesters plan their foodin’ as meticulously as they do their music hits. It’s a smart move—the festival’s huge food-vending areas offer signature dishes from the best places in town. Items like Prejeans’ pheasant and andouille gumbo, and Crawfish Monica are as much—or more—of a draw to Fest veterans as any mainstage headliner.

MUST EATS

Soft Shell Crab Po’ Boy: dress it how ya like and then dump hot sauce everywhere.  Resist the temptation to double and rip a second one which will crush you.

Crawfish Strudel:  Dump hot sauce on; eat and repeat.

Prejeans’ pheasant and andouille gumbo:  Even on the hottest day in recorded history this tastes like the best thing on the planet (includes Jupiter and Venus, sometimes Pluto).

White chocolate bread pudding: Yes it is.

Rosemint Iced Tea:  I take mine unsweetened, but that’s just me.  This stuff saves lives.

Crawfish Bread: It’s way crazier than it sounds.

Couchon D’Lait Po’ Boy:  Pulled pork sandy, nola-style, which means way better than what you expect.

Guil’s Gator bites:  A sweet ol’ lady marinates gator chunks and deep fries them along with fried jalepenos and onions. Its a perfect hot sauce dumping ground.

Trout Baquet:  It’s basically trout with crabmeat and it’s fucking fantastic* (unnecessary expletive).

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THE MUSIC

The main stages at Jazz Fest host huge national headliners. Dig a little deeper into the schedule and you’ll find a treasure trove of culture, from Cajun and zydeco acts hailing from South Louisiana to traditional ensembles playing hot jazz just like it was invented over a hundred years ago.

Official Notice from the Louisiana Board of Tourism: If you go to Jazz Fest and don’t spend time in the gospel tent you’ve boned yourself.

Get sidetracked. It’ll spark the truly inspiring musical moments that will elevate your Jazz Fest to the next level. These are some acts that carry the Bonnaroo GoodShit Seal of Approval to try your damnedest to catch:  Dirty Dozen, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Soul Rebels, George Porter Jr. and the Runnin’ Pardners, Anders Osborne, Jon Cleary, Deacon John, John Boutte, Voice of the Wetlands, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Big Chief Monk, Bo Dollis, Bo Jr., Big Sam Funk Nation, Kermit Ruffins, Shannon Powell, Honey Island, James Andrews, Pinstripes Brass Band, Tuxedo Jazz Band, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Midnite Disturbers (brass band supergroup featuring everyone and they mama), Andrew Duhon, Henry Butler, Glen David Andrews, Kirk Joseph, Marcia Ball, Astral Project, Los Hombres Calientes, Bingo! show, Nicholas Payton, Davell Crawford, Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington, anything with Terence Higgins on drums (if you’re lucky he’ll play with Dirty Dozen!).


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THE EXPERIENCE

Unlike Bonnaroo where you’re already home, Fair Grounds close at the end of the day in New Orleans—but the festival vibe takes over the nightlife.  Early shows start round 10:30 and late shows start at 2am and go til tomorrow.  Head to Tipitina’s, order an Amber from Pete or Brian, tip nicely and then enjoy a 2 a.m. blowout show or wander in and out of the clubs on Frenchmen Street to keep your Fest going (almost) 24/7

Places to definitely hang at: The Maple Leaf Bar (the back patio is like Amsterdam in nola), Tipitina’s (Uptown for chrissakes), DBA, Preservation Hall (but only if you like classic bands where each band members got an overabundance of skill, personality and style), Snug Harbor, the Maison, Blue Nile, and One Eyed Jacks.

 

As George Porter Jr. would say “IS IT JAZZFEST YET??

 

*Not located on a farm in Tennessee

Do you have memories of Jazz Fest in New Orleans?