Saturday, April 26, 2008

Wet Jazz Fest

Yesterday's opening of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival was a splendid day for sun and fun, but today's performances were dampened by the heavy rains that poured throughout the latter portion of the day. With the ground already soaked and mud in abundance on the infield, tomorrow's expected heavy rains suggest, perhaps, alternative plans should be made. For the diehard Jazz Fest enthusiasts, no amount of drizzle, downpour, inundation, thunderstorm, squall, or cyclonic disturbance will prevent them from attending. And the same could be said for the performers. One of the highest paid professionals was Billy Joel, whose rain-soaked and thunderstorm-filled set was cut short by a half hour due to the floodgates that had opened up in the skies. Joel was quoted as having shouted out at the sky "Is that the best you got? C'mon, bring it on!" While this is all in keeping with the spirit of the Jazz Fest that emphasizes fun, great music, delicious food, creative crafts and pride in the local culture, to experience the festival in the rain takes a lot of stamina and mind over matter. As Satchel Paige once said, "If you don't mind, it don't matter." I recall going to one of the early Jazz Festivals with none other than Leigh Harris, known to her fans as L'il Queenie. The downpour was so bad and the mud was so thick that the half boots I wore were caked with mud through and through. After the Fest was over, I remember walking over to a nearby home and using their water hose to hose off most of the mud. The shoes had been worn only a few times before and had been soft and pliant. After the festival, they changed colors and were stiff as a board. No amount of saddle soap or store bought treatment could save them from the garbage heap. In the end the performances and the time were reckoned easily worth the price of one pair of shoes. However, with today's walk-up $50 price tag to see the Jazz Fest and the cost of good shoes up at least 200% from what they were 29 years ago, one may question if it's all worth the trip. My favorite way to see the festival is to ride a bicycle into the front gate. You dispense with the cost of parking and the time involved in finding a safe spot and pretty much can leave whenever you want, squirting through tight spaces and blasting past the worst of the traffic. However, there is nothing more dangerous than riding a bicycle on the rain slick streets of this city when Jazz Fest, Mardi Gras or some other celebration is ongoing. It is an accident waiting to happen and I loathe pedaling in the rain. Of course sitting and sloshing through the mud is not all that enticing either. Frankly, I will miss not seeing my hero Elvis Costello as he sings with our great performer Allen Toussaint, but the opportunity to stay warm, dry and mud free is too enticing for me to pass up. Lastly, I console myself with the knowledge that there still is another weekend of Jazz Fest upcoming. As Billy Joel sang yesterday, that's why I'll be "Keeping the Faith."

1 comment:

seanpclark said...

I saw Costello & Toussaint last time they played together at Jazz Fest. It was a good laid back and personal show without the elbow to elbow crowd. If they were on the same stage as last time you would've had cover over your head.

On the other hand, I believe that year was also the first time I've ever seen Herbie Hancock play. The crowds now are unbearable at times, but its memorable even standing on the outside of a tent peering in to see someone like Brubeck play. Of course, it brings the musicians into town, and I was able to see Brubeck play an awesome show at another venue also that year...