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Sunday, 27 December 2009

New Orleans Jazz Fest: the Beat Goes On - Page 2

Written by Mark McKirdy
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When Hurricane Katrina visited southeast Louisiana on August 29, 2005, it didn’t knock first. The wolf-wild winds huffed and puffed and destroyed more than 350,000 homes. Almost 2,000 people lost their lives in the hurricane and the subsequent floods. The city itself didn’t escape. Unlike the immovable house of bricks in the fairy tale, New Orleans’ metropolitan area was battered and then lost under fifteen feet of water, resulting in over 200,000 homes and apartments being damaged beyond repair.

New Orleans Jazz Fest: the Beat Goes On, music New Orleans, travel New Orleans, Jazz Fest, Jazz Festivals, Riverwalk, Maison Dupuy, New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, Mark McKirdyMost people visit more than one performer and the areas are generally small enough to allow close viewing. Even the gospel tent, although able to hold a couple of thousand, is surprisingly intimate. This is because the performances, like the sounds, are enveloping. The joy of the Lord is on every face and in every note, and it’s not the ethereal choirs heard in staid cathedrals. These witnesses for Jehovah jump and shimmy and fill the tent with a spirit of unity that even atheists would find uplifting. ‘I wish someone would give me a hand,’ the host shouts as he waves his prosthesis above his head. And the audience does. That’s the delight of Jazz Fest; tons of talent and instant response.

The biggest arena draws the largest crowds because the stage belongs to the headliners. In recent years, many stars have appeared, among them Wynton Marsalis, Joe Cocker, Kings of Leon, Earth, Wind & Fire, Pete Fountain, Tony Bennett, Bonnie Raitt, Bon Jovi and James Taylor. The festival is one of the few events where major acts appear within close proximity to each other and at almost the same time. If your taste is eclectic, you can wander. If it’s specific, just sit and appreciate. But whatever your inclination, when the beat begins to drive, you’d better hope that your airbag works.

New Orleans Jazz Fest: the Beat Goes On, music New Orleans, travel New Orleans, Jazz Fest, Jazz Festivals, Riverwalk, Maison Dupuy, New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, Mark McKirdyWhile the ‘stars’ undoubtedly shine, the twinkle belongs to the fans. Clothes are loose and rainbow-bright, hats are broad, feathered and flouncy, and sunglasses are mirrors in which the whole excitement of the festival is clearly visible. Strangers become instant friends, linked by a love of music, and conversations follow naturally. In the time it takes for a set to be completed, you might have clapped with a rapper, rapped with a happy-clapper, laughed with a cop, sung a duet with a girl in a cap or even danced the conga with an Elvis look-unlike. Jazz Fest is essentially a shared experience, and the more you give the more you gain.

Sight and sound are not the only senses to be seduced. Taste is also tantalized. Scattered around the enclosure are lines of booths and stalls that offer an array of delicious local food. Even the names have a musical quality; Cajun Jambalaya, Muffuletta, Shrimp Etouffée, Catfish Almondine, Sweet Potato Pone, Andouille Gumbo, Snow Crab Sushi Roll, Praline Shoe Soles, Huckabuck Frozen Cups, Jazzy Cupcakes. The list of treats is as long as the queues of eaters but the sense of anticipation that builds during the five-minute wait for your crawfish is worth much more than the small sum handed to the vendor.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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