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Sunday, 27 December 2009

New Orleans Jazz Fest: the Beat Goes On - Page 3

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.

Between the two weekends, the festival continues in the bars and clubs of the French Quarter, with Bourbon Street being the euphoric epicenter. Bands and singers appear nightly, and for the cost of a drink, you can enjoy hours of fabulous music. Walking to the clubs can be just as rousing because on every corner, crowds collect to marvel at the brass groups, guitarists and lithe black kids flash-tapping under street lights. Even with the bustle and noise, there is no sense of apprehension or threat to safety. It’s simply a ton of fun in a town of friendship.

About ten miles out of town is a venue unique to the city – the Rock ‘n’ Bowl. Here, pins tumble as piano keys tinkle and those not bowling are either dancing, drinking, talking or tapping as live music echoes around the hall and along the lanes. Visitors come from the local area, interstate and overseas. The affable American sculptor Jimmy Descant, sharp as a tailor’s scissors in black and white, is a regular and the band he watches will be seen by thousands at Jazz Fest the next day. That’s the performers’ pattern; a bar, club or restaurant during the week, the festival stages on the weekend.

During the day, groups also perform in outdoor cafes, making a coffee and beignet at the Café du Monde an even more pleasurable experience. Along N. Peters Street, which leads to the 200-year-old French Market, most restaurants showcase trios or quartets during lunch and dinner. The music is relaxed, the food inexpensive and the atmosphere 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 McKirdyinformal. Or you can just walk around streets like Toulouse, St Louis and Royal, listening to the buskers who belt out numbers freely.

Pete Fountain once said, ‘If I had grown up in any place but New Orleans, I don't think my career would have taken off. I wouldn't have heard the music that was around this town. There was so much going on when I was a kid.’ For the thousands of people who experience Jazz Fest each year, it’s still going on.

© Mark McKirdy

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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