Jazzfest 2009 Report: I’m just back from New Orleans, lucky to have booked myself into the city early in the year for the second weekend of Jazzfest. As a result, I am one culturally enriched human being. Fest head Quint Davis went to Africa and brought back two groups of dancers and drummers who could do extraordinary things with their bodies that I never saw before: I saw dancers from Benin do magic tricks, making dancers appear and disappear on stage right in front of us, and The Crocodile Gumboot Dancers of South Africa made rhythms with their bodies, stamping their feet, that were unlike anything I’d ever heard. Someone is going to put a Youtube video up for them of the performance–I will Twitter when I see it.
Anyway, it seemed like the best dancers and musicians from all around the country and world were on the Festival fairgrounds for four full days, morning til night. I was in musical, food, and surprisingly, conversation heaven. I met a lot of interesting people there, about three a day. It was like a Fellini movie, where people were willing to go to some fascinating place in their conversation in just moments. It could have had to do with the fact the tickets each day were $50, and it raised the bar on how resourceful people were who entered the gates. No time was wasted learning interesting lessons on the fairgrounds, and then there were the passerbys…a woman with dollar bills pinned all down her front, so that, I presumed, if you were short one dollar and you really wanted to get a soft shell crab po’ boy, you could pull one off her chest if she happened to be around. It was a friendly crowd.
At night the streets were filled with people and music–I went to a late night set of the Midnight Disturbers with Trombone Shorty that took place in a converted middle school. There were little clubs and restaurants and art galleries in the different school rooms, and the auditorium is where the headliner bands performed and people danced. (They came on at 1:15 AM–people stay out late in New Orleans;;the paper lists music sets starting at 3 and 5 am)
Each day after Jazzfest, people poured out of the fairgrounds and many found their way into street parties along the way home, with brass bands on the corners and food stands set up. They were all over town. The cafe scene is very hot in New Orleans too–all different styles of cafes that at least during Jazzfest, stay open late. Where I was in the Marigny district, people lounged outside with others, or worked on their laptops outside, in between tropical plants and local art work. A groovy scene.
I rented a bike the minute I got there, a big $500 cruiser that made for effortless riding all over town. (Go to Michael’s on Frenchmen Street.) I traded a psychic counseling session to get picked up at the airport and driven right to the shop. Then we were off to Lafayette Park, where Marva Wright and Marcia Ball were playing…the party started within minutes of landing. I left while it was still a little light, stopping at a local dive-type place named Mother’s with great gumbo, then down to the River Park to pay my respects to the mighty Mississippi, and through the Farmers Market and French Quarter and into the funky arty Fauborg Marigny.
I could talk all day about the music and magic in New Orleans but it’s time for the May psychic messages. One more thing: New Orleans was thriving, but not the wetlands that protect it. I learned that wetlands are being lost at a rate of an acre an hour, and this threatens the whole coast of Louisiana. According to environmentalists and scientific projections, the people there either have to take measures immediately to fix the problems, or move, as in move the coast of Louisiana and everything built on it. New Orleans is still threatened even though it looks good in the good places. It needs attention now, was the message.