The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is back for the first time in three years after being silenced by the pandemic.
The long-awaited Riday revival harks back to 2006, when the annual celebration of music and culture continued in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
The two-weekend production draws tens of thousands to the city’s Fair Grounds Race Course, where up to 80 daily musical performances perform on more than a dozen stages, complemented by arts and crafts exhibits and a series of booths featuring food from Louisiana and beyond.
Lionel Richie and Death Cab for Cutie are among Friday’s draws.
The Who headlines Saturday while the Red Hot Chili Peppers headline Sunday.
The festival is perhaps best known for showcasing a dizzying array of Louisiana musical talent, styles and genres – jazz, blues, Cajun, zydeco and more.
Organizers pulled the show in April 2006, eight months after the levees failed and the city was flooded during Katrina, and when debris and water-damaged homes still marred the landscape.
Longtime festival producer Quint Davis recalls two strong emotional memories from this festival: Bruce Springsteen made local audiences weep as he sang My City Of Ruins to close the first weekend, and the joy of seeing the crowd on opening day before the goals.
“It was just an incredible energy, like a pilgrimage,” Mr. Davis recalled Tuesday.
video of the day
The 2020 festival was canceled for the first time in its 50-year history due to Covid-19.
“It was like a sword through the heart,” Mr. Davis said, although in some ways the comeback has been more difficult than the post-Katrina festival as the pandemic has resulted in supplier changes, higher costs and complications rounding up equipment after three-years Break.
The cancellation in 2020, as well as the cancellation of planned returns in spring and fall 2021, was emotionally devastating for festival organizers and fans, Mr Davis said.
And they’ve brought recurring economic shocks to the bars, restaurants, and music venues that count on an influx of Jazzfest-goers.
“These are our two biggest weekends of the year,” James Gonzci, co-owner of Liuzza’s By The Track, recalled the disappointment.
The neighborhood bar and restaurant draws spilling crowds after each day of the festival.
Robert Mercurio can judge the comeback from two perspectives.
As the bassist for funk band Galactic, he credits Fest with helping the band build international reputation after a performance in 1996.
As co-owner of the historic Tipitina’s music club, he appreciates the business Jazz Fest will bring to live music venues as they regain their footing after being shut down by the pandemic.
“I think people who haven’t been to New Orleans in a long time are looking forward to coming to Tipitina’s after the fest for the real New Orleans experience,” Mercurio said Thursday.
Jazz Fest returns as Covid-19 cases are at their lowest in months and two-thirds of the US population is vaccinated.
Mask requirements, restrictions on public gatherings and vaccination record requirements have all been lifted in New Orleans.
Hospital admissions remain low in Louisiana after hitting dangerous peaks in 2020 and 2021.
Hotel occupancy rates at Jazz Fest have yet to recover to 2019 levels.
Kelly Schulz of the New Orleans & Co Tourism Association said downtown and French Quarter hotels are forecasting about 80% occupancy so far. Three years ago it was about 90%.
However, Ms. Schulz pointed to several signs of recovery, including this year’s return of Mardi Gras season parades and parties, the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament, a recent professional golf tournament, NBA playoff games and two major conventions.
Jazzfest, she said, has an estimated US$400million (£318.5million) impact on the local economy, similar to when the city hosts the Super Bowl.
“What we’re seeing is the best time as an industry since the pandemic began,” Ms. Schulz said.
“A comparison to 2006 is telling,” she said of Jazz Fest’s return.
“Because I think that’s how people feel about it, in terms of coming back and what it means and how much people have been waiting for this day – mostly because people thought we were going to have it last year and it was again called off.”
Mercurio also said the return of Jazz Fest was reminiscent of 2006 after Katrina.
“It feels like an awakening after a really dark time,” he said.
“Finally a light at the end of the tunnel that we’ve all been looking for for so long.”
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/music/jazz-fest-returns-to-new-orleans-for-2022-41599417.html Jazz Fest returns to New Orleans in 2022