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Dancing in the Street

Louisiana's Music Festivals

A parade of performers at The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
A parade of performers at The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

The only problem with the Blues Festival is that it conflicted with JazzFest, so we left the state capital to attend the mother of all Louisiana music festivals held in its best-known city. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which celebrated its 40th year in 2009, is held at a dusty race track in the heart of the city over two weekends. It isn’t free, but visitors end up bemoaning the fact there’s so much good music being cranked out simultaneously on a dozen tented and open stages. People with only two ears shouldn’t have to choose between listening to James Taylor, Wilco, Erykah Badu, Wynton Marsalis, and Johnny Winter, as they all performed “against” each other one musically-charged night. There are complex grids to help visitors match up who’s playing where and when, but sometimes even that isn’t enough.  We heard one passersby stop his buddy to report, “Hey, wait a minute, Dave Matthews starts at 5!” unaware that he was shouting over the din of the Dave Matthews Band, as it was already 10 minutes past the appointed hour.

Locos Por Juana Earth, Wind & Fire
Locos Por Juana
Earth, Wind & Fire

Name acts may sell tickets, but there’s a lot of pleasure provided by little-known and local bands performing in the Gospel Tent (which offers salvation in the form of misters to cool the audience), the Blues Tent, or even snaking through the crowd in an impromptu drum and dance parade. We saw black hillbilly music, and enjoyed New Orleans Indians, who aren’t Indians, but rather African-Americans wearing elaborate Native American garb and headdresses who created a funky groove and let the appreciative audience ride it. Allowing some friends to choose our next stop, we were surprised to hear a familiar Latin beat. There we were, grooving to Locos por Juana again! We had come full circle.  

We can’t wait to return next year, perhaps for both JazzFest weekends, to enjoy more music and the food, including another cochon de lait po'boy made from marinated, pit-roasted young suckling pig, sliced thin and served with gravy. We also want to check out another Louisiana Festival full of mirth and music called Mardi Gras. Perhaps you’ve heard of it…

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For more about the New Orleans JazzFest, read our Blog.

More on Louisiana's Music Scene:
Festival International de Louisiane
Baton Rouge Blues Festival 
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

For more information, visit the
Louisiana Office of Tourism: www.louisianatravel.com


PKR072209
(Updated: 04/30/10 AR)

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