Okay, Sparkles, you’ve made it to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival gates, or, simply put (like a native), “Yer at da Fest!” There’s really only one “Fest” in New Orleans; other gatherings are simply piggybacking on the usage of the word fest and use it as an adjective and not a noun. Got it? Good.
Now, take your clothes off and come inside. I’m speaking metaphorically, of course, unless you’d really like to disrobe, and that’s more than fine with me. You go right on, brothers and sisters—it’s a free country, last I checked (about 1967).
I’m talking about the shedding of all that crap that you’ve been putting up with for the last year and which will await you after you leave the Fest—those layers of protection and personality that you need to put on to get through life’s daily sh*tstorm. Leave all that stuff outside; you won’t need it inside, and besides, that baggage doesn’t do you any good inside. That’s the first piece of advice I have for you and the only one you’ll need. Trust me.
All of those “outside” aspects of your life require of/from you a degree of perfection, efficiency, and responsibility: Get up; get dressed; go to work; pay your bills; dress your part; be smart, funny, wise, and witty; or simply sit down and shut the f**k up—AND be good and quick about it! Find the love of your life and settle down; if you want, you can marry. You want other people to admire you, look up to you, listen to your wisdom, take you seriously or not at all. When in doubt, you’ll take a selfie and post it on social media, hoping for some likes to vindicate your existence. Consider that that’s life’s reoccurring olfactory bovine excrement experience. At the Fest, it’s just horse manure that you’ll smell.
Anyway, once inside, you’ll see your brothers and sisters are just here to have a good time, listen to music, and eat food. It’s great to see so much fun. Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief, doctor, lawyer, and Indian chief: You purchase your ticket, and the rest of the day is Coolsville. Occasionally, you’ll see complainers and want to ask, “If you don’t like it, why are you here, and why don’t you leave?” Resist that temptation; absolve them and pass on. Right now, there’s rose mint tea, praline-stuffed beignets, Brocato’s gelato, and wonderful quail andouille pheasant gumbo. Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home, Mrs. Robinson; Al Green loves you more than you will know.
Figure that this is the evolution of the rock concerts of a half-century ago, except that there are no free kitchens, there’s limited access to controlled substances, and, for the most part, no children will be conceived on premises. God, I miss those good old days. It’s now 2019, and Earth, Wind & freaking Fire are gonna be here! Okay, if you’re really cool, they don’t matter as much as the weather, John Boutte, the line at the cochon de lait po-boy stand, and the glorious feeling of cosmic amnesia. Today—inside—there’s no tomorrow. There was no yesterday. There’s only now.
I admit it: I am a Fest junky. I buy my tickets early, I attend every day (well, maybe not that $185.00 day), I take off work, I save my money, I live one block away, and my Fest starts when I wake up and goes well into the evening. I don’t drink alcohol until after I leave the Fest (when it closes at 7:00 p.m.), and then I sit on my porch or wander the neighborhood, enjoying the afterglow and action. The first weekend, I have a big pot of red beans and rice for our dinners, and the second weekend, another big pot—this one with gumbo. We have a nice breakfast before we wander over, always getting there for the opening bell.
I may carry a small shoulder bag with a towel or heavier shirt, sunscreen, and my 32-ounce bottle of water that I bring in—it’s allowed—unopened. I don’t mind standing in lines, I avoid crowds, and I know the best places to see any stage without being crushed. I know where the good bathrooms are. I’m never bored, disappointed, or discouraged. I’m your model Fest attendee; somebody should give me a friggin’ medal!
Back to you. As you know, there’s music going on around town after the Fest, and it doesn’t stop for days—day in and day out. But, you know, you’ve got to set your pace. Go out afterwards, but stay sharp for the next day. Remember, this is a marathon and not a sprint
And just a head’s up: These musical geniuses that you witness at the Fest are not going to just get in their jet and split after their performances; they’ve got to go somewhere to relax and chill. For example, on the second Thursday, is it possible at all, at all, that after the shows shut down, that Mavis, Anders, Ivan Neville, Ziggy Marley, Rita Coolidge, and Big Sam’s Funky Nation are just going to retire to their hotel suites and take the rest of the night off? Or any of the other performers on any other evenings? Are they just pimping their talent, or do they really enjoy what they do? Keep your Twitter feed open, Sparky. Bonnie Raitt might be cruising Bullet’s Bar with Delfayo, Branford, and maybe Irma Thomas. As they say, “In New Orleans, the music never stops”—a good reason not to overindulge in anything that will mind-bend you into being missing in action, missing the action.
That’s it. Have fun. Live long and prosper. Go forth knowing the value of time well spent.