Upon entering the Fair Grounds, my first and immediate
stop was the daiquiri stand. As I sipped my frozen Rum Punch/Margarita
concoction, I browsed the "Contemporary Crafts" area of the fest. There was
some beautiful artwork, jewelry, furniture, and clothing there-such as
photography by David Jennings, layered metal jewelry by Maria Fomich, and
handblown glass by Thomas Spake. But as impressive as all the craft items were,
the idea of spending $400 on a pair of earrings filled me with even more guilt
than the thought of indulging on white chocolate bread pudding or a
praline-stuffed beignet, so I wandered over to Food Area II to get some lunch.
Life is short and Jazz Fest is even shorter, but I decided not to eat dessert first, and instead had my courses in their proper order. My first snack was a bowl of the sacred and coveted Crawfish Monica from Big River Foods-that tasty, saucy, crawfish pasta dish that everyone loves. The crowds had already gathered there, even though the fest had only been open for about an hour, but fortunately, the lines moved quite quickly. While enjoying my pasta, I checked out the various wares on sale in the Congo Square African Marketplace. This area tends to have a wide variety of fun and colorful items-from jewelry to hats to skirts and dresses to artwork-with usually more affordable items mixed in than can be found in the Contemporary Crafts area. Carlotta Shelton had some nice African-print hats, Astou Dioum was selling some great handcrafted baskets, and Sophie Eckrich's shoes were really cool, but I resisted the temptation and kept going.
After getting some boudin balls from Papa Ninety Catering, I headed for the last area of Jazz Fest where I still needed to do a little "window shopping": the Louisiana Marketplace, which is one of my favorite places to find good things to buy with a Louisiana flair. I admired the gorgeous handcrafted furniture of Greg Arceneaux, and I am always a fan of the New Orleans-centric plaster wall art of Tamar Tamart, but I was trying very hard not to indulge my shopping addiction.
It was hot and sunny and I was feeling a thirst that only a famous Jazz Fest strawberry lemonade could cure, so I picked up one of those and wandered around the grounds some more.
Then I remembered that people say that Jazz Fest is also supposed to be about the music, so I figured I ought to listen to some. I camped out a ways from the Fais Do-Do stage, taking in a little Cajun and zydeco while waiting for the Lost Bayou Ramblers to come on. Recently back from a long hiatus, the band was as fabulous as ever, and I stuck around for their entire set. As the sounds of Cajun rock music wafted through the air, so did the smell of fry bread and horse poop. And the girl in front of me kept blocking my view of the Rambler boys by continuously waving her strange, bird-bedecked parasol in the air, but I guess it's all just a part of Jazz Fest and what makes Jazz Fest fun.
After the Lost Bayou Ramblers finished, I stopped to watch folks from the ISL Beaucoup Circus performing. They did some impressive aerial acts, juggling, and acrobatics. Also in the Louisiana Folklife Village, where all of this was happening, you can watch the Krewe of Muses give a demo of their glittery shoe-decorating skills, check out the shoebox floats and mini-throws produced by the Krewe of Tit Rex, and witness Native American dancing and pow wows.
Next, it was time for dessert. The heat made ice cream sound far more appealing than a hot bread pudding (even a delicious white chocolate one), so I opted for salted caramel ice cream from Francofonte Catering. I also picked up a coconut pie from Mr. Williams' Pastries, to save for later-to prolong the flavors of the fest.
A friend wanted to buy a Jazz Fest t-shirt-most of which ranged in price from $30 to $60!-from one of the official merchandise stands. Unfortunately, this was a rather unsuccessful endeavor. We waited at least 20 minutes while the lady in front of her slowly examined every single t-shirt option available in multiple sizes, only to finally discover that they were out of the shirt my friend wanted (and, unluckily, it was the only one they were out of). Not to mention that during all of this, someone stomped on my injured and possibly broken foot, but that's another story.
After that, we caught the music of the Cha Wa Mardi Gras Indians on the Jazz & Heritage Stage. It was now nearly 6:00 p.m. and time for me to think about calling it a day. I almost got out of the Fair Grounds having only spent money on food and drinks, but I messed that up when, on my way to the exit, I stopped by the BayouWear tent to buy an alligator sundress.
Somehow, I managed to find where I parked my bike, and I wearily rode home. It was another fun day at Jazz Fest. -Kathy Bradshaw
The second weekend is here, and I was more than ready to start my three-day journey at the New Orleans Jazz Fest. While the weekend comprises four days, due to a little circumstance called work, I was only able to start my adventure on Friday, May 3. And I must say, that was an awesome place to begin.
As a lifetime Jazz Fest attendee, I'm pretty familiar with the current layout of things, which makes it pretty easy when I'm looking for a good breakfast to start my day. Just down the way from the oh-so tasty soft-shell crab po-boy is Cottage Catering's white chocolate bread pudding. You have your bread and cream, mixed with some odds and ends, and voila: breakfast. After indulging in my forbidden dessert-for-breakfast tradition, I drifted around quite a bit, looking at all the amazing morning performers. From the Iguanas to Andrew Hall's Society Brass Band, there was a lot of breakfast music to go around.
Off to find coffee. I grabbed a frozen café au lait and wandered around until my friends arrived. From there, I visited the Gentilly Stage to see local legend Leo Nocentelli, before sneaking off to see Big Chief Donald Harrison Jr., whose set happened to be right before one of my favorites: Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers. Kermit drew in the masses and graced us with his sound and soul. Towards the end of his show, he brought out his daughter, who sang some jazz favorites to the crowd.
After Kermit, it was time to eat and do some shopping. Every year, I make it my goal to try something different, and today was the day for something I haven't had at Jazz Fest. That something was a grilled steak pita from the Gambian food vendor near Congo Square. It was amazingly tasty and lighter than some of the other things I'd eaten at the fest. With my belly full, I headed over to the BayouWear tent, where they were almost sold out of this year's 50th anniversary print. Luckily for me, they had the short wrap skirt in my size, and that's exactly what I wanted.
Time was passing, and I knew that I had to prepare myself to jump from stage to stage within that last hour. The best way for me to prepare was to grab a couple of frosés. What else could make me feel fancy while quenching my thirst and cooling me down?
It was time. I've been waiting a long time to see Gary Clark Jr. perform live, so I started at the Gentilly Stage. There's something about his music that just sounds better when you hear it live. He did not disappoint, and after 30 minutes of feeling energized by his trance, I hustled back to Congo Square to hear Gladys Knight close out the stage with her impeccable voice and songs that we all know and love. She sang and talked and paid homage to the ones we've lost, singing "Natural Woman" by the late Aretha Franklin. Unfortunately, I didn't make it to see Chris Stapleton, but I could hear him from the distance, and that sort of power must be something to see.
It's safe to say that Friday was an epic day to fest, and there are two more days to go, so buckle up, grab your hat, and I'll see you out there. -Kimmie Tubre