Let’s see – fantastic music, great food, lovely scenery – that just about sums up what I expected from my trip to the 2013 Jazz Fest. What else would you think about when heading to New Orleans, Louisiana, aka NOLA? I was in for a not-so-pleasant surprise this year. In fact, everyone who attended weekend number two got a little dash of the unexpected. What we saw at the welcoming gate might have been our first clue for what was to come.
Don’t see it?
Try this one…
This was also hard to avoid:
It wasn’t long before those clouds were overhead pouring torrential rain on all the unsuspecting music lovers. At one point we found ourselves standing in a crowd listening to the band Widespread Panic while sheets of rain crashed down around us. It was surreal to say the least.
In a review of the popular band Maroon 5, NOLA reporter Keith Sperra said it best, “It’s a testament to the drawing power of a band…that many thousands of people will stand in what was essentially a sty – a sopping, shoe sucking slop consisting of mud, water and what smells like thoroughbred excrement – to see and hear said band.”
Jazz Fest is held in a race track. A horse racing track. You can imagine the aromas that surround you when you mix it with water and gently stir it with, oh, thousands, if not millions, of feet trudging around.
Like a deer in the headlight Adee and I looked at each other in wonderment at the large number of people walking around in a wide array of odd (but very cute) rain boots on day one. By day two, we realized the method behind their madness. Oh how we longed for a pair for our own feet.
Oftentimes there was no choice but to walk through lots of this:
And we stood in large crowds, our shoes nearly suctioned in the mud at times.
We were able to find moments of respite from the weather. My lunch consisted of a delicious green apple I took from the hotel breakfast bar. I figured the donuts they were offering weren’t vegan, but this apple certainly was!
Not that I needed to bring along food. Believe it or not, there were several vegan options – including vegetarian red beans and rice and even hummus and falafels. Yum!
But there was plenty of opportunities to hear great bands, despite the weather.
After three days of incredible music, we were ready for some time at the French Quarter Market. Although the weather was much better, we still went with some trepidation. We expected Two Vegans at the French Quarter would translate into turbulent tummies. But we were pleasantly surprised yet again. There were several venues in the French Quarter that provided vegan meals – jambalaya, red beans and rice, even a delicious Vegan Dreamy Weenie hot dog! That was well worth the walk to the perimeter of the quarter!
We were full to the brim of good vegan food; great music at every turn; and beautiful scenery (even despite the weather). It was time to head home. After a few days out on the road, it sure was nice to have my head resting peacefully on my own pillow on Sunday night.
Here’s a recap of some of our favorite bands we saw while we were at 2013 Jazz Fest. Check them out – they’re all talented and ear-worthy musicians!
- The American rock band from Athens, Georgia, Widespread Panic. No panic in the crowd even as we listened in pouring rain!
- Hearing the funky “bayou soul” music by Marc Broussard was one of my favorite new discoveries.
- The appropriately named jazzy band, Galactic Funk, brought some energy to a weather-weary crowd.
- New Orleans native and soon to be legend in his own right, jazz saxophonist Aaron Fletcher
- Grammy nominated Lousiana-native blues band, Roddie Romero and the Hub City All Stars
- This music was a little off my beaten path, but my daughter urged me to give them a try. The uplifting rifts of the band MuteMath definitely showed off the group’s talent and passion for their music that always makes for an enjoyable live experience. And their inflatable (and portable) crowd-sharing stage was a hoot!
- We had to take in some classic jazz while we were there and Kid Merv and All That Jazz, definitely fit the bill
- The name will make you smile, but the music of Topsy Chapman & Solid Harmony will get you up on your feet and downright happy even when the weather is dreary!
- My hubby is a big blues rock fan and I was sure wishing he was with me when we listened to smooth blues of the rock band Gravy play at the Lagniappe Stage. Later that day the lead singer walked up to me and gave me a hug and told me all about how they were selected to be a part of Jazz Fest and how they were excited to be there. Somehow I don’t think I was the only one who heard that story that day, but I was happy for him and the band nonetheless.
- I’ll be honest, I didn’t get to hear much of performer Laura Bell Bundy, but she was on the main Acura stage when we arrived early for another band we were there to see. And her credentials were impressive. We read this on the Jazz Fest app (yes, there’s an app for that), a Tony Award nominated Broadway performer and country music singer. I’ll be honest country music is not my thing, but every now and then it’s fun to step outside of your comfort zone and LBB’s style was definitely fun and would be worth another listen.
- When you’re looking for a break from the weather, slipping into the People’s Health Economy Tent is a great stop and not just for the shelter it provides. Jamil Sharif’s traditional jazz sounds soothed our weary spirits and made us know why we came in the first place! Son of legendary trumpeter Umar Sharif, Jamil is a thrilling trumpeter in his own rights.
- When you’re going to a Saturday night headliner at Jazz Fest, you need to get there early even if that means enduring the band (or two) that you just don’t like. Sorry, Little Big Town. By the time we got there, the crowd was so large for Fleetwood Mac we didn’t get to see them so much as hear them. I was able to catch glimpses of the stage from time to time, but their performance rocked the scene as they played one show-stopping song after another.
- I have to admit I’m reluctant to share about this last band, Maroon 5. In fact, their tunes probably wouldn’t have even made it to my podcast loving ears if it hadn’t have been for my TRX classes. I have to admit their songs definitely get you moving which was exactly what we needed on a chilly, mud-slopping Friday night. The lead singer, Adam Levine, said it best when he told the crowd that he saw eyes rolling when he jumped on the stage. What is a band like Maroon 5 doing at Jazz Fest? But Levine suggested they won over more than a few skeptics by playing their own instruments and singing their own self-written songs. So the crowd did a few of their own Jagger moves while enjoying the pop rock sounds of the band.
I hope you can make it Jazz Fest one of these days. Whether the best or the worst of conditions, it’s an experience you’ll never forget!