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Jazz Fest 2024 – Showing the Kids How It’s Done!

14 May 2024

I missed posting about Jazz Fest 2023 – though I didn’t miss the festival itself, having been there with bells on!

But Jazz Fest 2024 was even more special than some have been. Over 500,000 people showed up over the festival’s 8 days – and the organizers had to cap “Stones Thursday” tickets at 40,000 – the first-sold-out day in Jazz Fest’s history!

It was a Festival of the Elders – The Rolling Stones made their first Jazz Fest appearance on May 2, with Mick Jagger not quite 81 and Keith Richards 80, also.

They made fellow performers like 78-year-old Neil Young, who appeared with Crazy Horse, and Bonnie Raitt, 74, seem almost like spring chickens.

The Beach Boys (more old-timers) played on Day 1 (the first Thursday, April 27), the Foo Fighters closed the Festival Stage Friday, May 3. The latter band had created special merchandise for the festival, with proceeds from sales going to two New Orleans charities – Grace at the Greenlight (which reported their donation at $20,000) and No Kid Hungry.

But the Queen of Jazz Fest was, without question, our own beloved Irma Thomas. At age 83, she was indefatigable – performing April 27 on the Gospel Stage, and again Sunday, May 5, on the main Festival Stage.

But that wasn’t enough for our Queen! Mick Jagger welcomed her to the Stones’ set to duet (he taking counterpoint) on Time is on My Side, which the Stones had recorded in June of 1964, days after hearing Irma Thomas’ version of 2 months earlier – and that recording was their first single to crack the U.S. top 10.

The Stones’ lead guitarist, Ronnie Wood (a lad of 76), backed up Irma Thomas on her Festival Stage set. (This wasn’t his only unexpected appearance in my Jazz Fest 2024 experience – see below!)

And following that set on Jazz Fest’s closing day, Irma Thomas joined The Coral Reefer Band in celebration of Jimmy Buffet’s life and career, along with Breaux Bridge’s own Sonny Landreth (he’s only 73) for I Will Play for Gumbo.

It bears noting that Eric Clapton considers Sonny Landreth one of the most advanced and, at the same time, one of the most under-appreciated guitarists in the world.

Many beloved New Orleans musicians filled slots – Trombone Shorty, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band (both also played in the Jimmy Buffet tribute as well as their own sets), Kermit Ruffins, and The Radiators, among many others.

Would it even be Jazz Fest without some Mardi Gras Indians? In addition to performances, three generations of Indians were interviewed on the Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage.

The Radiators played the Shell Gentilly Stage on the festival’s final Sunday at the same time Irma Thomas took the Festival Stage, creating a serious dilemma for New Orleanian music lovers.

And that same Sunday, with too many inviting closing acts competing on various stages, we were faced with another dilemma – did we listen to Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue on the Festival Stage? Bonnie Raitt on Shell Gentilly? Kermit Ruffins’ Tribute to Louis Armstrong? Big Chief Bo Dollis Jr. & the Wild Magnolias? Other contenders in that time slot included Tower of Power, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Wallflowers, George Thorogood & The Destroyers.

What was a music lover to do? We only have two ears each. I wished I could clone myself for a few hours, but this wasn’t the first time Jazz Fest has had that effect on me.

Then, there’s always the food – grilled oysters, duck and andouille gumbo (I’d play for that gumbo myself!), crawfish bread . . . just remembering makes my mouth water, and I’m looking ahead to 2025 . . .

But maybe best of all is the shared spirit of joy every visitor – local, nation-wide, international – brings to Jazz Fest – it’s a happy love, a celebration of the heritage and culture, musical and otherwise, we Louisianians are natural heirs to. For a few beautiful, blessed days, we love the music, the food, the friends and family we enjoy the festival with (for the second weekend, friends of mine from out of town came to join the celebration), and one another in our shared joy, together.

And Irma Thomas! She has played many Jazz Fests over the course of the last 50 years (her first appearance was in 1974). We all love that lady, and if we don’t, we should be ashamed of ourselves.

My wife, friends, and I got a real Jazz Fest lagniappe – we had reservations at Saffron, which the restaurant asked whether we would give up to a group of musicians who’d requested a table. Of course, we allowed the musicians to take precedence. But their party hadn’t all arrived, the musicians were gracious winners, and we all ended up having appetizers with Ronnie Wood himself!

For us natives, Jazz Fest is such a big part of celebrating our heritage together. I missed it terribly for the three years (2 festivals and the space between made it that long) we went without it. But it’s back as if it never skipped a beat, and for this I am truly thankful.

So, here’s to Jazz Fest, New Orleans, and Miss Irma Thomas – long may they – and we – all flourish!

What are your feelings about this year’s Jazz Fest? Or any Jazz Fest which resonated especially with you?

Please click here to email me directly – I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts – please consider sharing.

Until next Wednesday –



For more of my Jazz Fest musings, see

At Last! JazzFest Returns to New Orleans

JazzFest’s Return Delayed – But Don’t Give up Hope!

What JazzFest’s Return Means to Me

I Think I Have the Post Jazz Fest Blues

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