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What JazzFest’s Return Means to Me

7 July 2021

To Our Valued Clients and Friends:

One recent Sunday evening, I sat on my front porch, feet toward Lake Pontchartrain and head toward the Mississippi River – those two bracketing and defining New Orleans waters. I felt a breeze coming off the river, as refreshing to the spirit as the music I was listening to – a recording of the Neville Brothers’ JazzFest set from 2003 on WWOZ’s JazzFest program in place.

Now, it’s not exactly news that I’m a music lover. My tastes range wide, but I have a special love for New Orleans-funky music, Dr. John, the Neville Brothers (all the amazing Nevilles!), so many others. 

The Neville Brothers no longer play at JazzFest, sadly. When they did, they had the place of honor – as the final band on the final day, their set closed the festival’s main stage.

At 5:30 p.m. that Sunday I felt the sun’s warmth, but as it set, a thunderstorm began rolling in, to the Neville Brothers singing Amazing Grace. It was a moment of such peace and transcendence. I was unplugged from everything but the music and the atmosphere – no phone, no iPad, no laptop. This was a profoundly recreative experience.

It was also a moment of poignancy and hope. Poignancy, as I reflected on yet another disaster’s impact on the city I love to call home. Hope, because now over 50% of New Orleanians are vaccinated against COVID-19, and we can begin looking toward a return to some social activities like live music.

Hope, too, because JazzFest is also returning to New Orleans – to us – this October! We’re used to an annual event – with the cancellation of JazzFest 2020 and the October commencement of 2021’s festival, there will have been a two-and-a-half-year gap between the last JazzFest and this next one to come. Sometimes it has felt as if JazzFest belonged to an era that was over and done, and I know I am not alone in finding a message of hope in its return. 

I’ve missed JazzFest deeply – the music, of course, but JazzFest isn’t just about the music, it’s about the people the music brings together from all over the world. Maybe I’ve missed the people more than the music.

Because the music does bring us together, gives us a mutual point of reference which makes any other irrelevant. For the time we share at the Fairgrounds, we are a community, and we join in the celebration of New Orleans’ special musical culture and heritage.

You might be a king or a pauper, sitting next to me, on a chair, on the grass – how would I know, and why would I care? We’re all casually dressed music lovers together, and when I get up for a beer or some crawfish bread, I’ll ask if I can get you some, too. 

This shared community knows no compass – true north is whatever stage the band’s playing on. It’s us – people – at our best. 

I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve missed that. But I’m looking forward to JazzFest’s triumphant return this autumn!

There’s light at the end of the tunnel, and it feels like promised sunshine.

What are your most treasured JazzFest memories? What are you most looking forward to when it returns?

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

Until next Wednesday – 

Peace,

Eric

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