New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival turned 50-years-old this year with a massive line-up spanning eight days, over two weekends. The festival presented by Shell drew approximately 475,000 festival attendees during the event’s two weekends making it one of the largest music and cultural events in the United States. The music, food and cultural extravaganza took place from April 25-28 for the first round and May 2-5 for the second part at New Orleans Fairgrounds.
Even though legendary act The Rolling Stones and their replacement Fleetwood Mac had to cancel due to ailments of both vocalists, the festival was filled with both mainstream and local heavy hitting acts. This is my 11th year attending the festival in one of my favorite cities.
Despite a soggy start with some thunderstorms, Alanis Morisette and Earth, Wind & Fire and R&B sensation Ciara performed for fans who held out and stuck around on the first day Thursday, April 25. Guitar icon Carlos Santana and brass royalty Trombone Shorty took the stage for day two. Hometown band The Revivalists, who never disappoint, also performed a high energy set on Friday, April 26. I have photographed this band for eight years and I am so happy to see their huge success over the past few years.
New Orleans is known for its music and food. At the festival, there was everything for patrons to dive into from gumbo, po’boys, softshell crab and other treats to feed the soul. Flavored snowballs also provide the perfect way to cool off in the warm New Orleans afternoons. My personal favorite food is the crawfish enchiladas that I was introduced to last year and now have to eat everyday during the festival. Please understand this is not the place to count calories. Even Katy Perry got in on the food action attending the festival the days leading up to her performance in disguise and posting on IG about all her food indulgences.
Rapper Curren$y performed earlier on the third day Saturday, April 27. A variety of headliners graced the stages including pop singer Katy Perry, crooner Leon Bridges and rapper Logic. There’s no better way to round out the first weekend of Jazz Fest than with music legends Bonnie Raitt, Al Green and Van Morrison. Colombian, Reggaeton artist J Balvin also took the stage and rounded out the culturally diverse lineup.
Jazz Fest continued to pair big names and local acts for the second weekend. On Thursday, May 2, included various names such as Ziggy Marley, Tom Jones and Mavis Staples. The second Friday, May 3 included songstress Gladys Knight, guitar guru Gary Clark Jr. and country singer Chris Stapleton.
Saturday, May 4 did not disappoint with a musically diverse set of headliners such as Dave Matthews Band, party starter Pitbull and the Queen of Motown Diana Ross. Tank & the Bangas and Big Freedia also brought the house down.
Jazz Fest 2019 came to a close with more iconic performances by Chaka Khan, John Fogerty, Buddy Guy, Jimmy Buffet and Herbie Hancock.
New Orleans is a cultural, artistic, educational smorgasbord and Jazz Fest is a perfect representation of it. The fest has already announced dates for 2020 keeping the extended eight day schedule, it will take place from April 23-26 for the first weekend and April 30-May 3 for the second weekend. For the most up-to-date Jazz Fest info, visit www.nojazzfest.com.