With some time to catch up this morning on day three of the 2015 French Quarter Festival, I’ve had a chance to reflect on my first impression of the largest showcase of Louisiana music in the world
The fest started on Thursday with five stages operating mostly in Woldenberg Riverfront Park near the old Jax Brewery and the Audubon Aquarium. Friday, the festival added seven more stages and 11 more open today. This exponential stage growth levels off at 23 stages, otherwise there might not be any place to walk.
Actually, there’s lots of room to walk. Anyone intent on catching music at all the stages needs to be prepared to hustle or rent a pedicab. Stages are grouped together but those groups are scattered over the full river length of the French Quarter from Canal to Esplanade and moving away from the river, there are stages on Royal and Bourbon Streets. Like most music festivals, tough choices have to be made cause you cannot catch it all.
In its four days, French Quarter festival attracts more audience than the better known seven-day New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival that starts later in the month. But now that I’m here, its quite obvious why. Jazz Fest participants have to make a conscious effort to get out the Fair Grounds and pay the $70 to get in for a day. As a result, I suspect that Jazz Fest is responsible for drawing in more folks to the city specifically for the festival.
At French Quarter Festival, many of the attendees appear to be here for other reasons. And therein lies the genius of this event. Like a gill net that traps salmon headed to spawning grounds, the free French Quarter Festival snags tourists as they innocently stumble out of their hotels and bars and provides them with a taste of music they might not otherwise catch.
With the exception of one small stage featuring international acts, the French Quarter Festival showcases local talent. This means the festival provides local musicians with a chance to build a following outside the city. The fact that the festival can keep 23 stages busy with local talent provides some sense of how deep the musical talent. This year’s lineup includes Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Eric Lindell, Hot 8 Brass Band, John Boutte, Flow Tribe, Bonerama, Little Freddie King, Guitar Slim Jr. and on and on. All music, by the way, that we play on Sweeney’s Gumbo Ya Ya.
I’m still in New Orleans during the next show but I hope to call in with a brief report. You’ll be in capable hands with Anch who hosts Sundrenched on Tuesdays.