Like many festivals, Jazz Fest is making a long-awaited comeback after taking two years off due to the pandemic, last hosting an in-person event in 2019. And based off the sturdy attendance at the city's Fair Grounds Race Course, it seems the wait was well worth it, even if not by choice.
This year's lineup, which featured a number of big names like Stevie Nicks, The Who, Lionel Richie, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Elvis Costello, Mavis Staples and Zac Brown Band, was also a reminder of what makes Jazz Fest such a gem in the midst of so many mainstream festivals across the country which have long seemed like carbon copies of each other.
Part of what makes Jazz Fest such a local favorite and a tourist attraction is the uniqueness of the festivities, from the richness of the music to the plethora of diverse cuisine, art, and shopping options, all woven together by a wealth of culture representative of New Orleans' own community and history.
Throughout the festival, at any given time during the day, a mix of sounds filled the Fair Grounds, from jazz and blues to Latin and gospel and hip-hop or music directly influenced by the African diaspora.
Meanwhile, many local artists, exhibitors and entrepreneurs filled a number of tents showcasing beautiful paintings, sculptures, drawings, jewelry, crafts, home decor, handmade clothing and headpieces, and other unique artwork or vintage collections.
Along with a prominent use of cash over credit cards, the multiple parades running through the grounds at various times of day and an overall laidback, family-friendly environment, Jazz Fest maintained its characteristically county fair-like aura, separating itself from the usual hurriedness, chaotic atmosphere of so many other big events where a Stevie Nicks or Zac Brown Band or Jason Isbell could likewise be on the bill.
Instead of compromising, Jazz Fest remained true to its storied legacy, with a wide swath of acts including Buddy Guy, Norah Jones, Erykah Badu, Charlie Wilson, Lauren Daigle, Luke Combs and Ziggy Marley, while acts like Javier Olondo and AsheSon, Andrew Duhon, Billy Strings, Busta Rhymes and Big Freedia delivered their own incredible sets proving right at home along such icons.
While it's still early in this year's much-anticipated festival season, Jazz Fest is clearly still a beloved gem easily separating itself from the pack. And that's a good thing, because the festival has already confirmed next year's dates: April 28 to May 7.