Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Our Own Fun

I told Dad the other day how much attending the JazzFest cost.

"Ohh, no. Locals have been priced out. Only good for the tourists and the rich," he said.


"Well, it'll probably tank, then, like the Newport Folk Festival did. The people there finally got fed up, so it died."

Dad wasn't very accurate on this one, actually. Though it did die after a melee ensued during a Dionne Warwick performance, of all things, it returned after fourteen years and is still going strong.

Dad was also wrong about something else, and it's a common mistake people who don't live here - or who haven't been around here long enough to understand - tend to make.

The JazzFest, despite all the locals' kvetching over what an overpriced juggernaut it is these days, is a ways from tanking. It's too entrenched a part of this city's selling of its culture to die just yet. Many musicians trying to get somewhere here still position themselves locally as JazzFest performers or not-yet there. It takes books like Michael Oliver-Goodwin's, and especially Jay Mazza's recent publication, to put that into perspective. Within a few decades, music went from being something New Orleans as a whole merely tolerated publicly to something that is a serious economic engine, and JazzFest was a major vanguard in that transformation.

As for whether locals will mount some kind of major offensive against the Jazz & Heritage Foundation, that's not happening, either. What contributed to the rise of Mardi Gras as an economic engine applies to JazzFest - if you can't entirely join in in one way, you go off and do your own thing. This is a creative city at heart, and people are more likely to bring back any energies they could spend grumbling over past JazzFests into other sorts of fun. It wells up in other organized mini-festivals like ChazFest and Noizefest, in craft tables & performances at places near the Fair Grounds like Liuzza's By The Track, and it resides in the collective ability so many have around here to gather some folks together and serve up a good time just absorbing the atmosphere around the track. There's no sound-proof barrier around the place yet that I know of.

Hence my answer to him...

"Well, Dad, people around here will make their own fun. If they're kept out of JazzFest by the prices, they're more likely to turn around and do something else that's just as good, if not better, without spending that money."


"I guess you're right." he said in a low voice.

Update, 9:11 PM: Thanks to ale{atori}c, we've got a clear graph as to how much JazzFest prices have jumped. Sure, they ran at an embarrassing financial loss for quite a while (hippie-esque vs. capitalist origins rearing their head? The specter of George Wein, a founder of Newport Folk, lingering over it?), but there probably should be a locals discount to keep some sort of goodwill going...unless the argument is that picking up tickets from the Ticketmaster at the Superdome ahead of time is locals' discount enough. In which case...fine. Locals keep voting with our dollars.


Kevin said...

How much more brilliant is it to have a Dionne Warwick riot than a Bob Dylan or Rolling Stones riot. Style points to the Newport Folk Festival.

Leigh C. said...

Indeed. A Stones or Led Zep riot was already passe by then.