By Stephen Chrisanthus
New Orleans, Louisiana is known around the world for its fun, food and festivities, but one time of year may be the best time to experience it all. The Jazz and Heritage Festival, known more commonly as Jazz Fest is a 10 day music festival that involves the entire city. There is no better time to experience all that this great city has to offer.
Traditionally Mardi Gras has always been a popular time to visit New Orleans. People go in search of the ultimate party experience. People from all over are draped in beads, hammering cocktails and dancing in the streets. It's that buzz that comes only with a gathering of that magnitude. But you also get the abundance of grime, crime and inconvenience that come with it. Nola is a party town all year long. You can have a blast on a Tuesday in August, you don't need to force a trip into the madness to get the party you desire. Go for the music, and the party comes as a bonusa[bar]the Jazz Fest way.
The official Jazz and Heritage festival is located on the New Orleans Fairgrounds, and takes place over the course of two weekends with a 3 day break in between. It is packed with music, food, crafts and culture. There are several main stages simultaneously going off at the same time throughout day. At one point I was tap dancing between Harry Connick Jr., Trey Anastasio Band and NAS. Some of the top touring bands in all genres play with a mix of up and coming stars and super talented almost-unknowns. It's a full day for sure but definitely an authentic music experience. You can find the daily lineups on nojazzfest.com, and construct your own musical itinerary.
But the fairgrounds are just one part of Jazz Fest. The music is in the streets and in the cool venues scattered throughout town, are the highlight for me. The town is filled with music lovers from across the globe and local musicians meet them in the streets. Ten piece jazz bands equipped with giant tubas all the way down to bottle caps on the soles of their shoes take over whole intersections, and people flow in and out of the bar and restaurant lined historic streets, drink in hand, to join in the rhythm. Frenchman Street is a prime example of where this tantalizing barrage for the senses thrives. Inside the music venues, gather collections of gifted artists you could never find on a single stage that small, jamming out in a seemingly never-ending series of shows that go on throughout the late night and early morning hours...