Friday, May 12, 2006

It's Come and Gone, But the Tradition Lives On

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, or just Jazz Fest, as we call it, an event that I once looked forward to with great zeal, came and went, mostly without me. CNN called it a Jazz Fest like no other, and it was definitely not like the Fests of old for me, but not quite for the same reasons.

In the old days, my friends who work for the festival used to give me tickets and parking passes. That ended several years ago, but I could always count on at least a couple of free tickets from a) performing with someone else (background vocals for Renard or Kirk Joseph; b) one or more of my clients performing there; c) going with Renard when he was playing with some other artists; d) a ticket or two from Willie (my former husband, and drummer for the Neville Brothers, for any of you who might have recently tuned in.) Well, this year, the choice was e) none of the above.

For the most part, the festival looked the same. But it was not. First of all, I used to attend at least 2 or three days each weekend, but this year, I barely made it one day each weekend. Tickets have now hit the $40 mark at the gate for adults (anyone over 12) and $5 for kids. Plus, parking will run you about $25 if you want the convenience of a short walk. Otherwise, you might find a deal for less but you'll have to hoof it quite a distance. The distance from the fest and any free parking spots is measured in miles. Once you're inside, as music goes, it's an all-you-can-eat buffet of every flavor, but the real food and drink can drain your resources pretty quickly. So, I scraped enough cash together for one day there with Rachel, (accompanied by Renard and several members of his family) the first weekend, and lucked upon one ticket for the second weekend after someone gave it to Renard and he decided not to go. I took Rachel and her friend, we took the free-park-long-walk option, and because the food lines were too long, we just had snowballs. So, we managed to attend the last couple of hours of the last day for about $20.

One of the biggest incongruencies of the day for me was the absence of the Neville Brothers as the closing act of the Festival. This has been a long-standing tradition- for all but one of the last 25 years that I've attended the festival, (when Fats Domino closed it because it some kind of special anniversary for him) and the reason for their conspicuous absence has been attributed to Aaron Neville's asthma (allegedly, too much dust, etc. in New Orleans for him, though that contention has been debunked by all kinds of experts and specialists). However, some have speculated that this Cyril Neville interview may have had something to do with it. Who knows. I was just as happy (maybe happier) to see Ivan Neville close the Fest's Congo Square stage with his band. Rachel and her friend were delighted to be able to watch his performance with about a half-dozen others from on-stage. We usually did this every year on the main stage when the Neville Brothers closed it. And because of their absence, I was unable to execute another one of my Jazz Fest traditions: inviting Ed Bradley to dinner and being turned down.

It started as a half serious thing several years ago, as Ed can always be found at the Neville's closing performance. I knew that he probably had plans, but on a whim, I invited him to accompany us (usually me and some out-of-town friend and/or Renard and one or both of my kids) on my annual ex-post-festo dinner at Maximo's, one of my favorite restaurants. Naturally, he politely declined. So, I did it again the next year, last minute, as usual. He declined. And again and again I did it, year after year just for the fun of the ritualized rejection. I really looked forward it. But with no Neville Brothers at the close of the fest, there was no Ed Bradley. And worse still, there is no more Maximo's ex-post-Katrino! (Damn you, Jason! Just kidding. No, I'm not!) I'll spare you the details of what a fine place this was, since you can never have the experience- though I hear Jason is now in northern California and maybe he'll open a new place...but I doubt it. Ah, but the evening wasn't over and I did get my chance later that night when Ed Bradley and his wife Patricia showed up at Tipitina's, despite the fact that at 1:00 AM, dinner was pretty much moot. But I asked anyway, just for the completely absurd fun of it. I wasn't even sure that Ed had ever made note of the fact that this happened every year or whether or not he'd caught on that it had become a ridiculous sort of joke. So, because everything seemed so completely out of whack this year, I decided to go ahead and point it out. And there was some indication made that we might actually have a post-fest dinner one year...maybe even next year, if another hurricane or bird flu doesn't wipe us all out first.

It occurs to me that you might be wondering why I would be inviting Ed Bradley to dinner in the first place as if, perhaps, I just do this kind of thing randomly. Well, it was sort of random the first time, but I do sort of know him -not that well, but he's been around the Nevilles long enough (and not just at Jazz Fest) for Willie to have become rather chummy with him. I was married to Willie when we first met him. During the time that Willie and I were separated, Ed sat him down one day and talked to him about the value of our marriage and of saving it. He'd even offered us the use of his place in Snow Mass, Colorado if we wanted to get away. For about two weeks after that, things were really great and I thought Willie and I might be able to work things out. Then it went right back to the same old problems. But I'll always be grateful to Ed for taking the time and consideration to communicate whatever he did to Willie to try to keep us together.

So, that was Jazz Fest for me. Yeah, there was music, too, but I'm just too tired now to write more. I'll probably edit this and add a few more pictures and links later. And I'll try not to be absent for as long next time.

Signing off for now.....


Anonymous Addict said...

I have to wonder... as I'm sure you have millions of times, if anything will ever feel "the same".

I know this is kind of unrelated, but have you ever considered writing a book about the "real" story of the hurricane and how it effected people is ways that were not refelcted in the press???

4:27 PM  
Blogger LisaPal said...

Wow, there certainly are many, many ways that this storm has affected people that are far too subtle to be newsworthy. But at this point, the whole idea of writing about it seems too taxing for my brain. That's probably another side effect of the storm- this subterranean emotional/mental fatigue that is hard to describe, but seems to always be present.

8:29 PM  

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