Late April and early May present the optimal Louisiana weather for culture and money to dance in the afternoon and deep into the night, their embrace a magnet for visitors famous and humble. A few events we took note of…
Really hard to beat the Festival International in Lafayette for an affordable trip, excellent music culled from every continent, and plenty of fried gator products. On a Saturday, we caught Pedrito Martinez, Debauche, Slavic Dance Party, the Lost Bayou Ramblers, and Seun Kuti, then made our way to Feed N Seed for free beer and crawfish and a set from Cones of Uncertainty.
The Festival keeps the whole thing free by securing major sponsors for each stage (e.g. Scene Popeyes, Scene Malibu, Scene Chevron), bypassing mega-acts and their fees, and by filling the downtime during set-changes with a recording played on PA’s at each stage. A woman steadily reads the sponsors, official photographers, official recyclers, and everyone else who donates to ensure the Festival’s success. This creates a funny awkwardness when a band like Debauche is about ready to begin and the recording lady isn’t finished. You end up with a cacophony of warmed up instruments accompanying the invisible lady, then blasting right over her. Funny? Yes. Free? Also.
On Sunday, we visited painter George Marks at the NuNu Arts and Culture Collective’s Deux Bayous gallery in Arnaudville. Artists Larry Bourque and Rex Berard welcomed us and explained the genesis of the space. NuNu suffered a fire at their first location, and ended up converting an old lumber yard into Deux Bayous. The result is a bright gallery where locals learn to paint, sculpt, and sell. George drove us around town for a tour of other art spaces, an amazing collection for an outpost like Arnaudville, but a testament to the native talents of its residents and their willingness to hustle in the name of sustainable creativity. Visit them as soon as you can.
We celebrated UNESCO’s International Jazz Day for the first time this year. It was swell. At 7:15am on Monday, April 30, we entered Armstrong Park where a large crowd (maybe 500 people) listened to Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Roland Guerin, and Dr. Michael White greet the morning with “Night in Tunisia.” The homeys Pat White and Julio of White Oak worked the event. After Pat told us they’d already seen someone arrested, we looked around and noticed the telltale signs of all-night Jazzfestivity. Then he gave us a Stein’s bagel and we felt adult.
Great to see people in the park again. The tortured history of that block leads us to the current condition, where locals and tourists wander through the leading landscape aesthetics of 1986. Weird shit.
May Day brought the New Orleans Musicians for Obama concert at Generations Hall. Notes here for Offbeat Magazine.
Synch Up Conference
On Friday, May 4th, we stopped in at NOMA for Jazz & Heritage’s 5th annual Synch Up Conference, a music industry pow-wow held between fest weekends. The first panel that morning, “All the World’s a Stage,” featured promoters Ted Kurland (clients include major jazz acts like Chick Corea) and Tom Windish (Diplo, Foster the People) in conversation with Scott Goldman of the Grammy’s.
Perhaps the most striking comment came from Windish, who noted that a promoter 10 years ago was happy to bring a new act to a new city and get 25-50 in the audience, with the hope that the next year’s visit would bring 50-100, with continued exponential increases. Today, he might leap from 50 to 10,000 in a year, sometimes with only a few songs available on Myspace. What that sort of overheated hype and insta-launch does for music–both artists and listeners–is up for discussion. But the days of grinding it out in the van seem about as over as CD’s. There’s a path out there, but the grade can be very steep because of social media.
We only had time for that one panel, but the overall impression is that Synch Up is shrewd move for Jazzfest, injecting new blood and keeping industry types involved as the festival navigates an aging audience and its transformation into one of countless uber-fests held every summer in America. That in-between week is dead no longer.