Brandy On New Orleans


Brandy Pigeon

Things You Can't Miss at Jazz Fest 2007

By Brandy Pigeon

Well, it's that time of year again in New Orleans... Jazz Fest. For the next two weekends, tourists and locals alike, will descend on the Fairgrounds and revel in great food and even better live music. I sit down with my official Jazz and Heritage Festival schedule, and decide who to watch on what stage and when about this time every year. Although this may seem like a pretty easy task, it definitely is not. Many times you have to choose between two or even three great acts and this can be really difficult. The hardest choice for me this year, was deciding whether to see John Mayer, The Allman Brothers, or John Legend; who all play at the same time Saturday, May 5.  Anyway, I've decided to share my "must see" list along with a few other tips for "newbies" to enhance the whole Jazz Fest experience. So enjoy my picks and I'll see you at the Fest!

Before heading out to the fest each day, here are some things I highly recommend doing:

Get a backpack - Carrying a backpack is much easier than dealing with a purse, and you'll need to pack a few things in it each day to bring with you to the Fairgrounds. Here's what to pack:

  1. Sunscreen and Lip Balm
  2. A Roll of Toilet Paper (There never seems to be enough in the Port-O-Lets)
  3. Purell and Wet Wipes
  4. Cell Phone (Make sure you remember this one, the park is big and finding each other can be difficult)
  5. Hat or Baseball Cap (There's not much shade so a cap will keep your head from getting sunburned)
  6. Beach Towel or Blanket To Sit On
  7. A Small Roll of Duct Tape (Okay, before you get any crazy ideas...let me explain - There aren't many trees in the Fairgrounds; but there a lot of them leading up to the park; and it's caterpillar season here in New Orleans. If you get stung by one of these little critters, you take a piece of  duct tape, stick it on top of where the sting is, press down and rip it off the way you'd rip off a Band-Aid. Doing this will remove the little stingers left behind by the caterpillar, and removing the stingers should alleviate the pain.
  8. A Walkman Radio - The NFL Draft is this weekend, so you may want to check in on 870 AM to see who the Saints pick (I can't wait!!)

*If you plan to spend many hours at the fest, you may want to bring an ice chest, too. If you fill it with ice, you can bring it into the park and when you buy cans of beer, soda, or bottled waters, you can buy them all at once an store them in your ice chest to avoid having to wait in line each time you need a drink. 

There are dozens and dozens of food and craft tents throughout the festival. Most portions are appetizer size so that you are able to taste many different local specialties without filling up. My suggestion is that you not leave until you've had the crawfish bread and the fried green tomatoes. There are too many great foods to try to name them all; but these two are my personal favorites. 

Now to the really hard part; after mulling over the performance schedule for hours, here is my "Must-See" music list for 2007:

Dr. John - I've seen him perform live a couple of times and he is an amazing entertainer. He is known nation wide for his raspy-voiced theme music; but he seems to thrive on the New Orleans stage and is the perfect choice to kick off the Jazz Fest.

Van Morrison - I've been a fan for a long time; but I've never seen him live, so getting the chance should be really cool. And the thought hearing "These Are The Days" echoing through the Fairgrounds gives me goose-bumps.

Rebirth Brass Band - These guys are truly amazing. They bring the sounds of Mardi Gras to life and are a local favorite. If you want to second line, this is the performance to see.

Norah Jones - Her sultry and soulful voice have earned her multiple Grammy Awards, and I just have a feeling she's an artist who sounds even better live than she does on her CDs. She is playing at the same time as Rod Stewart, which didn't make this an easy choice; but since I have a feeling Rod will be singing the songs from his new Tony Bennett-esque  CD rather than his earlier music, I'm sticking with Norah.

The Imagination Movers - Okay, so this one is definitely for the 8 and under crowds; but this group of four local guys are in negotiations with Disney and the Disney Channel has started airing their music videos. If their series makes Disney's scheduling line-up they are sure to become the new "Wiggles". Kids love them and they are actually pretty entertaining. If you have young children, they will certainly have a great time with this group.

Irma Thomas - Do I really need to say anything other than Irma Thomas? She's Irma Thomas, the Grammy winning soul queen of New Orleans, enough said.

Better Than Ezra - Even if the lead singer, Kevin Griffin, wasn't gorgeous (which he is), I would still go see this band. These guys may be national hit makers; but they began right here. Their style of alternative rock has produced many hits over the years, and their fan base continues to grow. I've seen them live and they don't disappoint.

Counting Crows - Playing at the same time as ZZ Top made this one a little tough; but thinking back to my college years, there was never a ride in the car or night out with friends that didn't include lead singer, Adam Duritz filling the background air with songs like "Mr. Jones" and "Round Here". In the end, seeing them will be fun just to relive some of those great times.

Cowboy Mouth - Fred LeBlanc and company have made college crowds everywhere stand up and feel their music and their message; but when Cowboy Mouth hits the Jazz Fest stage... it's pure magic. Whether you've never heard of them or you're a true believer, this is the performanceeveryone will be talking about. It's an out-of-body experience that will have you on your feet and moving to the music before you can stop yourself. It's not everyday that the drummer is also the lead singer; but when you see Fred live, you'll know why he's the front-man. 

John Mayer - So the powers that be have scheduled John Mayer, The Allman Brothers, and John Legend in the same time slot on different stages...Ugh! I have decided to go with John Mayer not because there's a chance of seeing his girlfriend Jessica Simpson standing in the wings; but because of the three options, I feel he is best suited for this venue and therefor, should have the best performance. He reminds me a lot of Dave Matthews, who was stellar a few years ago at the Jazz Fest, and since I really love "Continuum", I'm pretty sure I'll know the songs he'll be singing. 

Joss Stone - This singing phenom has taken the recording industry by storm; and with her soulful and haunting voice she could sing the phone book and make it sound great. She's got a gospel-ish sound to her music and her voice is simply unforgettable. Her distinct sound and hip lyrics should make for a great show.

The Radiators - I went back and forth between seeing them or seeing Harry Connick, Jr.; but in the end I had to go with these local legends. The Radiators have been a New Orleans staple in bars like Tipitina's and House Of Blues for as long as I can remember. Their brand of funk meets rock mixed with a little blues has been heard throughout New Orleans for decades. They are fantastic during live shows and will be a memorable end to what should be another great Jazz Festival.

Well folks, there it is. I hope this has helped you in making your Jazz Fest plans. Whether you agree or disagree with my picks, the goal of the festival doesn't change...Have fun! Enjoy the city and make the most of your time here. There's something for everyone, so find what you like and enjoy it to the fullest.

Brandy welcomes feedback at brandypigeon@1saintsfan.com. Include permission to post in your letter, if you are willing.