Sunday, April 15, 2012

Depth or Breadth?

The French Quarter Festival is a free four-day party.

"It's the biggest free music festival in the South and there's always great music and great food in a historic setting. It had been the locals' best kept secret, but the word is out and many people from all over the world come to enjoy the festival with us" (Sharon Keating,

The photo above was taken on the first day of the Festival. It shows Jackson Square with the Main Stage in the lower left hand corner. A portion of the crowd is shown in the photo below.

As we approached planning on how to get the most out of the 29th Annual Festival, we considered the following facts: There are a total of 21 stages set up in Woldenberg Park on the banks of the Mississippi River, on Royal and Bourbon Streets, and at the Old U.S. Mint at the edge of the French Quarter. Only one of the stages is indoors. And over 800 local musicians will be participating. And over 500,000 Festival goers will be attending one or more of the four days' events.

So, do we go for breadth or depth? What type of music--jazz, zydeco, cajun, classical, funk, international--do we focus on? Small or large venue?

Well, we reduced the number of decisions and opted for location and depth. That is, one site, all per-formances (until our shuttle would leave the Quarter). Our selection today was Jackson Square.

Our first objective was to find some shade, since the forecast called for sun and lower 80s. The shade came in the form of oasis-like placements of palmetto trees.

The first performers we heard were the Preserva-tion Hall-Stars.

We then heard the Pfister Sisters, who "repre-sented the re-creation of the harmonies of New Orleans' own Boswell Sisters who were credited with inventing close harmony jazz singing" (

Before we had to leave, we heard Charmaine Neville, the daughter of Charles Neville, the second oldest brother of the famous New Orleans' Neville Brothers.

During the time in the shade, we had ample opportunity to people watch.

When we first saw these ladies, we thought they were members of the Red Hat Ladies who had come up with a new style of red hat modeled after a crawfish. Not so; merely another type of souvenir.

Colorful hats and

umbrellas were frequent sightings on this day.

When I first saw this woman with the beautiful red hair, I was quick to photograph her. But she became so much more interesting when another woman appeared with her beautiful orange hat.

And the local electronic news media were on hand to capture similar scenes for reports on the Festival.

While waiting for our shuttle, we saw this biker (Mike Ward) pull into a parking spot. I talked with him about his "toad" (RV term for a towed vehicle). The top of the car lifts up to reveal his storage compartment.
In the course of the conver-sation, I learned that he is a jazz violinist (actually, one of the premier in the business, having performed at some of the most esteemed festivals and venues in the world).

He'll be peforming at JazzFest in New Orleans in the next couple of weeks, and then he's off to South Africa and India.

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