One of the world's best music events, The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, is turning 40 with style. The outdoor festival, which bridges two weekends (April 24-26 and April 30-May 3), has brought in the heavy guns to mark the milestone.
Among the headliners coming to the Fairgrounds Race Course will be Wynton Marsalis, Aretha Franklin, Dave Matthews Band, James Taylor, Sugarland, Joe Cocker, Ben Harper and Relentless7, Tony Bennett, Earth, Wind & Fire, Kings of Leon,
Neville Brothers, Wilco, Bonnie Raitt,
Allen Toussaint, The O'Jays,
Erykah Badu and Dr. John
But as anyone who has gone to Jazzfest knows, the headliners may be what brings in the tourists, but the real music fans root out the glorious discoveries in smaller shows, like those in the gospel and blue tents. Some of my finest musical memories have come from wandering into a tent or upon a stage to hear someone I've never heard of only to have my world turned upside down by an act I didn't know existed 15 minutes previous.
As it gets closer, the Beat will make recommendations, but with literally hundreds of acts playing each weekend, it's impossible to go wrong. If it's too crowded to see one act, just mosey over to another tent.
The fest has grown from 350 in its first year in 1970 (when Mahalia Jackson headlined) to 300,000-to-400,000 people. But it is seldom so crowded that you can't find a place to squeeze in to hear an act.
Of course many folks don't even care about the music, they go for the food and who could fault them: Don't even get us started on the soft-shell crab po-boys.