Note: This post is by Cree McCree, a veteran music scribe and author of the diary, Going Home to New Orleans. For more on the Big Easy, see SMITH’s all-true, serialized webcomic, A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge.
Jazz Fest popped my cherry and good when I hit the mud running in 1988 and learned I was “Born to Ooze.” I instantly went native, joining in strange tribal rituals like the Watermelon Sacrifice and melding my sweat-slicked body with a dizzying succession of partners to the mesmerizing beats of the greatest live-music jukebox in the world.
Two decades later, I’m still a Jazz Fest baby. Despite the festival’s ever-slicker corporate trappings (and don’t get me started on those), the sheer power of the music breaks through, sometimes against all odds, the way the sun broke through the clouds after a torrential morning downpour on the final Saturday.
Just after the rain stopped, I met up with SMITH’s Larry Smith and his wife Piper at Ground Zero: Keith and Thea’s house, three blocks from the Fairgrounds, where many a Jazz Fest virgin has been bitten by the resident S-s-s-snake. This year, they had 17 out-of-towners in residence, along with plenty of locals like me who stop by for the nonstop party (and the sweet off-street parking space). What better place to capture the Fest spirit of six?
The six-worders that follow were culled from a notebook left out at Keith and Thea’s over Jazz Fest’s seven-day run, and from random encounters at the Fairgrounds.
“What I Learned at Jazz Fest”
How to live simply. Still learning.
Be prepared. Be prepared to improvise.
Never bring more than you need.
What happens at Jazz Fest happens.
The choice: Good example/horrible warning.
Respect your fellow groove brothers/sisters.
Fortune finds me fit and able.
Living well is the best revenge.
We really deserve ALL THAT JAZZ.
I trust you! I love you!
(Michael Franti, onstage)
I love all the naked feet.
The Deacon made me weep good.
Like Heaven, without having to die.
Baptized, reborn at the Watermelon Sacrifice.
Shades of Praise, Love & Happiness.
Your songs are our lives, love.
Dry and high, praise the Lord.
The rain comes, the rain goes.
Jazz Fest is where I am.
On the bed’s on the bed.
Mais, no other show like it!
The weather is always a crapshoot.
This ain’t nothin’. I survived Katrina.
(heard while the rain plowed down during Stevie Wonder’s set)
Singing and smiling flow in waves.
All sounds, flavors, temperatures, bodies–delicious.
The best feelin’ you can get.
Best Fest T-shirt: “Unfuck the Earth.”
You can second-line into old age.