FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

JazzFest, Tears and the Renewal of New Orleans

by TOMMY STEVENSON

A year ago I wrote a somewhat self-congratulatory column about attending my 30th consecutive New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

The column was full of remembrances of “Jazz Fest moments,” the close circle of friends from all over the country I’ve made over the years (although we see each other only this one week), and a few tips for new-comers about how to negotiate crowds that can exceed 100,000 people at the ten stages scattered around the Fairgrounds race track.

This year, of course, the NOJHF, where providence willing, I am spending the third day of an 11-day celebration of music, food and associated good times, is/will be different, and, indeed, more important. Hurricane Katrina did more than just devastate the physical New Orleans, empty it of half its citizens, and wreak havoc with its economy. It also struck a major blow at the soul of the city where Jazz was born. This festival, like none before it, is to renew that soul.

Since this is being written before we strike out for New Orleans Friday morning, I have no idea how different the first post-Katrina Fest will be or exactly what to expect.

The organizers have moved heaven and earth to keep the festival at the same site, despite the damage the hurricane did to the horserace track grandstands and have managed to attract a stellar lineup in hopes of luring the crowds of yore. Bob Dylan, Dr. John, the Dave Mathews Band and Juvenile are on the schedule for Friday and Saturday and I am looking forward to closing down the first weekend late this afternoon with Bruce Springsteen and his new Seeger Sessions Band.

The Boss will be kicking off a worldwide tour today behind his new album dedicated to the music and inspiration of legendary folkie Pete Seeger. The album, featuring an 18 piece band including horns, strings, an accordion and choir, is entitled “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions.” And I will be very surprised if sometime around 7 p.m. this afternoon 40,000 or so of us will be joining in an encore of that hymn to the Civil Rights Movement that all of a sudden seems just an appropriate to the mess the Crescent City finds itself in today. I will also be surprised if there aren’t plenty of tears flowing. See, that’s one of the things I anticipate will be a part of this Jazz Fest that.

Will old friends, like the ones I only see once a year, fall into each other’s arms weeping upon meeting up here, on our sacred ground, once again? Will just “being here now” be such an overwhelming experience as to leave some overwhelmed? And will the music carry with it tragic, yet hopeful and deeply enduring meaning after all this city has had to endure?

I have no doubt the softshell crab po’boys will be just as delicious, the clubs (or at least the ones that have managed to reopen) will be rocking until dawn, and the restaurants (again, the ones that managed reopen) will be packed. But beyond that, I have this strange sense of trepidation and anxiety about the unknown, here before I actually get to the Big Easy.

Oh well, I’m sure it will pass with the first hot trumpet lick. And, as always, if you want to drop by and say hi next weekend, I’ll be the long-haired guy in the hat, shorts, sunglasses and Hawaiian shirt, smoking the cigar and standing stage right, down in front of the speakers. Whether my cheeks will be wet with tears remains to be seen.

TOMMY STEVENSON is associate editor of The Tuscaloosa News. He can be reached at tommy.stevenson@tuscaloosanews.com

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 22, 2017
Jason Hirthler
Invisible Empire Beneath the Radar, Above Suspicion
Ken Levy
Sorry, But It’s Entirely the Right’s Fault
John Laforge
Fukushima’s Radiation Will Poison Food “for Decades,” Study Finds
Ann Garrison
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party, and the UK’s Socialist Surge
Phillip Doe
Big Oil in the Rocky Mountain State: the Overwhelming Tawdriness of Government in Colorado
Howard Lisnoff
The Spiritual Death of Ongoing War
Stephen Cooper
Civilized, Constitution-Loving Californians Will Continue Capital Punishment Fight
Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla
Cuba Will Not Bow to Trump’s Threats
Ramzy Baroud
Israel vs. the United Nations: The Nikki Haley Doctrine
Tyler Wilch
The Political Theology of US Drone Warfare
Colin Todhunter
A Grain of Truth: RCEP and the Corporate Hijack of Indian Agriculture
Robert Koehler
When the Detainee is American…
Jeff Berg
Our No Trump Contract
Faiza Shaheen
London Fire Fuels Movement to Challenge Inequality in UK
Rob Seimetz
Sorry I Am Not Sorry: A Letter From Millennials to Baby Boomers
June 21, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
Resist This: the United States is at War With Syria
James Ridgeway
Good Agent, Bad Agent: Robert Mueller and 9-11
Diana Johnstone
The Single Party French State … as the Majority of Voters Abstain
Ted Rall
Democrats Want to Lose the 2020 Election
Kathy Kelly
“Would You Like a Drink of Water?” Please Ask a Yemeni Child
Russell Mokhiber
Sen. Joe Manchin Says “No” to Single-Payer, While Lindsay Graham Floats Single-Payer for Sick People
Ralph Nader
Closing Democracy’s Doors Until the People Open Them
Binoy Kampmark
Barclays in Hot Water: The Qatar Connection
Jesse Jackson
Trump Ratchets Up the Use of Guns, Bombs, Troops, and Insults
N.D. Jayaprakash
No More Con Games: Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now! (Part Four)
David Busch
The Kingdom of Pence–and His League of Flaming Demons–is Upon Us
Stephen Cooper
How John Steinbeck’s “In Dubious Battle” Helps Us Navigate Social Discord
Madis Senner
The Roots of America’s Identity and Our Political Divide are Buried Deep in the Land
June 20, 2017
Ajamu Baraka
The Body Count Rises in the U.S. War Against Black People
Gary Leupp
Russia’s Calm, But Firm, Response to the US Shooting Down a Syrian Fighter Jet
Maxim Nikolenko
Beating Oliver Stone: the Media’s Spin on the Putin Interviews
Michael J. Sainato
Philando Castile and the Self Righteous Cloak of White Privilege
John W. Whitehead
The Militarized Police State Opens Fire
Peter Crowley
The Groundhog Days of Terrorism
Norman Solomon
Behind the Media Surge Against Bernie Sanders
Pauline Murphy
Friedrich Engels: a Tourist In Ireland
David Swanson
The Unifying Force of War Abolition
Louisa Willcox
Senators Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Tom Udall Back Tribes in Grizzly Fight
John Stanton
Mass Incarceration, Prison Labor in the United States
Robert Fisk
Did Trump Denounce Qatar Over Failed Business Deals?
Medea Benjamin
America Will Regret Helping Saudi Arabia Bomb Yemen
Brian Addison
Los Angeles County Data Shows Startling Surge in Youth, Latino Homelessness
Native News Online
Betraying Indian Country: How Grizzly Delisting Exposes Trump and Zinke’s Assault on Tribal Sovereignty and Treaty Rights
Stephen Martin
A Tragic Inferno in London Reflects the Terrorism of the Global Free Market
Debadityo Sinha
Think Like a River
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail