NATIONAL NEWS

One month out, Jazz Fest begins preps for 2024

Mar 26, 2024, 3:39 PM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Fair Grounds Race Course, which plays host to the 2024 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, begins its annual transformation in earnest Tuesday as organizers prepare to take over the field this spring for two weekends of music, food and fun.

“Jazz Fest is back starting today!,” exclaimed festival producer Quint Davis during its one-month-before news conference inside the Fair Grounds’ clubhouse.

The festival’s first weekend runs Thursday, April 25 through Sunday, April 28; the second weekend is Thursday, May 2 through Sunday, May 5.

“This will be the biggest Jazz Fest ever, with the most food ever, the most crafts ever and the most bands ever to come together in our 53-year history,” Davis said.

One of those bands — the Rolling Stones— is getting a lot of attention, he noted, smiling. Their May 2 performance is sold out, he added, still smiling.

“When the Rolling Stones come … I’ve been trying to say that forever. I guess the third times the charm,” Davis said amid laughter from the crowd.

In 2019, the band’s lead singer, Mick Jagger, was forced to cancel their scheduled appearance because of heart surgery. The 2021 festival, at which the Stones were to perform, was first pushed back to October before ultimately being canceled because of surging numbers brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This time,” Davis said, “they’re coming to play!”

Davis noted that the festival’s 2024 performance schedule is filled with all types of gems, from country megastar Chris Stapleton to rap artist Queen Latifah, and a bevy of talent in between. The stages and performance times for participating artists — known as the “cubes” — were released Tuesday on the festival’s website, nojazzfest.com

Jazz Fest, presented by the Shell energy company, celebrates the indigenous music and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana. The music encompasses nearly every style imaginable: blues, R&B, gospel, Cajun, Zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, folk, Latin, rock, rap, contemporary and traditional jazz, country, bluegrass and everything in between.

“Fans might love a certain type of music, and we offer it all,” Davis said “But with Jazz Fest, the sum is greater than its parts. People love the festival regardless of whose playing or taking the stage.”

Columbia’s rhythms, from music to dance to food, also will be highlighted this year as part of the festival’s cultural exchange. Close to 200 Colombian artists are scheduled to participate, including New Orleans-based Los Guiros, which performed a traditional cumbia at the news conference, giving fans a taste of what’s to come. Headlining the festival are Bomba Estéreo on April 27, Choquibtown’s lead singer Goyo in a guest appearance with local band ÌFÉ on April 28, and salsa legends Grupo Niche closing the celebration on May 5.

And don’t forget the food.

One vendor highlighted Tuesday was Clesi’s Seafood Restaurant and Catering, which is making its festival debut this year.

James Clesi and his brother, Carlo, said getting a booth at Jazz Fest is a dream come true.

“We are so excited,” James Clesi said as he dished out cajun crawfish dirty rice. “This is something I’ve been wanting to do forever. Being chosen is quite the honor. It’s like we’ve been anointed and officially recognized. The dream is now a reality.”

The Clesies said their menu will include the dirty rice as well as boiled crawfish, crawfish etouffee and something called a “messi clesi,” which is a combination of the dirty rice and etouffee.

Carlo Clesi said they are preparing for every possible scenario.

“We’re expecting to be very busy, with big crowds and long lines all while getting to absorb all the great music,” he said.

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One month out, Jazz Fest begins preps for 2024