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Aretha Franklin has canceled. [Mar. 16th, 2018|04:48 pm]

How does the phrase go, "shocked but not surprised"?

Jazzfest has announced:

Rod Stewart will headline Jazz Fest on Saturday, April 28, stepping in for Aretha Franklin who on the advice of her doctors is unable to perform.
In a written statement, Ms. Franklin’s management stated:
“Aretha Franklin has been ordered by her doctor to stay off the road and rest completely for at least the next two months. She is extremely disappointed she cannot perform at this year’s New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival as she had expected and hoped to.”

This is the third time Aretha has canceled a Jazzfest performance.   In 2009 she was announced and then withdraw a few weeks later. In 2010 she canceled the day before her scheduled performance.  The only year she actually performed was 1994.

Let's wish her a full recovery.

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All about bicycling to Jazzfest, and the new Bike Share system [Mar. 11th, 2018|04:23 pm]
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Bicycling Around New Orleans

Some things make New Orleans a great bike city. Other things pose real challenges, but overall, I think the good outweighs the bad.

On the plus side, the city is extremely flat, and except by the water, the winds are usually fairly gentle. The core of the city is quite compact, so odds are your ride will be short. And the infrastructure is improving, with a lot of bike paths and bike lanes added in recent years. And temperatures are often mild, especially in the springtime when Jazzfest is held.

On the negative side, many streets, especially smaller side streets, are poorly paved, with jarring potholes. Manmade obstacles including canals, railroads, and highways can make planning routes for cross-town trips harder. And bike theft is common - if using your own bike, a U-lock or other strong lock is a must.

Where to Get a Bike

If you're driving to New Orleans, you can bring your own, but that's usually not practical if you're flying.

Many bike shops and bike tour companies offer rentals, most commonly of cruiser-style bikes. Rates aren't cheap though, often around $35/day or $150/week. Rentals typically include a lock and a helmet.

Given the price of rentals, if you're wanting a bike for more than just a few days, another option to consider is to just buy a bike when you get to town. Walmart sells fully assembled adult bikes starting around $90. These are obviously lower quality bikes, but should be fine for just riding around town for a week or two. When you leave town, just give the bike away.

The newest option is to use Blue Bikes, the bike share system now available. If you're staying within the service area, and don't mind walking a few blocks to get to a bike, this may be the easiest and cheapest option. Bike share is discussed in detail below.

Biking to and from Jazzfest

The Fairgrounds has designated bicycle parking corrals at both the Gentilly and Sauvage entrances. Bring your own lock.

If coming from the French Quarter or Downtown, the recommended routes to Jazzfest are Esplanade Ave or the Lafitte Greenway.

On Esplanade, you'll share a single lane with auto traffic from the river to I-10; after that there's a designated bike lane all the way to the Fairgrounds neighborhood. Expect heavy car and bike traffic on Esplanade, especially around 7 pm when the festival ends for the day.

The Lafitte Greenway is a paved off-road trail that starts on Basin St a couple of blocks outside the Quarter, and runs to the Mid City neighborhood. To the fest, I'd suggest staying on the Greenway to Jeff Davis, make a right and then a slight left onto Moss St, along the right side of the bayou. Then right on Desoto, left onto Rendon, right onto Grand Rte St John. (Avoid GRSJ between Moss and Rendon, since that's where the taxis line up). Stay on GRSJ across Esplanade, then left on Sauvage to the Fairgrounds. Bike parking will be to your right on Fortin. That route is 2.7 miles from the intersection of Basin & St Louis St.

If you prefer the Gentilly gate, stay on GRSJ to Crete St, left to Fortin, then right to Gentilly. Then walk your bike along Gentilly to the entrance and bike parking.
Coming home, just reverse this. Be prepared to walk your bike the first couple of blocks until the festival crowds thin out.

Bike Share

New Orleans now has a bike share system. Called Blue Bikes, it's ideal for riders looking to take short or quick one way trips.

You do need to sign up and create an account in advance before riding, either online or on the app. You can do this on your smartphone and ride immediately; but unlike some other systems, you can't just swipe a credit card at the station. The website mentions hubs with enrollment kiosks, but none are yet installed.

Once you sign up, you get a 6 digit account number and a 4 digit PIN. To unlock a bike, you enter the 10 digits on the keypad on the back of the bike to unlock the integrated U-lock..

There are two different pricing plans. The Hourly plan costs $8 per hour of usage. It is pro-rated to the minute, so a 15 muinute ride would cost $2. The Monthly plan costs $15 per month, and includes up to 60 minutes of riding each day; usage above 60 minutes is charged at the hourly rates. The monthly plan auto-renews by default, but you can turn that off. If you're in town for a week or two of jazzfest and riding a lot, $15 seems like a real bargain. For the occasional rider, the hourly plan may end up cheaper - but they charge the initial $8 when you enroll, so if that 15 minute ride is the only one you ever take, it'll end up costing $8 and not $2. All prices do not include 10% sales tax.

New users who sign up for the monthly plan using promo code BLUESPRING2018 will get their first month for $5. Valid until May 31.

Blue Bikes offers a hybrid of station-based and dockless systems. There are 70 stations, called hubs, scattered around the service area. Capacity varies, but the larger hubs may hold up to 20 or so bikes. But you do not have to return the bike to a hub: for an extra fee of $1, you can instead use the included U-lock to lock the bike to any public rack or other fixed object anywhere within the system area. And if you find an available bike locked up outside a hub, if you ride it and return it to a station, your account is credited 75¢. You can ride outside the service area but you should end your ride inside the service area: rides ending outside the service area incur a hefty $25 fee.

For now, the service area includes the Bywater, the Marigny, the French Quarter, the Warehouse and Central Business Districts, the Lower Garden District (out to Jackson Ave), plus the Treme, Mid-City, part of the 7th Ward, and the Bayou St John area including the Fairgrounds where Jazzfest is held.
The green markers on the map show the hubs. The blue markers show where there were available bikes outside hubs (as of when the screenshot was taken).

The smartphone app and website show a real time map of bike availability.

Bike share was introduced in New Orleans this past December, so 2018 will be the first Jazzfest with it available. The system seemed to work well during Mardi Gras, with good availability, but it remains to be seen how well it works for Jazzfest. There are 700 bikes in the system, and I can imagine 600 of them being ridden to Jazzfest, and then remaining parked there all day. And when cab and bus lines get long, some folks who didn't bike to the fest may decide to bike home; in this case, all the available bikes near the fest may be gone for those leaving later.

I'd anticipate good availability around town in the evenings, and on non-fest days.

For more info on Blue Bikes, visit https://www.bluebikesnola.com/
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Marriott Convention Center $90-105 2nd weekend [Mar. 11th, 2018|02:15 pm]
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Via Priceline Name your own Price:

We 5/02 - Su 5/06 4* CC @ $105=> Marriott Convention Center

My Priceline affiliate link.

As always, get Priceline and Hotwire tips and see detailed Jazzfest results at http://jazzfest.swagland.com/bidding.html.

Edit to add: 
We 5/02 - Mo 5/07 @ $90 was also accepted.
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Jazz Fest Contests [Mar. 7th, 2018|08:30 pm]

Feeling lucky?  Here are some giveaways for Jazzfest.

From Jambase, win 6 single-day tickets to Jazzfest.  Open to all age 16+.  Enter by Mar 22.

From the Mercantile Hotel, win a 2 night stay Apr 29/30, plus 2 single-day tickets.  Open to 18+ residents of US50.  Enter by Apr 15.

From Art4Now, win a vintage C-Marque poster, enter by completing a short survey about poster framing.
Complete the survey by midnight Friday, March 9th to be entered to win a Fats Domino-signed, artist-overpainted 2006 C-Marque. Can't make that deadline? No worries.  Complete it by midnight Sunday, March 11th to be entered to win a Jerry Lee Lewis-signed, artist-overpainted 2007 C-Marque. Entries received by March 9th will be included in this drawing.

Good luck!
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Mr. Okra has passed away [Feb. 16th, 2018|11:29 am]
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Since 2010, on some days of Jazzfest, you may have noticed the colorfully painted produce truck parked on the Fairgrounds infield, near the Jazz & Heritage stage.  Mr Okra was there to provide a small glimpse into an almost-bygone slice of New Orleans culture, but also provided a chance to purchase some fruit or even vegetables, a refreshing alternative to the other, often heavier offerings from the regular food booths.

And several times each fest day, just as he did while cruising the nearby neighborhoods, he'd get on the truck's loudspeaker and sing of his wares.

This is from an article from 2015 about his presence at the Jazzfest.

As New Orleans is in a renaissance of fresh food markets, Mr. Okra represents the last of a dying, but beloved, tradition in the city. His daughter says not only is their produce fresher than most, they also deliver directly to elderly people who don’t own a car or have any other way to get fresh food. “For them, we’re it,” she says. “They need us.”
At the festival, pineapples, bananas, mangos and even cucumbers sell quickly — Sergio will even cut them up for you. Tourists whose stomachs are not quite prepared for the opulence of New Orleans cuisine appreciate their efforts.

The produce on the Robinson truck is not just more reasonably priced than other food at the festival, “it’s good for you and it’s healthy,” says Jeannie Anderson of Philadelphia who snaps a few photos of Mr. Okra before picking some fruit. “I should do more New Orleans things, but it will kill me,” she says, laughing.

When he’s not in the driver’s seat, Robinson is usually at his home in the Ninth Ward watching cowboy movies, among other things.
But he lives for his truck. Next to him in the passenger seat is everything he needs for today: Hand sanitizer, a bottle of Gatorade, and a thick wad of $1 bills. As customers gather, he stops talking and grabs his CB radio to sell:

“I have oranges and bananas.”
“I have pineapple, I have strawberries.”
“I have the mango.”

A tribe of Mardi Gras Indians appear and drown out his speaker. He pauses until they parade by. He can wait. The fruit is always fresh.


Today, the New Orleans Advocate reports the sad news:

For decades, Arthur “Mr. Okra” Robinson provided one of the distinctive sounds of a city famous for its music, but he didn’t play the trumpet or the piano.

He was a roving produce vendor, traveling the neighborhood streets in a heavily-customized pickup truck and using a loudspeaker to sing the praises of his oranges and bananas, his avocados and, of course, his okra.

But now what seemed like a timeless sound in this city has come to an end.

Robinson died Thursday (Feb. 15). He was 75.


He will be missed both at the Fairgrounds and on the streets of the city.

Rest in Peace.
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LL COOL J added to the lineup [Feb. 6th, 2018|03:03 pm]

Just announced on the official Jazzfest Facebook feed:

"LL COOL J feat. DJ Z-Trip added to the Jazz Fest lineup on Friday, May 4".

Checking the current performers for that day, I don't see anyone at the top removed, so this looks like an addition and not a replacement.  Look for him to headline the Congo Square stage that day.
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Jazzfest Odds & Ends [Feb. 5th, 2018|09:09 pm]
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It's Mardi Gras season here in New Orleans, which means not much else happens between now and Ash Wednesday, but here is the latest Jazzfest news.

There are a couple of small changes to the announced lineups.   Paul Sanchez & the Rolling Road Show have been moved from 1st Sunday to 2nd Thursday.  And the 1st Saturday set originally listed as Tribute to Fats Domino with special guest Jerry Lee Lewis and more is now just Tribute to Fats Domino with special guests! Here's hoping Jerry is well and still able to join the fun.

The Magnolia Bridge, which is the footbridge across Bayou St John behind Cabrini High School, will be undergoing repairs and will be closed for about a year, including during Jazzfest 2018.  This will have the biggest impact on anyone staying in the Parkview neighborhood.  Your alternate bridges are Dumaine St or Esplanade.
Here's podcast that interviews Matt Goldman, who is one of the leaders of the marketing department for Festival Productions.  Fest CEO Quint Davis gives lots of interviews, but it's relatively rare to hear from the other folks there.  Matt discusses the lineup, what he's looking forward to, and tells some pretty interesting stories of his early days working for the fest.  It's long at an hour and a quarter, but maybe a good listen while you're working out or stuck in traffic.  Listen at http://www.itsagoodlifebabe.com/glb/2018/1/30/ep88pt1

Finally, one Priceline Name Your own Price bidding hit to report.  4* DT zone, 4/28-5/08 @ $170 => Hyatt Regency.  That's decent for a stay that encompasses both Saturdays.  More at http://jazzfest.swagland.com/bidding.html.
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Hyatt 1st weekend [Jan. 24th, 2018|09:54 pm]
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I got a report tonight of a 4* hotel on Hotwire, Downtown/Superdome zone, Th 4/26 - We 5/02 at $106, that was the Hyatt Regency.  The deal seemed to be gone by the time I checked it, but these do sometimes re-appear.  So if you do see a cheap first weekend 4* in that zone over the next few days, it's likely the Hyatt.

On a related note, it looks like Hotwire has spli the downtown zone into two.  Downtown/Superdome stretches from the dome to about St Charles Ave.  Central Downtown is between St Charles and Tchoupitoulas.  More zones is always better, it makes it easier to figure out what hotel you may get, and gives more control if you're choosy about location.

Priceline and Hotwire info for Jazzfest at http://jazzfest.swagland.com/bidding.html

Now scroll down for lots of this week's Jazzfest news!
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Cube Hints: Stage Schedule tidbits [Jan. 24th, 2018|05:28 pm]
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Keith Spera interviews Jazzfest Producer Quint Davis in today's Advocate.

The whole thing is worth a read, but especially noteworthy is the amount of schedule details Quint revealed.  The full stage schedule should come out in late March, but until then, here are some highlights.  Below are quotes from the article, that I've rearranged by date.

1st Friday

On opening day at the Gentilly Stage, Sturgill Simpson will follow Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real and locals Jon Cleary and Eric Lindell. That’s worthy of spending the day camped out at Gentilly.

1st Saturday

Jazz saxophonist Charles Lloyd, who turns 80 in March, will share the stage for much of his Jazz Tent set with Lucinda Williams, the Americana singer-songwriter who was born in Lake Charles and spent her formative years in New Orleans.

Socially conscious rapper Common will be on Congo Square with up-and-coming contemporary R&B star Khalid and New Orleans bounce reality TV star Big Freedia.

1st Sunday

David Byrne was a big “get” this year; Davis had tried to book the former Talking Heads frontman for more than a decade.
Byrne will headline the Gentilly Stage on the first Sunday, preceded by New Orleans native and "Late Show with Stephen Colbert" bandleader Jon Batiste, who will front the late soul singer Sharon Jones' band, the Dap-Kings.

The electrifying Charlie Wilson will follow pioneering New Orleans funk/soul band Chocolate Milk on the Congo Square Stage.

2nd Friday
On the second Friday, Beck will top the Acura Stage, preceded by Jason Isbell, Tank & the Bangas, Darcy Malone & the Tangle, and Motel Radio.

That same day, the Gentilly Stage will feature the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, then Aaron Neville, then Sheryl Crow. (The Sheryl Crow/Beck scheduling conflict will be tough for some folks.)
2nd Saturday

The second Saturday’s closing acts are Aerosmith at Acura, Anita Baker at Congo Square, Delbert McClinton at the Blues Tent and Dianne Reeves in the Jazz Tent. Cage the Elephant tops Gentilly, preceded by the Revivalists, Better Than Ezra, Boyfriend, Givers and Stoop Kids.

2nd Sunday

Maze and Frankie Beverly, a latter-day Jazz Fest favorite, will cap off Congo Square on the fest's final day with Motown legend Smokey Robinson and the Rebirth Brass Band.
Acura’s finale features Anders Osborne, Galactic, Jack White and finally Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, who have closed out Acura every year since 2013 in the Neville Brothers’ old slot.

Read the full article:
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Cultural Exchange Pavilion: Celebrating New Orleans' Tricentennial [Jan. 24th, 2018|11:00 am]
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Instead of a featured nation, this year's pavilion will celebrate the City's Tricentennial.

From the website:

As 2018 marks New Orleans’ 300th anniversary, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Presented by Shell joins the City-wide and year-long celebration by dedicating its 2018 Cultural Exchange Pavilion to the City’s Tricentennial.

While New Orleans music and culture are the soul and heartbeat of the Festival already, the Cultural Exchange Pavilion will serve as a focal point of the Tricentennial Celebration at the Festival with a special program highlighting the multicultural fabric of the City. In addition to the New Orleans’ renowned Creole and African heritage, the Pavilion presentation will shed a light on lesser-known contributions by Germans, Irish, Italians, Vietnamese and Hispanics among others, through artist demonstrations, live music and dance showcases, authentic food, parades, photo exhibits and cultural displays.

Daily live performances on the Cultural Exchange Pavilion Stage will take the audience on a musical journey through New Orleans and around the world, and feature the best of New Orleans music along with Haitian vodou rhythms, hypnotic blues from Mali, traditional Irish music, punta rock from Honduras and much more. Offstage, Native American powwow dancers, Mardi Gras Indian parades and Vietnamese Lion Dancers will dazzle the eye, while providing another illustration of the cultural diversity that has and continues to make New Orleans “gumbo” so unique.

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