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Henry Butler 1949-2018 [Jul. 2nd, 2018|10:43 pm]
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Sad news tonight.  Henry Butler has passed on,

Keith Spera reports:

Henry Butler, the New Orleans piano titan who refused to let blindness impede him, died Monday after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 68. Butler died at a hospice facility in New York, the city he has called home since 2009. His death was confirmed by Art Edelstein, the manager of the band Henry Butler, Steven Bernstein & the Hot 9.

Fluent in blues, jazz, classical and everything in between, Butler coupled his piano skills with a powerful voice, a restless intellect and a mischievous sense of humor.

“There was nobody like him,” said Meters guitarist Leo Nocentelli, a longtime friend and collaborator. “He was an innovator. There are a lot of keyboard players in the world but only one Henry Butler. When you heard him, it was him and nobody else.

“It astounded me how a blind person could read music with Braille as prolifically as anybody who could see.”

Butler was born in New Orleans and grew up in the Calliope housing development. He was blinded by glaucoma as an infant.

He learned to play a variety of instruments at the Louisiana State School for the Blind. He later studied under clarinetist Alvin Batiste at Southern University, where he majored in voice and minored in piano. He went on to earn a master’s degree in music from Michigan State University in 1974.

As a young piano player, Butler took lessons from Henry Roeland Byrd, aka Professor Longhair, one of the architects of the New Orleans piano tradition, as well as James Booker. Butler performed at the very first New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1970 in Congo Square with his fellow Southern University jazz students. He missed very few Jazz Fests over the ensuing decades.

Read more:  https://www.theadvocate.com/new_orleans/entertainment_life/keith_spera/article_9fcc77a4-7e55-11e8-853c-6ff379b40c04.html

Searching the fest database, I found 45 Jazz Fest sets over the years where Henry was a featured performer.  The first was in 1976, and the final ones this year, when he performed three times.

He will be missed.
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More Priceline Express Deals [Jun. 18th, 2018|08:54 pm]
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Last week, I wrote about Jazzfest 2019 hotel deals through Priceline "Express Deals".  Folks were getting the Renaissance Pere Marquette and Renaissance Arts hotels for below $100.  Deals have continued into this week, and I'm still getting reports of sub-$100 deals for both weekends at a few different hotels (all in the Marriott family) at nightly prices as low as $71.

There have been hits at the 4* Marriott Convention Center, the 3* Springhill Suites Convention Center, and the 3* the Courtyard Convention Center. 

You can see all the detailed results at http://jazzfest.swagland.com/bidding.html.

Prices will vary some based on your exact dates, so if you're ready to commit, it's worth taking a look.

It's unusual to see deals at so many different hotels this early.

Priceline affiliate link.
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A final look back at Fest 2018, and planning for Jazzfest 2019 [Jun. 12th, 2018|10:49 pm]
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We're a month past Jazzfest, and that means the June Offbeat is out with their always entertaining Jazz Fest Redux: The Best (And Occasionally Worst) Moments

That also means the next Jazzfest is less than 11 months away.  The fiftieth anniversary festival is set for April 26 - May 5, 2019.  All those dates are within the booking windows for most airlines and hotels.  You don't always get the best airfare this early, but it means you can start looking.  That's especially true if you're looking to redeem miles for your flights.  All hotels should be accepting reservations for Jazzfest as well.  Now is the time to find a cancelable (non-prepay) rate just in case, while you wait for your deal to come along. 

And speaking of deals, we have our first one for 2019, and it's a pretty good one.

Via Priceline Express Deals:

4* DT
Tu 4/30 - Tu 5/07 @ $78 => Renaissance Pere Marquette

There's also a 4* in the Convention Center zone for $82.  That's possibly the Renaissance Arts, but if anyone takes the deal and finds out, let me know.

These rates are for the 2nd weekend dates above, but similar rates seem available for 1st weekend as well.  If you book any of these, please email or reply to this post.

As always, get Priceline and Hotwire tips and see detailed Jazzfest results at  http://jazzfest.swagland.com/bidding.html.
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Jazzfest 2018 Recap, 2019 Dates [May. 14th, 2018|06:56 am]
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Jazzfest attendance was 450,000.

That's up a bit from the last two years.  2016 and 2017 were both rain-plagued, and both had announced attendance of 425,000.  The post-Katrina high was 460,000 in 2015.

You can read all the Jazzfest coverage from the Times Picayune at http://www.nola.com/jazzfest/.
The New Orleans Advocate coverage is at http://www.theadvocate.com/new_orleans/entertainment_life/festivals/.

Next year, 2019 will mark the 50th New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.  Many are expecting organizers to celebrate the anniversary with a fest that's somehow bigger, better, or special, but one thing it won't be is longer.  The fest has announced the dates for next year, and it's the usual last weekend in April and first weekend in May:  April 26 - May 5, 2019.  See you there!
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Local's Thursday, and a few other things [May. 3rd, 2018|11:42 pm]
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Today was Local's Thursday, an experiment with cheaper tickets for Louisiana restdents.  The system in place was that these tickets were sold only today and only for today.  Locals could buy 1 or 2 tickets, but the ticket users had to be with them at the ticket window, where you got both a ticket and a handstamp.  You needed both to get in; this system was to avoid locals buying cheap tickets and then selling them for more.  It worked great for me.  I git to the ticket window at 10:15 and had only a 2 minute wait.  But the lack of advance sales (necessitated by the hand stamp system) meant a LOT of locals were buying tickets today.  At 11 am, the ticket buyers line at the Sauvage gate was out to the sidewalk and at least a block long from there.  I can imagine some people may have waited 30 minutes or an hour.  From what I heard, the Gentilly gate line was much shorter.  Still, that kind of long wait is not a fun way to start your fest day.  I hope fest continues this tradition, but also that they work out the kinks in the system to minimize lines next year.  If you got stuck in a long line to buy today, let me know how bad it was.

A few more observations from around the Fairgrounds...

The Grand Marshal area has been expanded, at least at Acura.

Probably not new, but for the first time this year I noticed a "Poster Express" booth for those wanting to buy one of the souvenir posters without waiting in line at the main poster booth, where many people are also buying the Hawaiian style shirts and garb.  It's located in the Folk crafts area, straight back from the Fais Do Do stage, and they seemed to have each of the psoter editions, as well as the framed/shipped option available.

Another thing new this year, or maybe just new to me, but the General Stores were selling bags of ice, a 5 or 10 pound bag for $5.  The beer booths will usually give you a bit of ice for free, or for a tip, but this is a good option for anyone needing more, or wanting clean ice for drinks.  Does anyone know if the ice sales have been available in prior years?

On the transport front, the Blue Bike bike share system seems to be working well.  But bikes do go fast at the end of the day, from a few spot checks, you probably want to be out the gate before 7 for the best chance of getting one.

And finally, from this Uber post, it seems the city has implemented a no-rideshare-zone around the Fairgrounds, preventing Uber and Lyft from dropping off or picking up in a fairly big area.  See the map below.  It explains last week's post here about Lyft suggesting a drop off point on Trafalger St on the back side of the fest.

If you had experiences, good or bad, with Blue Bikes, or with Lyft or Uber, let me know.

You can post comments on this blog page, or reply to the email, or comment on Facebook.

Enjoy the rest of Second weekend, everyone!
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First Day Impressions and Observations [Apr. 27th, 2018|07:58 pm]

The weather was fantastic.  The grounds were in great shape, no mud, and I've never seen the grass look better.

Crowds seemed on the light side, even for a Friday.

The sound was excellent.  I spent time at Acura, Gentilly, Jazz & Heritage, Fais Do Do, and the Blues Tent, and sound bleed was never an issue.

I didn't hear many complaints about security, just some very minor extra wait.

On the beer front, all the usual canned beers are now 16 ounces (was 12 in prior years).  The $7 price (Coors & Miller) is up a buck, but for a 33% larger can.  Specialty beers remain at $8 for 16 ounces, strawberry has replaced blueberry Redd's, and the new option was Sol ($7 for 12 oz).

In the Grandstand, all the water fountains have been permanently removed.  I'll blame the racetrack for that, not the festival.  Water fountains are still available outside, near the post office.

At Acura, they've added a 4th bank of bleachers, but all the bleachers have been noticably downgraded.  The wood benches are gone; the seats are less comfortable metal.  And the spacious foot space is gone too, legrooom will be minimal when the bleachers fill and the row in front of you is occupied.  Also gone is the walkway behingd the last row where some folks set up chairs.

At Acura, there are two new video screens atop the rear speaker towers.  Wherever you sit, even in the back, you should be able to see one of the 4 screens.

At the poster sales booth, there were offering the framed posters (to be shipped free after the fest) in addition to the usual carry-home tubed posters.

Blue Bikes seemed generally available throughout the city all day.  By 6:40, the "drop zone" by the Fest was empty, and by 7:20., the nearby hubs along Esplanade were all empty as well.

See y'all tomorrow, or next weekend!
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Lyft Jazzfest info [Apr. 26th, 2018|04:17 pm]

Lyft just sent out this email:

Focus on the music and forget parking. Ride with Lyft and get dropped off at the official Lyft Lounge - just a 2 minute walk from the Trafalgar entrance.
When you're headed home, drop your pin at one of the below locations for a ride in minutes.
Near the Mystery Street and Trafalgar Exits:

  • Big Lake Parking Lot (Friedrichs Avenue in City Park)

  • NOMA Entrance (Wisner Boulevard & Esplanade Avenue)

Near the Gentilly Exit:

  • N. Broad Street & Ursulines Avenue

  • St. Bernard Avenue & N. Broad Street

If you have your tickets in hand, that dropoff point should minimize some of the traffic.  It's not on the official fest map, but there is a pedestrian entrance to the fest from that side of the Fairgrounds, on Trafalgar at Rendon.  But if you need to buy tickets, or pick them up at will call, then you'll want  to use one of the main gates at Sauvage or Gentilly instead.  I'd imagine the Lyft drivers should be amenable to that.  If not, tell them you want to go to Nonna Mia restaurant instead, that's a good drop off point to walk to the Sauvage gate.
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Jazzfest Time! Updates from Inside the Fairgrounds on Friday [Apr. 25th, 2018|11:30 pm]

It's Jazzfest Time.

For those of you already here in New Orleans, welcome!

For those traveling today or tomorrow for 1st weekend, safe travels!

For those not coming until second weekend, don't forget about the WWOZ live broadcasts to hold you over.

I'll see y'all at the Fairgrounds.  :)

And I've picked up an early morning volunteer shift at Jazz Fest Friday morning.  Stay tuned to the Swagland Facebook page for updates starting at 8 am.  If there's anything newsworthy or notable, I'll post it there in real time.

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Security Update [Apr. 25th, 2018|02:30 pm]
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Security at Jazzfest has always been pretty lax.  There haven't been pat downs, and bag checks are more often than not pretty cursory.  But that may be changing.

At the top of the PDF list of probibitions for the fest, for the first time this year, there's this note:

Sure enough, I went by the Fairgrounds this morning, and the old airport-style walk-thru metal detectors are in place at the security checkpoints.

It's a sad but I suppose inevitable result of the world we live in.  Jazz Fest has always been remarkably free of violence or crime.  But after Las Vegas, even though that attack was not from anything smuggled through the gates, festival organizers have to take threats seriously.

My main concern is how much this will slow down the entry lines, especially in the initial surge first hour after the gates open.  I guess we'll find out this weekend...

I'd imagine bag searches may be more thorough as well.

And those of you who are used to smuggling in a steel flask in your hip pocket will need another plan.

The Advocate picks up on the story:

Edit #2:
The Jazzfest official twitter feed posts this:

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Jazz Fest News Roundup [Apr. 24th, 2018|09:56 pm]
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Just a couple of days until the Jazz Fest gates open on First Friday.  Here's the latest.

Poster Sales Update

Via email, Art4now informs that "Fewer than 30% of the Fats canvas overpainted C-Marques remain. Other editions are experiencing similar high demand."  If you are planning to buy on site, I don't think you'll neeed to sprint to the poster booth right when the gates open, but I wouldn't wait until 2nd Sunday either.

Michael P. Smith Photos

The Advocate shares an online gallery of pictures by the legendary Jazz Fest photographer.

Food Booth Picks

Advocate food writer Ian McNulty chimes in with his top food choices at the Fairgrounds.

Night Show Picks

Keith Spera shares his highlights for evening shows for the first weekend and days between.

What to Wear

Advice from the Advocate on staying comfortable and dry at the Fairgrounds.

How Not to be a Jazz Fest Jerk

Some good advice for dealing with the crowds at the fest and around the city.

Loretta's Pralines

A nice feature on the longtime Jazz Fest vendor.

Jazz Fest 2048

Doug McCash takes a humorous look into the future.

Daring to Peek at the Weather

Forecasts in New Orleans can be unreliable more than a few days out, but we're close enough that I think it's safe to look at the first weekend forecast.  And it looks great.  Expect sunny to partly cloudy skies, slightly below normal temperatures in the high 70s, and chances of precipitation no more than 10%.  Don't forget your hat and sunscreen (but always bring a pocket poncho just in case).
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