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Jazzfest Odds & Ends [Nov. 16th, 2018|11:48 am]
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The latest news that may be of interest for Jazzfest fans:

I've already blogged speculation around what may be announced next month for Second Thursday (May 2), which will be the day Jazzfest comemorates its 50th.  Keith Spera of the Advocate reports much of the same speculation, but does mention data point I'd not seen published before, that the number of Brass Passes that WWOZ has for sale each year is 3,000.  That's about what I had guessed, but it's nice to see it confirmed.

Jazzfest and Shell have extended their partnership.  Shell will remain the presenting sponsor through 2024.  Some dislike sponsorships in general, or Shell  specifically, but sponsorship money does help keep ticket prices from rising even higher.  Here's the press release.

Not directly fest related, but The Advocate broke a story yesterday that Roland Von Kunatowski, who is one of the owners of Tipitina’s and the Orpheum Theater, as well as the charitable Tipitina's Foundation, is being sued for what sounds like pretty serious financial fraud, bilking investors in a fund he ran that may be a Ponzi scheme.  It's too early to speculate whether his legal troubles may affect the venues, but it's worth watching.  Between them, the Orpheum and Tipitina's host a lot of high profile shows during the two weeks of Jazzfest.  Read the article here:

Edit/Update to the above:  WWL TV has sources saying that a deal to sell Tipitina's is in the works.

Finally, a more uplifting read.  As part of the New Orleans Tricentennial celebration, the Times Picayune has been highlighting 300 people who have helped make the city what it is.  Allison Miner was named as one of the honorees.  They write:
When she moved to New Orleans in the late 1960s, Allison Miner harbored dreams of a singing career. That career would never materialize, but music would remain the driving force of her life. Recognized as a co-founder of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, she helped produce the first several editions of what has grown to become a world-class event and a highlight of New Orleans' spring calendar. Between fests, she managed and nurtured the careers of such iconic local musicians as Professor Longhair, Kermit Ruffins and the Wild Magnolias. Miner would take a break from the festival in the mid-1980s, but she couldn't stay away for long, returning to program its Music Heritage Stage, which features in-depth interviews with musicians -- and which has since been named in her honor. All the while, one thing remained: her contagious passion for New Orleans music and the men and women who keep it alive.
Read the rest:
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More on Second Thursday [Nov. 13th, 2018|05:43 pm]
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Earlier this week, Jazzfest announced that they would be adding an eighth day of fest, on Thursday of First Weekend.  WWOZ made a couple of announcements in reaction to this, settling on that brass passes (normally good for entry every day of fest) would be valid all 4 days of first weekend, and on Friday through Sunday of second weekend, but not on Second Thursday.  But they also said they were looking into other possible solutions.

It's also apparent that WWOZ was caught off guard by the announcement, finding out about the extra day and the Second Thursday changes the same time as the rest of us.  Ironically, it's only because of the WWOZ Brass Passes that we know as mush as we do:  all the Jazzfest press release sais was that First Thursday was being added and it would be "local's day".  All the Second Thursday info flowed from the multiple brass pass announcements.

While not all brass pass purchasers have been contacted yet, some have reported getting phone calls and emails.  From this, the above dates that the brass pass will be valid for Jazzfest admission won't change again.  It's not yet decided whether the hospitality tent will be open second Thursday for brass pass holders who buy a separate admission ticket for that day.  And brass pass holders are being offered refunds, if they are dissatisfied - though I haven't yet heard anyone take them up on that offer.

But some tidbits about second Thursday will be of interest to everyone.

  • Second Thursday will be the day of the 50th Anniversary celebration of Jazzfest, and there will be one or more bigger-than-usual big-name-acts. 

  • Second Thursday will have a separate admission ticket, priced higher than other days.

  • While general admission tickets for fest have always been unlimited in number, tickets for that one day may be capped.

Speculation on social media is rampant, but many are expecting a ticket price for Second Thursday in the $150-200 range.  Rather than excitement about who may play (Rolling Stones?), mostly what I'm reading there are complaints, that Jazzfest is abandoning its roots and its mission with high cost and exclusivity, that annual brass pass holders are getting bait & switched, that loyal fest fans are getting left behind.  Whether you agree with these sentiments or not, it's sad to read them, and it's certainly not the kind of buzz that the festival producers were hoping the 50th anniversary would create.

I'd like to see the orgainzers answer as many of the questions as they can (although specific band announcements may be embargoed) soon, rather than letting the discontent fester for another month or more until the promised December announcements.

Here's one email WWOZ sent out to a brass pass purchaser:

Like always, Jazz Fest is selling WWOZ ticket access for 7 days of the festival. What's different this year is that the Fest is celebrating it's 50th Birthday and has added an 8th day! What does this mean for 2019 Brass Pass holders:  Jazz Fest has shifted locals Thursday to the first Thursday (April 25) and the second Thursday (May 2) will be an extremely special 50th birthday celebration.  There will be fewer tickets sold on Thursday, May 2 and the cost of the ticket for that day will be higher. We don't know what the price of the ticket will be or what we happen on that day.  What we do know is 2019 Brass Pass will not work on  Thursday May 2.
The change to this year's fest was communicated to WWOZ the same day this announcement was made public. Jazz Fest plans to give more information in December about the fest lineup (a month earlier than they typically announce it in January). In the meantime, we are doing all we can to accommodate our loyal Brass Passers.  Although your 2019 Brass Pass will not get you entry until Jazz Fest on Thursday, May 2, it is our hope to have our WWOZ Hospitality Tent open to you on that day.
We understand that this change will effect some OZillians 2019 Jazz Fest plans. Please feel free to call or email us if you have questions about what this change from Jazz Fest means to 'OZ and our members and Brass Pass holders.
Please note that 2019 Brass Passes will be valid for these seven days of Jazz Fest:
Thursday April 25
Friday April 26
Saturday April 27
Sunday April 28
Friday May 3
Saturday May 4
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Brass Pass Shenanigans (and what that may indicate) [Nov. 10th, 2018|09:40 am]
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The WWOZ Brass Pass has always included admission to every day of Jazzfest.

This year, as usual, they went on sale in September.  The WWOZ page said "A WWOZ Brass Pass is your ticket to all 7 days of Jazz Fest ".  And during the recent pledge drive, the DJs frequently said the pass was good for "every day" of Jazzfest.

Shortly after yesterday's announcement of the extra day of fest, they updated the page to says specifically "Brass passes cover 7 days April 26-28 and May 2-5", excluding first Thursday.

Now the page has been updated yet again, and emails sent to those who have purchased passes, saying "your 7-Day WWOZ Brass Pass is valid for Thursday, April 25 through Sunday, April 28 and Friday, May 3 through Sunday, May 5", including first Thursday but excluding second Thursday.

Lots of people are upset about this.

For residents who want to attend every day, it means the extra single day ticket won't be on the day when discount $50 locals tickets are available.  That discount will be only first Thursday.

For visitors coming in from out of town, they may already have plane tickets and other travel plans where they won't be in town yet for first Thursday.  They plan to attend the seven original days of fest, and now they can only get six days of use from their pass.

And it's embarrassing for WWOZ and the fest, not having a brass pass policy planned before announcing the extra day of fest makes them look pretty amateurish.

So what is going on here?

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation (who own Jazzfest) and Friends of WWOZ (that owns WWOZ) are separate non-profit organizations, but closely related. The Foundation is the "supported organization" for WWOZ, and all WWOZ board members are appointed by the Foundation.  I assume that WWOZ pays Jazzfest a set amount for each brass pass sold.  The receipt for the $600 brass pass shows $402 as the value of the pass and $198 as a tax deductible chartiable donation, so it's reasonable to assume that the $402 is what WWOZ pays to the fest.  The price of brass passes is also tied to the price of Jazzfest tickets, usually the brass pass price increase follows a fest ticket price increase.  Last year excepted, over recent years each $25 increase in brass pass price has followed a $5 increase in the gate price ($35 over 7 days).  So it's also reasonable to assume that when adding the 8th day, the festival would want a larger payment from WWOZ (if the pass were still to cover all days).  So what I initially expected yesterday when the extra day was announced, was that the brass pass would increase to $650 or $675 and be good for all 8 days.

WWOZ has never publicly said how many brass passes they sell (the number is capped), but I would have guessed a couple of thousand.  Their tax filings include a line item for "Jazz Fest Expenses" of around $2 million.  This may cover more than just the brass passes, like the cost of running the hospitality tent, but would seem to make the maximum possible number of passes at 5,000.  That number is probably high, though - and however many passes they sell each year, I'd speculate that only a small percentage have been sold by November.  If several hundred have been sold already, then the cost to honor an eighth day for those would come to tens of thousands of dollars, a relatively small amount of the total, that WWOZ could probably afford, and that the Foundation could certainly afford.

So that is what should happen.  Raise the price of the pass, have it cover all days, and honor passes already purchased as a thank you to the loyalists who buy their passes early.

This begs the question, then, why isn't this happening?  If this were just a normal fest with one extra day, and if neither of the non-profits were willing  to cover the cost of the extra day's admission, then the original change (passes valid except first Thursday) would have stood.  The decision to modify the previously announced policy change only makes sense if something unusual is happening on second Thursday.

Before this all went down, a couple of weeks ago, I heard rumors the the Rolling Stones would play Jazzfest on second Thursday.  I hear rumors of big name acts all the time, and they turn out to be false often enough that I generally don't blog about them.  But this all seems to fit.  It's widely believed that the Stones will be touring the US next spring, dates not yet announced.  The Stones are one of a few big acts that the fest has wanted to book for years, but could never afford.  And if the Stones (or some other bigger-than-usual act) are playing the fest on Thursday, maybe that one day will have a separate - and higher priced - ticket.  If a second Thursday ticket costs not $80 but $100 or $150 or $200, that would explain why they don't want to honor brass passes that day, and why they swicthed the original announcement of which Thursday would be excluded.

Of course, this is all speculation at this point.  Yesterday's press release promised the lineup would be released early this year, December instead of the usual January, so we'll know for certain in a month or so.

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Jazzfest adding First Thursday? [Nov. 9th, 2018|10:04 am]
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Edit, it's official now.

Press release excerpt:

New Orleans, LA (November 9, 2018)—Producers of the 50th anniversary Jazz Fest have decided to mark the milestone event with something special: the addition of another day of the signature festival celebrating New Orleans music and culture. Thursday, April 25 will now be the opening day of the 2019 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell. Both of the event’s weekends will run Thursday through Sunday, April 25 – 28 and May 2 – 5.

The Festival also announced that the new day will be “Locals Thursday,” which allows anyone with a valid Louisiana ID to purchase up to two discount tickets at the gate on that day. “Locals Thursday” discount tickets will again be only $50.

The lineup for the 50th anniversary Festival and ticketing information will be released in December.

---------  My original post below: --------

Sometime this week, the banner at the top of the official Jazzfest web site home page was updated with new dates.

The April 25 start date is definitely new - here's the saved version of the page as of 4 days ago:

An eighth day of Jazzfest is not entirely unprecedented.  Back in 2003, the fest held a First Thursday.  It was very lightly attended, just 26,000, and was dropped the next year.

This is the 50th Jazzfest and expectations are that the organizers will be trying to make it extra-special.  Perhaps this is part of that.

So stay tuned.  I imagine we'll hear something official pretty soon. In the meantime, if you plan to attend every day, maybe grab a brass pass quickly?  The current price is $600, but if they do add an eighth day at the Fairgrounds, I'd expect that to increase.:  Edit:  the brass pass info page now says that the pass is vaild only for the 7 days from 4/26 - 5/05.
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Marriott Priceline Express deals for Jazzfest *still* [Nov. 7th, 2018|10:32 pm]
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It's been far too long since I posted about hotel dals for Jazzfest 2019.  That's my fault - I usually post about a deal when it first pops up, but don't repost if others subsequently get the same deal.  But usually deals last a few days, or a couple of weeks at most.  Trying to recall a deal lasting longer than that, I think I have to go back to the days before Katrina, when you could reliably get the Hyatt for about $50 or so.  But that was a decade and a half ago.

So what's happening this year is unprecedented.

Way back in June, I posted about
Priceline Express Deals that some people hit on, getting 4* hotels in the downtown and warehouse areas with nightly rates in the $80s and $90s, and 3* hotels even cheaper.  And I haven't re-posted, since those deals never went away.  For almost five full months now, checking rates regularly, 3* hotels have remained available in the $80s.  4* hotels are a bit pricier, but often show up in the $120s for certain dates, especially for longer stays.

It's worth noting that every single reported deal has turned out to be a brand under the Marriott corporate umbrella.  Recently, the deals have been in the warehouse zone.  The most common 3* hotels have been the Residence Inn and Courtyard;  the 4* deals have been the Renaissance Arts and Marriott Convention Center.

Here's what's been reported in the last several weeks:

of Stay
Bid Zone Level Accepted? Hotel Date of Bid
Mo 4/29 - Mo 5/06 $126 CC 4* Express Renaissance Arts 11/07/18
Tu 4/30 - Tu 5/07 $85 CC 3* Express Residence Inn Downtown 11/06/18
We 5/01 - Mo 5/06 $86 CC 3* Express Residence Inn Downtown 10/13/18
Th 4/25 - Tu 5/07 $84 CC 3* Express Marriott Courtyard Conv. Ctr. 9/29/18

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

Of course, there's no way of knowing how long these deals will last, we're so far in uncharted territory, I can't even fathom a guess.  If you're still looking, there's probably not a need to book immediately, but the longer you wait, the greater the risk that the deals may be pulled.  Of course, don't buy until your trip and dates are certain, as these prepay deals are not refundable or changeable.

My Priceline affiliate link. (I always appreciate the small commission I get if you use it, but the price should be the same if you do or don't).
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Southwest Airlines for Jazzfest 2019 [Sep. 27th, 2018|09:02 am]
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Just a quick note that this morning, Southwest Airlines extended its booking window through June 8, 2019, so flights to and from Jazzfest are now bookable for those of you who prefer that carrier.

And a reminder (easy to forget) that Jazzfest usually offers discount codes for those traveling on some other airlines (last year for Delta, some years for Americcan also), generally 5% off whatever fare you find.  These codes are generally published in January.  If you find a good fare before then, I certainly wouldn't wait to book, as the airfare may well increase much more than the 5% savings.  But if you aren't ready to book yet, once you are, try to remember to check for the codes then.  Once available, find them at http://www.nojazzfest.com/travel/airlines/.  
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Jazzfest 2019 News & Notes [Sep. 20th, 2018|05:23 pm]
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As the calendar (though not the temperature) turns to autumn, here are some odds and ends that may be of interest to Jazzfest attendees.

2019 Brass Passes went on sale earlier this month.  This is the premium from WWOZ radio that includes unlimited admission to all days of the fest (including same day re-entry), plus access to the WWOZ hospitality tent, where you'll find complimentary fruit and iced coffee, plus clean(-ish) port-o-lets.  The current price is $600 (prices sometimes increase in January).
Info and purchase at: https://www.wwoz.org/brass-pass-how-we-do-jazz-fest

The new terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans Airport has been delayed.  The terminal is under construction on the north side of the runways, near the interstate.  Once complete, all operations will move there overnight, and the existing south terminal will be shuttered.  This had previously been scheduled to occur in February 2019, but construction delays have pushed that back, and the new target date is May 15, so not until after Jazz Fest attendees have returned home.
Read more here:  https://www.theadvocate.com/new_orleans/news/article_12951f68-bce3-11e8-b1bf-4b245ed3f94d.html

Here's an article from Relix highlighting that the 2019 Jazzfest will be the 50th.  Nothing really new, but some nice thoughts from Fest founder George Wein and Producer Quint Davis:  https://relix.com/articles/detail/relix-44-new-orleans-jazz-festival-50/

Finally, one note on the lineup.  Quint has been forthcoming for years that his number one wish-list performer is Paul McCartney.  Some fans had hoped that as part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary festival, he'd finally make that happen.  But Sir Paul has announced a concert for later in May at the arena in New Orleans, which make a Jazzfest appearance extremely unlikely.
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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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