April 11, 2015
French Quarter Festival
We were happy to find that our trip to New Orleans for their
inaugural Indy Car race happened to coincide with what is billed as the largest
free festival in the world, The French Quarter Festival. An annual event since
1984, the festival features music, art, food and culture of the Crescent City
with 23 stages of continuous live music over the three day festival. Attended
by over 700,000 last year, the festival features just about everyone who is
anyone on the New Orleans music scene.
Locals consider it the best festival of the year, beating
out the more famous New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival which is more
popular and crowded and expensive. One local told us that the French Quarter
Festival is “what Jazz Fest used to be” and said it was far superior as far as
enjoyment and musical quality. Not having attended Jazz Fest since 1995, it is
tough for me to compare, but I sort of see their point.
Jazz Fest even then had grown into a huge corporate festival
with mostly National acts and performers. This festival is almost exclusively
local talent, which is still saying something considering the depth, quality
and diversity of the musical talent in the city. The festival features traditional
and contemporary jazz, Latin, rhythm and blues, Cajun and zydeco, New Orleans
funk, classical, swing, rock, international and the many diverse sounds that
are part of the city's rich cultural gumbo. There were more than 100 of New
Orleans' favorite musical performers to entertain—with a whole raft of other
New Orleans legends and international all-stars.
The event also featured a tantalizing spread of beverages
and specialty items from some of the best known restaurants in the city,
including Pat O'Brien's Hurricanes, jambalaya, blackened catfish po-boys,
crawfish étouffée, Cajun meat pies and more. More than 60 food and beverage
booths were scattered throughout the historic French Quarter.
Some of the bands that we saw all or part of performing
included many of our favorite New Orleans bands, many who have played Key West,
generally at The Green Parrot. These included Mia Borders, Allen Toussant,
Trevis Matte & the Kingpins, John Boutte, the New Orleans Klezmer
All-Stars, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Bonerama, Eric Lidell, Johnny Sketch
and the Dirty Notes, Chris Ardoin, Charmaine Neville, The Iguanas, Flow Tribe
and Colin Lake.
Hundreds more played that we could not possible see even a
small percentage of what was offered. We did take advantage of the Art Show,
featuring artwork from local artists and we purchased a couple of pieces of
Folk Art. We met some new friends and even had the good fortune to run into a
couple that we know who visit the Key West Literary Seminar annually, Jan &
Rick. It was so cool to see them in a new setting.
Rick & Jan
It was a pretty amazing Festival and so enjoyable to be
immersed in the culture and music of such a wonderful and diverse community.
The fact that it was all free of charge is just an amazing thing. I am hopeful
that we might be able to return in the future to experience it again.
Cafe Du Monde