Almost every city will claim that it is the place you should go for food, for music, and for culture. And New Orleans is no different, except New Orleans is distinct in it’s music, food, and culture from most other American cities. Although history would technically tell you otherwise, New Orleans could easily substitute for the birthplace of Jazz music. And indeed many people will tell you that it is. Or at least it might as well be. And certainly from inside clubs to street corners, you will be greeted with Jazz sounds that sometimes invigorate, and sometimes send you in a soothing trance.
But it’s not only Jazz that’ll touch your soul, it’s all the different kinds of music that infiltrates the city everywhere you go. The diversity in sound represents the diversity in cultures of New Orleans. Cultures and sounds that are sometimes distinguishable, and sometimes indistinct – combined and integrated in beautiful and meaningful ways. It’s why the city is as vibrant as it is. So from jazz to blues, to calypso, to reggae and Bayou music, you will naturally stop to listen or stop to dance, or simply just stop. It’s the that kind of city where you can do that – just stop. And be.
Being at Jazz Fest was a cultural experience in and of itself. Now I am admittedly in the world of “types” as we designate them to the activities people enjoy doing, not a “festival type.” But there was something easy about being in the grounds for the two days I went to Jazz Fest. Of course Jazz Fest brings people from all around the world to engage in the experience but I think the New Orleans way of a certain kind of easy-going, free-flowing, happiness makes it seem like you’re just at one huge part with thousands of your closest friends. Everyone easy to talk to, to dance with, to sign with, to be friend.
The energy at the fest by performers feeds off from the energy of the crowd who for hours and hours, losing track of time, seem to have an unmatched stamina. You can see the genuine gratitude just to be experiencing music in this way, from all the faces around you. Dancing, talking, laughing, playing. It’s like being a child again. But incorporated with all the best parts of adulthood. The artists who perform, regardless of status and fame, connect deeply with the crowd. Indeed it is about music but when you experience it in the ambiance of Jazz Fest, of New Orleans, it is about so much more than music. It’s about celebrating life.
Oh, and I have to say I saw many wonderful artists, some better known than others. But seeing Macy Gray perform was a timeless experience that I’ll never forget. And the close second was a lady I found at a piano bar in The French quarter whose name escapes me. But listening to the soul of her voice last Friday night was nothing short of a spiritual experience.
As for the food in New Orleans, well let’s just say I did not hold anything back. From stopping in the famous Cafe du Monde and experiencing the popular beignets at 3 in the morning, as I was told is the best time to have them. I also experienced the local New Orleans barbecue in the Bywater area of the city. I love to eat in places where locals eat. But I made a stop at the Farmer’s Market in the French quarter last Saturday morning and I tried some alligator meat finally. And as I was told by many people, and finally getting to experience it for myself, it really does taste like chicken. But your foodie experience in New Orleans would be incomplete if you do not try the crawfish. The crawfish, put simply, will give you a food orgasm. I think I had too much, got in a food coma and forgot to take a picture. Oops.
So indeed every city is known for it’s food, it’s music, and it’s culture. And almost every city will tell you that it’s the best place for all three. I love many cities and places for many reasons but I fell in love with New Orleans and with it’s food music and culture, because I fell in love with the people who made things possible. People, who live their lives with this certain kind of indomitable spirit they put in everything they do. But even with that spirit that has kept them going during their worst times, kept them rebuilding and reviving, the people in this city know too that life still is sometimes just about having a grand ol’ time.