What is Jazzfest?
Jazzfest is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Other cities have jazz festivals, but if someone talks about "Jazzfest" (with a capital J and no city mentioned), they probably mean New Orleans. (Like someone talking about "The City" probably is referring to New York).
The Fest is currently a daytime only event, with 6 large stages plus 5 tents hosting about almost a hundred different musical acts each day. There's also fantastic food, as well as crafts, art, cooking demonstrations, and more.
Where is Jazzfest held?
The Festival is held at the Fairgrounds, an historic horse racing track in New Orleans, about 3 miles northeast of the French Quarter.
When is Jazzfest held?
Jazzfest is held each year over two weekends, the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May. When a weekend spans months, the rule of thumb is that Fest is the two weekends prior to Mothers Day weekend. Each weekend now runs Thursday thru Sunday. For 2020, the dates had been April 23-26, and April 30 - May 3, 2020, but the festival was canceled due to the coronavirus. For 2021, the dates are scheduled as April 22-25, and April 29 - May 2, 2021. Gates at the Heritage Festival open each day at 11:00 a.m.. The first bands start at 11:15 and the last bands play until 7:00.
But Swag, I don't really like jazz that much. Should I go anyway?
Absolutely! While there's certainly no shortage of fantastic jazz - both traditional and contemporary - the music includes almost everything from Acadian to Zydeco: rock, blues, jambands, gospel, soul, reggae, big band, R&B, country, and more. There's no classical or opera, and no electronic dance music,, but you'll find plenty of just about everything in between.
The performer list for each day usually is released by late January. The detailed schedule with times and stages is usually released in late March or early April. Want to know exactly when? See the history here.
Lots of New Orleans bands are regulars, playing pretty much every year. These include folks like Trombone Shorty, Dr. John, Marcia Ball, Irma Thomas, The Dirty Dozen, Rebirth Brass Band, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Tab Benoit, Cowboy Mouth, Galactic, Anders Osborne, and many performances by the members of the Neville, Marsalis, and Batiste families.
In years past, notables have included the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Allman Brothers Band, Sting, Blues Traveller, Lyle Lovett, Jimmy Buffett, Diana Krall, Lenny Kravitz, Santana, Paul Simon, Fats Domino, and Dave Matthews.
The Cube Rescue Program has saved schedules for Jazzfests from years past. It's a great way to get a feel for what a typical day's schedule might look like.
Which weekend is better to go?
Once the lineups have been announced, look for yourself and see what your tastes
dictate. Until then, it's a tossup. For some reason, many big name acts that I've seen elsewhere, and
then seen at the Fest, often don't seem to do their best sets at Jazzfest.
And some of my favorite Jazzfest moments have come unexpectedly, courtesy of
acts that I'd never heard of.
What about the impact from Hurricane Katrina?
The city is ready for tourists. Find more details on my Katrina page.
I'll keep the latest recovery news posted on my fest news blog.
Where is the official web site of the festival?
Page last updated April 23, 2020