This year’s Mardi Gras went by in a blur, quite literally for some. And, I’m happy to report it was the largest since 2005, before Katrina. It was my first Mardi Gras in New Orleans and I returned musically fulfilled, sufficiently stuffed (thanks to crawfish etouffe and sugary beignets), and with a bag of beads (earned top-on, thank you very much), thinking that the upcoming JazzFest lineup may warrant my return (Sheryl Crow performing at last year's JazzFest pictured left).
After coming off the Mardi Gras high, New Orleans is already gearing up for the spring festival season which comprises a few great free fests like the French Quarter Festival (April 17–19), a musical fête showcasing live acts across 18 stages right in the French Quarter; Vieux to Do (June 13–15), a cultural gumbo, if you will, combining three mini-fests, the Creole Tomato Festival, Louisiana Seafood Festival, and Louisiana Cajun Zydeco Festival in one weekend; and Satchmo SummerFest (July 30–August 2), created in honor of Louis Armstrong and celebrating all things jazz and subsequently the best of Nola’s culture; and, of course, the 40th annual Jazz & Heritage Festival (April 24–26 and April 30–May 3).
The lineup for JazzFest this year is tempting indeed: Neil Young; Bon Jovi; Dave Matthews Band; James Taylor; Ben Harper; Tony Bennet; Kings of Leon; Wilco; Bonnie Rait; Earth, Wind & Fire; Erykah Badu; Joe Cocker; and Sugarland are among the headliners.