Day 1 of Jazz Fest couldn't have been more perfect. The weather was sunny with a breeze, crowds weren't too thick, and everybody was happy. But most important, Jazz Fest was doing its thing.
"Welcome to Jazz Fest! It's been a long time comin'," Gregg Martinez said right before his set, to cheers from the audience.
It's been a long time indeed--for musicians, artists, visitors, and locals. For many, Jazz Fest's return was a coming home. "I gotta get my mango freeze." "Let's head to the gospel tent." "Going to meet my friends under their flag." You could hear people as they walked through the Fair Grounds doing what they love--eating delicious food, listening to music, and spending time with friends, old and new.
There were a few things that were different this year (no chicharrones—boo) but mostly, the fest was as we remembered it and the food was as much the star of this fest as the music. First stop for this fest-goer was Patton's Trio—oyster patty, crawfish sack, and crawfish beignets.
So many flavors going on in this plate--I can't even say which one was my favorite. The crawfish sack, maybe that. A little while later, we had the soft shell crab poboy, some rose mint tea, and you gotta have something sweet, so John Caluda's melt-in-your-mouth white chocolate bread pudding rounded out the day.
We popped in to the Economy Hall Tent, sat a spell in the shade at the Lagniappe Stage to hear Gregg Martinez and the Delta Kings, and finally settled in at the Festival Stage to catch the end of Ceelo Green and then Lionel Richie. I wished I could've done more--we missed Big Sam and Doreen, who I'd love to have heard. But there was too much to see and do on this day.
And really if you felt like it, you could just wander the Fair Grounds without ever really landing and taking in the sights that are so quintessentially New Orleans.
There was this moment. I was walking with friends, going from one stage to the next, I can't even remember which one. But the sun had ducked behind a cloud, a cool breeze hit, and music from three different stages floated through, and that was maybe the best part of the day for me. I wasn't sure how it would be, if Jazz Fest would be the same after its hiatus, but it felt like old times and was as good as always.