Disclaimer: I’m not a psychic. No one can predict exactly where the rich and famous are going to end up when they’re in town for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, especially now that so many new bars and restaurants have opened up in our fair, ever-changing city. However, there are places where people with and without celebrity status congregate. Spending time in these areas and at these establishments may increase your chances of being in the presence of someone you’ve only dreamed about meeting in real life.
Jazz Fest will kick off with the 20th Annual Jazz & Heritage Gala on Thursday, April 26, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, and there are sure to be many musicians in attendance, some who will be headlining the festival. Past performers at the Gala have included Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Fats Domino, and Little Richard. Perhaps the best part of the Gala is that all of the proceeds go towards the Don Jamison Heritage School of Music, a free music education program for children.
For the past 14 years, Preservation Hall (pictured above) has put on Midnight Preserves, which features a different artist from Jazz Fest each night of the festival at midnight. You’re guaranteed to see a famous musician perform, but you never know who it’s going to be until you get there. Past performances have included Elvis Costello, Jimmy Buffett, Robert Plant, and Al Jarreau, just to name a few.
Days after Jazz Fest ended in 2014, the Foo Fighters played following the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, unannounced. The show was taped for an album where each of the eight songs on it were recorded at legendary venues across America. You need only study the current lineup to get a glimpse at the people who may wind up at Pres Hall.
Other places in the French Quarter have been known to attract celebrities. After Stevie Wonder’s set was rained out in 2016, he headed down to the Jazz Playhouse in the Royal Sonesta Hotel to perform. In 2015, Lady Gaga was seen at The Gold Mine Saloon.
The theater corridor on and around Canal Street is sure to be frequented by musicians of all kinds during the festival. Several big names have already been booked to perform at the theaters, and you can bet that more will pop up to join in on the fun. The Civic will be hosting the Trey Anastasio Band for three nights on April 26, 27, and 28. The Darkness is performing on the 30th, and the Afghan Whigs and Built to Spill are set for May 2. Over at the Saenger Theatre (pictured above), Queens of the Stone Age are performing on April 27. Local favorite Trombone Shorty will be hosting the star-studded fourth annual Treme Threauxdown on April 28. Also representing NOLA, the Revivalists will play on May 3. Govt Mule takes the stage the next night.
On the other side of town, the Maple Leaf Bar (pictured above) is always pumping out live tunes from some of the best local bands we’ve got. When Jazz Fest rolls around, the stage is often visited by guest musicians who ask to join the locals on stage. Bruce Springsteen and Bonnie Raitt have previously graced Maple Leaf’s stage unannounced.
Ace Hotel’s third annual Six of Saturns is a “celebration of music, visions, and the collaborative spirit of New Orleans.” Several types of artists will take over the Three Keys venue located next to the lobby of the hotel, and it’s a safe bet that at least a few famous people will take up temporary residence at the swanky spot. You may want to see if the rooftop pool is open to the public so that you can catch a glimpse of your favorite musicians in their swimwear.
Despite legislation being passed that nearly ruined the film industry in New Orleans, several big productions are being made right now. The stars of those movies and shows enjoy Jazz Fest just like the rest of us. Currently, Preacher, The Dirt, Claws, and Highwaymen are in production. NCIS: New Orleans is filming its fourth season.
If you do chance upon your favorite celebrity while out and about in the city, don’t get star struck and make the experience awkward. Don’t make a scene about the fact that the famous person is nearby; you’ll definitely scare them off, or you may even be reprimanded in some way. If you feel the need to approach the famous person instead of admiring them from afar, be polite and respectful. Don’t reach out and touch them, and don’t start taking a selfie with them before asking if it’s okay. Famous people are people too, and they aren’t a public commodity. They have a right to say no to an interaction.
With all of that being said, enjoy your time at Jazz Fest and in New Orleans. Happy hunting out there!