On Friday afternoon I slammed my laptop shut right at 4 central time and booked it to the Fairgrounds to catch Bon Iver and The Beach Boys on the opening day of Jazz Fest 2012. The afternoon was pleasant, with an occasional cool breeze and just enough cloud cover to provide occasional refuge from the sun. I couldn’t have been happier.
Immediately upon entering I grabbed a frozen margarita at the daiquiri stand near the main entrance. I then headed straight for the food stands. (One must always eat right when you enter and just before you leave when attending Jazz Fest. This is commonly known as the “Cajun Boy Rule.”) After putting down some crawfish bread, a bowl of duck, pheasant and andouille gumbo and some crawfish enchiladas, I headed to meet friends at the stage Bon Iver was playing at, picking up another margarita on the way. When I got there Justin Vernon and the rest of his nine member band were just taking the stage.
It was kind of weird seeing Bon Iver live. I stayed for 45 minutes of his set and the crowd barely moved the entire time they played — it was “Skinny Love” at the 45 minute mark that got everyone finally moving around a bit. Figuring that this would probably be the highlight of the set, I made my way to the big stage on the opposite end of the Fairgrounds where the Beach Boys were playing. But I will say this for Bon Iver: the band was incredibly tight. Justin Vernon looks kind of hilarious when he’s trying to play cool musician/rocker dude on stage (I actually found myself laughing at his gyrations at one point), but I really enjoyed finally seeing them live.
Meanwhile, the Beach Boys were the freaking Beach Boys, along with some John Stamos tossed in (he played bongos with them for a spell). I will probably never forget catching the last half hour of their show. They sounded great — though they didn’t move around the stage all that much — and the whole scene was a sight to behold because of the scope people in the crowd. It was at this moment when I remembered why I love Jazz Fest so much more than any other music festival in the world — and I’ve been to many: it’s by far the most diverse. Young, old, black, white — everyone is there. It’s a great demographical representation of America, while most music festivals are attended mainly by under-40 white people.
Before leaving I grabbed a Jazz Fest poster — this one features Trombone Shorty — and some more crawfish bread. Rules are rules.