New Orleanians being New Orleanians, people have found a way to fill the long, dispiriting gap between the last Jazz Fest — now more than two years in the rearview mirror — and the next one, which, fingers crossed, will happen this coming spring. If they can’t dance at the Fair Grounds, at least they can order takeout from the usual food vendors and crank up “Jazz Festing in Place,” WWOZ’s nostalgic highlights from fests past.
This weekend was to have marked the return of something more like normalcy — not that October would have been normal for an event that, before COVID-19, happened every April and May. But the delta variant made planning a fall fest too uncertain, and so instead music lovers are doing without one more time.
Or maybe not.
Seeking to fill the suddenly empty spot on the music calendar, bring at least some tourists safely to town, and throw a financial lifeline to clubs and musicians losing out on another big event, New Orleans & Company is launching NOLAxNOLA, a series of concerts across the city Oct. 7-17.
So instead of heading to the track and wandering stage to stage, fans with proof of vaccination or a PCR test can pick up a ticket to see Galactic at Tipitina’s, or Jason Marsalis’s tribute to his late father Ellis at Snug Harbor, or a brass band at the Howlin’ Wolf. New Orleans & Company had already planned to spend $2 million marketing fall festivals, so there’s no cost to participating venues.
As timely as the initiative is, it may not be a one-off. New Orleans & Company CEO Stephen Perry and co-founder Sig Greenebaum see potential to make NOLAxNOLA an annual thing, like Austin’s South by Southwest music conference, which inspired the name.
For Perry's tourism-focused organization, this represents a new way of doing business, a focus not on the view from 60,000 feet, as he put it, but on creating economic activity on the ground.
The NOLAxNOLA campaign “is going to be a part of driving people to the clubs and delivering that part of New Orleans that exists nowhere but here," he said, directly benefiting places where you "listen to music and your molecules rearrange a little bit.”
Given the hit Louisiana performers and entertainment outlets have taken throughout the pandemic, that sounds like music to our ears.