In recent years, the artist lineup for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell has been released to the public each January. This is when out-of-town visitors start planning their trips in earnest: Are you going the first or second weekend, or both?

But the real fun begins when the "cubes" come out.

The cubes are day-to-day schedules illustrating exactly when and where musicians will be performing each day.

When they come out, Jazz Festers start facing some tough choices, such as when two favorites are playing on different stages at the same time — not to mention an interview of a musical icon at the Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage or a chance to see a Mardi Gras Indian parade. And lunch has to fit in somewhere.

Longtime festgoers have their own special routines with the cubes. Some have a color coding system — highlighting first choices and second choices in different colors — while others have archived their schedules to keep track of just whom they have seen in order to plan for the current festival.

In the beginning, there were no cubes. Starting with the first Jazz Fest in 1970, the festival schedules were just printed lists for each stage. Several years even featured a schedule that looked like a golf scorecard.

NO.jazzfest50.thecubes.1977.jpg

Before the 'cubes' arrived, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival schedule in 1977 resembled a scorecard.

But for the 13th annual Jazz Fest in 1982, the official program included an easy-to-use graphic version of the schedule, with the performances laid out in side-by-side columns for each stage, similar to a checkerboard. 

The cubes had arrived. They have never left.

NO.jazzfest50.thecubes.1983.jpg

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival schedule in 1983, one year after the 'cubes' were introduced.

In the 1990s, the cubes made the jump to the internet and were available in digital form, to print out at home. And in 1999, the design of the cubes was finalized with the look that every Jazz Fest fan recognizes today.

The cubes are now released each spring at nojazzfest.com, about a month before the festival. No matter how they are used, they’re an integral part of everyone’s planning, from diehard to occasional festgoers, from WWOZ broadcasters to musicians dashing from one set to the next and beyond.

The cubes were a game-changer. They’re fun to use and have become an iconic and essential part of Jazz Fest.

********

Special thanks to jazzfest.swagland.com.

*******

The Jazz Fest at 50 series, celebrating the half-century anniversary of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell, is a partnership between The New Orleans Advocate and WWOZ 90.7 FM.