Another Jazz Fest, another round of easy target practice with Quint Redfish in a Barrel Davis. In todays Times-Picayune Lagniappe insert, Davis, the festivals chief producer, is quoted as saying, We have a great national lineup. Were different than the other kid festivals because were a festival for grownups.
Ugh. Most people who still harbor misgivings about the fests puzzling inertia regarding national headliners a sideways shuffle thats led us from Al Green, Jimmy Buffett and Widespread Panic in the early 2000s to, um, Al Green, Jimmy Buffett and Widespread Panic in 2008 stopped voicing them years ago, once it became clear that if Davis and Co. were indeed aware that new pop and rock music had been produced outside Louisiana since the year 1990, they probably didnt care. Now we have Davis shooting blanks at, presumably, the Bonnaroo, Coachella, Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits festivals, all of which have national lineups that make Billy Joel look like the stale, 80s radio relic that of course he is.
Before this diatribe goes any further, a couple of disclaimers: Jazz Fests annual parade of area treasures, many of whom perform anonymously under the raucous, rocking jazz and blues tents, is a priceless cache that should be defended with vigor. Davis also gets a pass for scheduling the same area headliners every year; while predictable to some locals, they offer a wonderful cross section of New Orleans music scene for the fests many out-of-town patrons.
When it comes to reaching outside the state limits for complementary acts, however, Davis and his selection committee are woefully inept barometers, and their decadelong default setting is growing serious funk as in mold, not Papas. Aside from the Bad Plus and the Raconteurs, theres not much of an effort being made to incorporate new, relevant indie-rock artists into the Jazz Fest fold. The Roots are great, but as far as a lone hip-hop representative goes, theyre fairly tame. (Its bordering on negligent that NOLA homer Lil Wayne, arguably the greatest rapper alive, has yet to make an appearance.) Yes, Robert Plants album with Alison Krauss is lovely, and Stevie Wonder is a legend. But Sheryl Crow, Billy Joel and Santana are autopilot pop choices. If the Associated Press offered syndication for festival bookers, these are the dregs that would populate the wire.
Its no secret that Jazz Fest caters to the gray-goatee crowd; doubtful any twentysomethings are going further into debt to see any of the aforementioned acts. But it should occur to Davis that the kids he is so quick to dismiss just might have something to add to a 39-year-old party that is rapidly showing its age.
Hell, maybe hed even get a few new records out of it.