It's easy to get caught up in what's wrong with New Orleans at the expense of what's right about the city. Two things happened recently that should make us all happy — and grateful: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival had a spectacular run, and the New Orleans Pelicans had a truly great season, making it to the second round of the NBA playoffs.
According to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, 450,000 people attended the 49th annual Jazz Fest, making it a major success, with great weather and only a tiny bit of rain. Among the biggest hits was a new "Local Thursday" ticket for Louisiana residents ($50 instead of $80), along with the 8,500 passes that were distributed to local nonprofits, schools and organizations that serve the needy. New security measures (metal detectors at the gates) created few if any issues, and no major problems arose during performances. There's always room for improvement, of course, and our main suggestion would be to enlarge the relatively small footprint reserved for wheelchair users near the major stages.
People may have crowded in for Lionel Richie, Rod Stewart, Aerosmith and other big-name acts, but locals know that some of the best music can be found in the Gospel Tent, on the Cajun-inflected Fais Do Do stage and in the Cultural Exchange Pavilion (which also featured an exhibit saluting New Orleans' tricentennial). And for those who complain there isn't enough jazz in Jazz Fest, the WWOZ Jazz Tent and the Economy Hall Tent featured the musical equivalent of an all-you-can-eat jazz buffet.
There often are bittersweet moments at Jazz Fest. This year it was the passing of longtime Neville Brothers saxophonist Charles Neville just days before the festival. Both Neville and Fats Domino (who died late last year) were given tributes in songs and words.
While everyone expects great things from Jazz Fest every year, the same isn't always said of the New Orleans Pelicans. The team's regular-season record this year was so spotty that just a few months ago some were predicting the ouster of head coach Alvin Gentry and General Manager Dell Demps. Then something miraculous happened. The team got good. Really good.
The Pels posted 48 wins, the best they've done since rebranding from the Hornets, and they made it to the playoffs. They swept the Portland Trail Blazers in round one, leaving Blazers fans stunned and suddenly gaining the attention (and respect) of national sports media and basketball fans. The ridemay have been too good to last — the Pels fell to the perennially strong Golden State Warriors in the second round — but it gave us a glimpse of how good our team can be. Along the way, we got sold-out playoff games in the Smoothie King Center and a halftime performance by Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue that made the Blender look like the most fun place in town on a weekday night.
All in all, New Orleans has had a welcome case of spring fever in 2018. Let's hope it lasts.