Has the inescapable Jazz Fest gusto got you feeling crazy? Do you think that if you hear the words “Bruce,” “Dr. John,” and “transcendental,” together in a sentence one more time you’re going to release an involuntary spurt of nasal bile and collapse in on yourself like a dying star?
Good news! There is a safe haven or those who didn’t drink the George Wein Kool-Aid (and if you did drink it, come anyway).
This haven is called Chaz Fest. If you haven’t heard of Chaz Fest, it’s a 10-hour Bywater neighborhood festival held at a place called the Truck Farm. The keywords are the same as Jazz Fest – music, food, culture – but the content is very different.
It’s all about good local music. It’s also about good local food. And good, hard local liquor – emphasis on the hard (nary a mention of an Abita Smoked Wheat Ale on their website).
While Jazz Fest focuses on the well-tread ground of internationally-acclaimed musicians, Chaz Fest is all about showcasing New Orleans’s fabulous, just-under-the-radar local talent. This year features an array of awesome bands including Hurray for the Riff Raff, Debauche Russian Mafia Band, Narcissy, and Happy Talk.
The festival started out as a platform for local musicians shut out of the increasingly rarefied Jazz Fest stages. A group including Tin Men member Alex McMurray noticed how hard it was becoming for local acts to find a spot on the Jazz Fest roster. True to New Orleans’s DIY ethos, they decided to do it themselves. They named their festival for Washboard Chaz Leary, a ubiquitous local player whose exclusion from the Jazz Fest lineup first sparked the idea.
Go to Chaz Fest. Go, so next weekend, when you’re cruising down Esplanade and see the legions of sunburnt tourists, with their brightly-colored nylon folding chairs and coolers meandering across the street like they took the parable of the tortoise and the hare a little too far to heart, you won’t be tempted to mercilessly run them over like so many henna-tattooed, Beach Boys-listening nutria.
Chaz Fest happens tomorrow (Wednesday, May 2), at 3020 St. Claude Avenue. Tickets are $25 in advance (at http://chazfestival.com/) and $30 at the door.