Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Where's the jazz?

With all due respect to Clara Peller in her Wendy's "Where's the Beef" commercial.

The Monterey Pop Festival was appropriately named. It included artists from many genre.

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival connotes jazz and NOLA-themed music, however in today's headliners announcement I saw only one bonified jazz artist and a few New Orleans roots artists. The rest come from pop / soul / alt country / rock....all over the music spectrum. One would think many stellar jazz and NOLA roots artists would be featured at a festival with the words "jazz" and "heritage" in its name.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Over the past few years, and at an accelerating rate, I've noticed festivals are straying away from their origins, presenting fringe (relative to them) artists. It is obvious that this is done to attract new patrons. If a festival wants to try to be all things to all patrons, that's their marketing choice. Just be square with the patrons in the advertising. If the music genera is not the same as the festival name, change the the festival name to encompass what you are - like "Monterey Pop". But as long as the festival name contains just one descriptive word like"folk" or "bluegrass", stay true to the genre.

Festivals like the Falcon Ridge FOLK Festival and the Grey Fox BLUEGRASS Festival and the Rhythm n Roots Festival (Cajun, zydeco and blues) start selling tickets in December at a reduced price to induce early sales for their July (FRFF & GF) and Labor Day weekend (RnR) dates. Many patrons buy on blind faith, knowing management will stay true to the art form. These festivals have the most loyal and knowledgeable fans immaginable, and have a special responsibility to staying true to their names.

I am a strong supporter of the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival , but recent posts in its forum proposing AAA pop artists be booked are very disturbing. In these days of "singer/songwriters" who the general public may confuse with traditional and revival "folk" music, I am sure FRFF's artistic director will filter the pleas for the more extreme popish artists and stay as true to the genre as she can. With regard to some recent Falcon Ridge artist selections, one traditional folk artist put it to me this way: "(they are) contemporary pop artists booked into a folk festival, trying to sound like rock stars, and doing a pretty poor job of it, too."

At least NOJHF announced that artists and ticket sales at the same time, that way patrons know what they are getting.

And with all due respect to Theodore Bikel, Oscar Brand, Pete Seeger, George Wein, Albert Grossman, another festival that would be wise to change its name is Newport, from "folk" to "pop" or "top 40". But that is a subject for another time.

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