Caveat: I have nothing against the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (except maybe its korporate funding by the Shell Oil Company) and wish it all the success in the world. Just wish it would change its name.
This blog entry is made as a follow-on to one made here in December (Where's the Jazz - with all due respect to Clara Peller), which was cross-posted to the NorthEastFolknRoots group (Where's the jazz?), when the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival lineup was first announced. The intent then being to stir discussion of non-core music genres being brought into festivals that do not contain the all-encompassing words "pop" or just plain "music" in their names (such as Monterey International Pop Music Festival and Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival).
Do "folk" and "bluegrass" and "jazz" festivals have more of an obligation to stay closer to their music genre than generic "pop" and "music" festivals?
"On a similar note, in the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival announcement I see only one bonified jazz artist and a few New Orleans roots artists. The rest come from pop / soul / alt country / rock....all over the spectrum. One would think several stellar jazz artists would be featured at a jazz festival.
If a festival wants to be all things to all patrons, be my guest, just change the name to encompass what you are - like "New Orleans Jazz, Pop and Heritage Festival". But if the festival contains just the word "folk" or "bluegrass" or "jazz" or whatever, stay true to the genre."
New Orleans is expanding its tent again. Announced yesterday, "Bon Jovi has been added to the has added New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival." What's next, will Gathering of the Vibes be adding the Lawrence Welk Band ? Does the booking of a non-jazz, non-blues, non-Cajun, non-zydeco not consume budget resouces that would otherwise be spent on jazz and "heritage" musicians?
(an aside, I just noticed that the New Orleans website is "nojazzfest.com" - looks like they are fulfilling that billing).
I'm sure (and hope, as the line-ups have yet to be announced) the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival , New Bedford Summerfest (an international folk music and arts festival), the Bread and Roses Festival , the Lowell Folk Festival, the Clearwater Festival and all the other northeast folk festivals would have better taste and sense than to present artists that far away from the core genre as Bon Jovi is to jazz, Cajun, zydeco and the blues. The Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival line-up announced so far, does that, kudos to Chuck and crew.
My answer to "Do these festivals have more of an obligation to stay closer to their music genre than generic "pop" and "music" festivals?" is an emphatic "yes"! At least the ones that launch ticket sales before artist lineups are announced. As an example, Falcon Ridge tickets go on sale February 8, but the announced artist line-up are just two bands that will be playing in the dance tent, and the four "most wanted" artists (winners of the 2008 "emerging" artist competition). Full artist announcement usually comes in May or June, 3/4 of the way between ticket sale start and the festival itself. To some degree it's a matter of dollars and sense and blind faith. But I trust Anne Saunders (Falcon Ridge Artistic Director and "queen of folk"), encourage folk fans to make their purchases now and take advantage of discounted ticket prices.
I have nothing against Bon Jovi, or Madonna, or Justin Timberlake, and I am amused when one of their ilk has a wardrobe malfunction on national TV or paparatzi records their driving with an infant in their arms or display of public intoxication, but I just choose not to patronize their "art" (and secretly wish the "sheeple" who follow such childish behavior would themselves display better judgment, but I digress). Some say the folk "tent" is so big it covers all music forms. To that I say "balderdash", in their hearts the "big tenters" really don't believe that, they must draw the line somewhere.
Adding young and "edge" acts attracts new and younger patrons, which makes sense from the business side, and supports folk evolution, and festivals have every right to do so, as long as patrons have the opportunity to see "core" performers at other venue sites at the same time.
Brining in "edge" acts also needs to be balanced by other factors, such as the type of crowd and any associated negatives a specific artist draws, as was discussed in the Falcon Ridge discussion forum some weeks ago.
Assuming you are a regular Falcon Ridge or New Bedford or Grey Fox-type festival patron, how would you react if one of these festivals were to add an artist as far away from the core genre as Bon Jovi is away from jazz and Cajun/ zydeco / blues? In other words, where do you draw the line? Which of the following best describes your position?
I am a/an....
A. LEMMING - Artistic directors can add any artists they wish, I will attend anyway, watch and keep my mouth shut.
B. BIG TENTER - I would tolerate it, but find something else to do while the aritst in question performed on the main stage.
C. MIDDLE OF THE ROADER - I'd probably go anyway, but grumble privately to friends.
D. LIBERAL - I'd alert my friends, start a petition to the artistic director, then go anyway and politely applaude the artist in question.
E. ANARCHIST - Demonstrate and aggitate during the performance.