Jazz Fest 2013 Primer

Esperanza Spalding at 2012 Jazz Fest.

Later this week, Fender.com is heading to New Orleans to visit the Crescent City’s legendary Jazz and Heritage Festival at the Fair Grounds Race Course.

The first weekend of the event is packed with blockbuster headliners such as John Mayer, Billy Joel, Dave Matthews Band and Band of Horses.

Those bigger acts are definitely on our “must watch” list, as well as Anders Osborne, Gary Clark Jr., Sonny Landreth, Ian Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, the Rebirth Brass Band, Better Than Ezra, Calexico and the Honey Island Swamp Band. Add in tons of local artists proudly waving the banner for the rich musical tradition of the bayou, and no matter where you stake your flagpole, you’re sure to be entertained.

Better Than Ezra rock out at Jazz Fest 2012.

Staying outdoors all day in the southern oppressive humidity can start to damper your enjoyment, so here are some tips to get the best experience possible out of Jazz Fest.

Top Five Ways To Beat The Heat

1) Stay hydrated:  Even though it might seem super refreshing to quench your thirst with a cold draft beer, chasing any alcoholic beverages with a bottle of water will help keep the body cool.  And unless you want to keep dropping $3 a bottle, make sure to save your first and take advantage of filling stations. (Pro tip: The festival allows you to bring in a small cooler of full, unopened bottles of water, which makes life much more convenient.)

2) Wear sunscreen: Make no mistake, the sun at Jazz Fest is not playing around.  SPF is your best friend forever, the higher the better.  Because who can enjoy the rocking guitar stylings of Mayer when you’re covered in a sunburn.

3) Chill in the misting tent or grandstand: There are several misting tents that not only offer shade, but also delightfully-relaxing sprays of cool mist.  In addition, the grandstand is home to upgraded bathrooms, oysters on ice and seats in a shaded courtyard area.

4) Find the shade: Shade is a commodity at Jazz Fest, so if you can find a nice spot under a tree with a good view of a stage, think twice before giving it up. The Gospel Tent and Blues Tent are also good places to get out of the sun. Or, think about bringing an umbrella to create your own shade. To get even more authentic, make sure the umbrella has a fluer de lis on it. Remember, handheld umbrellas are allowed inside.

5) Dunk your bandana: Throw a bandana in your back pocket before leaving the house, because a soak in some cold water can provide relief when wrapped around the head or neck. It’ll dry pretty quickly, but the chilly rag is a nice respite.

Top Foods You Can’t Miss

1) Beginets, Café Au Lait from Café du Monde: An iced Café Au Lait is the perfect way to start each day, especially when paired with the powdered sugar-covered fried dough.  So trademark New Orleans.

2) Cuban Sandwich from Canseco’s Markets: If you’re walking around the grounds in between the main stages, the Canseco’s Cuban is a cozy hand-held sandwich of pork, swiss and pickle goodness.  A splash of hot sauce really kicks it up, too.

3) Any Po-Boy: Vucinovich’s Restaurant will be serving several variations, as well as Sharon & Guilherme Wegner and Crescent Catering, amongst others.  There is not a bad one in the house, whether it’s fried chicken, shrimp, duck, alligator, or soft-shell crab.

An umbrella representing New Orleans.
An umbrella representing New Orleans.

4) Shrimp and Grits at Fireman Mike’s Kitchen: NOFD Captain Mike Gowland has been cooking at Jazz Fest for around 10 years, and his Creole cuisine is a highlight each time he sets up his booth.

5) Crawfish Monica at Kajun Kettle Foods: A Jazz Fest staple, Crawfish Monica was created by chef Pierre Hilzim, who named the crawfish, cream and noodle dish after his wife Monica Davidson.

Things to Bring

1) A Blanket: Don’t settle for just sitting in the grass.  Grab a tarp or blanket to keep your cheeks dirt-free.

2) A Chair: Even better, what about a collapsible chair to get a little higher off the ground.

3) Cash: You’ll need to have the dollar bills at the ready for food, drinks, cabs, etc. Surely, you can get it at an on-site ATM, but why wait in line?

4) A Camera: But just make sure it’s not a professional recording device.  Your phone should suffice.

5) The official Jazz Fest app: Instead of carrying around a program that will undoubtedly get damp from your sweaty palms, take 30 seconds and download the schedule and map app. It will make life much easier.

6) Hand sanitizer: By the end of most festival weekends, the Port-a-Potty situation can get a little dicey. Just to be safe, grab some Purell.

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