Alright, I usually try not to use too many exclamation marks unless I'm really excited (or emailing a potential bridezilla).  However, I really do love Jazzfest in New Orleans.   It's the perfect mix of my favorite things in life- music, food, friends, and late nights of fun in the Big Easy.   In fact, they say that the best thing about Jazzfest is that when you leave Jazzfest, you're still in New Orleans.  Keri and I went last year and had an amazing time.  This time more of our friends were able to make it and all fit into a 2 bedroom shotgun house Uptown on Magazine street hosted by an amazing newly engaged couple (soon to be the Stedmans). 

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We'll start with the music.  Jazzfest is so big, it goes on for two weekends.  It is hosted at the Fair Grounds Race Course near City Park.  There are 11 stages ranging from Jazz, Blues, Rock, African, and Bluegrass music- so no matter who you are, there is music for you.  The fest goes from 11am to 7pm each day.  The beautiful thing there is that you have enough time to get home, shower, and eat before you consider your options for late night shows.  Clubs and bars all around town become flush with musicians all night long.  Most shows start around 10pm, but you do have the occasional 2:30am start time.  Keri and I heard Trombone Shorty and his band at 2:30am last year... needless to say the next morning at Jazzfest was rough.

This year we saw a number of acts during the day on Thursday and Saturday.  My personal highlight was early in the day Thursday when we were at the Lagniappe Stage (very few stages were easy to pronounce).  The Lagniappe Stage was one of the smaller stages, so it was easy for me to walk right up to the front and snap some pictures with my 5d and 70-200mm.  While I was there, I snapped this photo.

In addition to getting a few photos of the Mark Miller Band, I happened to catch a glimpse of something laying in the dirt at the edge of the stage... and it was an artist's backstage pass for the Lagniappe Stage!  It was cool that I found it, but there really was no need for a special pass at this stage.  The crowd was thin enough to get some close up shots. 

However, with a big ass camera, confidence, and something that looks like a backstage pass, you can just about get anywhere.  So our group headed to the Gentilly Stage for Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers.  When we arrived at the stage, we were surprised how packed it was for a 2:30pm show.  Apparently Steve Martin's immense TV and movie fame have been great for his music career.  There were very few spots for us to lay down a blanket, so we settled in toward the back in between a bunch of lawn chairs with a slight view of a big screen.  Once we got situated, I decided to try out my newly found artist pass (for another stage).  I made sure the camera  was in front of me as I charged through the crowd.  I worked my way all the way through to the front of the stage, passing two security guards who had no issues with me.  I jumped into the photo pit (literally a shoelace grab away from Steve Martin)... then I ran into this guy.  Not sure what his name was, but I could tell "you don't mess with Fess." 

After Mr. Fess literally charged at me like a warthog yelling "YOU! GET OUT!" I decided to step out of the pit.  I had a sticker that looked legit, but I couldn't fake the "photo pass" wrist bands everyone in the pit had on.  Luckily all I had to do was step just outside of the photo pit, which was still incredibly close to the stage.  From there I was able to snap these of of Steve:  


Steve and his "$500 set list" (an iPad) which included the song "King Tut."



After Steve Martin, Greg and I decided to take a little cat nap while the girls went to the port-o-potties and to get some food.  Once sound check was over, I jumped back up and headed again to the same spot for Elvis Costello.

There were some other shows we saw on Thursday, including the Paulin Brothers which was followed by a parade of the Paulin Brothers.

And in addition to these great bands, we also saw Blues Traveller in the blues tent (of all places- I know!).  This was another one where I just walked right up to the front with my large lens and no one argued.  It was awesome.

Now that you've seen the music photos, up next is the people, food, and city...