With the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival starting this Friday, April 22nd, New Orleans is bracing for what will be a solid ten-day marathon. Those who have attended before tend to return for years to come, as the nearly two week cultural adventure is packed to the brim with once-in-a-lifetime experiences. From the music, to the food, to the flowering streets of New Orleans’ finest time of year, Jazz Fest is a big check off the bucket-list and not to be missed out on.

So, how does one prepare for such a decadent adventure? We reached out to some of our favorite New Orleans musicians, The Revivalists, for their professional advice on how to make the best out of our upcoming experience. With music happening nearly 24 hours a day, every day of the week, only the most accomplished New Orleans musicians and party-goers can provide the inside scoop on how to best survive Jazz Fest 2016.

The Best Shows Around New Orleans During Jazz Fest 2016

To see for yourself, you can catch the septet performing live in their own city both at the fairgrounds and during the late-night shenanigans. While they are scheduled to play the Orpheum Theatre with Vulfpeck and The Soul Rebels on Saturday, April 23, at 9pm (tickets) and at the Gentilly Stage on Friday, April 29 at 3:40pm (tickets), you never know where else the guys will show up masking the spirit of Jazz Fest-ivities. 


L4LM: What does it physically take to get through a Jazz Fest? What’s your secret to staying alive?

Rob Ingraham (Saxophone): Grit. Neither abstinence, nor sobriety, nor hair of the dog, nor any ungodly cocktail of research chemicals and superfoods can get you through the ‘Fest if you don’t have the mental fortitude to grind your fist into the mat and push yourself back up after a long night. That said, sometimes you do need to be smart and pick your battles. In the words of General Oliver P. Smith, “Retreat, hell! We’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in a different direction.”

Ed Williams (Pedal Steel Guitar): Mastering the 15 minute nap. Always a good skill around Jazz Fest.

David Melerine (Tour Manager): Gotta go with coffee. Add in yoga and naps and I’ll live forever (L4LM TIP: Oteil & Kofi Burbridge are leading a yoga class on 4/29)

Michael Girardot (Keyboard, Trumpet): Drinking lots of water, sleeping enough, having a great pair of shoes, and keeping dry. Remember, Jazz fest is 10 days and nights.  You’ve got to balance your relaxation with your party. Don’t push yourself to make it to the 2 a.m. if its going to make the next day miserable. Take care of your body, and your body will take care of the dancing.

Andrew Campanelli (Drums): Jazz Fest is a marathon so when you find yourself between shows, use that down time to relax and cool off. Naps can be crucial. 


L4LM: What’s the first thing you do when you get to New Orleans during Jazz Fest?

Andrew Campanelli: Its best to get in a day early to settle in by perusing the night show listings while eating a Parkway Po-Boy on Bayou St John.

Ed Williams: I immediately go grab some crawfish bread. I love that stuff. A couple of years ago I ate like 4 of them. Had to go home early that day, I would recommend keeping it 3 or under.

Rob Ingraham: I live here, so I’m usually around before the festivities start. If we have any guests coming, we’ll buy a few extra provisions and prep the house, but fortunately Jazz Fest isn’t as hectic as Mardi Gras, and people don’t ransack the grocery stores like they’re prepping for Armageddon, so we don’t really need to stock up at home. Upon arriving at the fairgrounds, I like to hit the ground running, grab a drink, and find some music.

Michael Girardot: First thing I do when pulling up to Jazz Fest is to find a place to lock up my bicycle. Parking, cabs and transportation can be a headache to deal with, but if have a bicycle and are close enough, biking is absolutely the best way to get to the fairgrounds.

David Melerine: Laundry, because I’m probably wrapping up a tour.


L4LM: What’s the one thing you always forget to bring?

All: Sunscreen and a phone charger.


L4LM: Fairgrounds or late-nights? Suggestions on how to survive doing both?

Andrew Campanelli: You can find anything you want in the night shows that follow the festival but Jazz Fest is very much about what happens at the fair grounds. The tone set at the first Jazz Fest when Mahalia Jackson spontaneously joined Percy Humphrey and the Eureka Brass Band for “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” fuels unique shows full of guest appearances. The festival ends early enough that you can have dinner and regroup before heading to a wide range of night shows.

Rob Ingraham: Both are essential. They’re both so different, too. The festival itself is like no other (and I’ve been to a lot of festivals), and the late-night scene is a festival unto itself- it’s a unique opportunity to see some amazing, unheard-of collaborations. That said, you don’t have to do both in one day. Feel free to skip the fairgrounds and explore the rest of the city before heading out to night shows, or, after a long day at the fairgrounds, go out for a nice, big meal (New Orleans has food, by the way) and turn in relatively early. Or just take a nap between the ‘Fest and the afterparty. The world is your oyster po-boy (I can’t believe I just wrote that).


L4LM: Make a schedule or go with the flow?

Michael Girardot: Bring a paper copy of your grid and mark which acts you have to see and which acts you’re interested in and study the festival map in advance. Then plan your routes to catch as much of your list as possible. I often find my favorite new band just by walking by a stage on the way to something else. That’s my favorite part of festivals.

Rob Ingraham: For the fairgrounds, it really helps to have a plan of action. Not just what acts you want to see, but also things like when to get food, or when to visit any sort of semi-exclusive hospitality tent you may have weaseled your way into. That said, one of the best things you can do for yourself at Jazz Fest (or any music festival) is give yourself some time to bounce around and check out acts you’ve never heard of. You might discover a new favorite! At night, I like to have one or two destinations at most, and then just sort of follow the wind.

Andrew Campanelli: The best way to do Jazz Fest is to prioritize a few artists you really want to see each day and allow time to explore the Fais Do-Do, and Lagniappe stages while trying keep your crawfish bread intake within the limits of social acceptability.


L4LM: What do you say to people who think “you can’t make every show”?

Michael Girardot: Hello Friend, you’ve probably done this before.

David Melerine: Hard to argue with the truth.

Andrew Campanelli: It is impossible to see every show, I’ve tried. Spreading yourself too thin can be stressful and result in missing a lot of what you want to see. Focus on a few shows and get tickets ahead of time. Beyond that keep your ears open and you’ll surely find what you’re looking for.

Rob Ingraham: I say, “but you can make it to see The Revivalists at the Orpheum Theatre on Saturday, April 23 with Vulfpeck, The Soul Rebels, and surprise special guests!” (L4LM TIP: Tickets – 9pm, $35) Nah, I kid, but really, I’d say those people are absolutely right. I’m generally not a huge planner but, as I said above, a little bit of forethought goes a long way to ensure that you make the most of your time here. Also, remember that at the fairgrounds, the posted schedule is the gospel. Late night, it’s more like A Song of Ice and Fire: pure fantasy and perpetually behind schedule.


L4LM: Favorite venue to see music during Jazz Fest?

Rob Ingraham: The city is perfectly saturated with all manner of incredible music opportunities during Jazz Fest, so you really can’t go wrong no matter where you end up. Be sure to get off the beaten path and catch a show or two in some of the smaller venues like The Hi-Ho, Chickie Wah Wah, The Prytania Bar, Les Bon Temps Roulé, Gasa Gasa, and The Maple Leaf. And of course, if you’ve never been to New Orleans before, you owe it to yourself to check out Tipitina’s. That place is where legends are born.
Andrew Campanelli: There are so many great venues new and old in New Orleans, but if its your first Jazz Fest it’s hard to parallel the vibe and history of Tipitina’s. 


L4LM: When turning in for the night, how late is too late?

Rob Ingraham: There’s no such thing as long as everyone’s having a good time. Just listen to your mind, listen to your body, listen to the bartender when he tells you you’re cut off.

Ed Williams: You have to see at least one sunrise during jazz fest. Two if you’re lucky.

Andrew Campanelli: Monday.


L4LM: The most important meal of the day is……?

Michael Girardot: All of them? Why would you skip a meal in New Orleans?

Rob Ingraham: Best taken in liquid form.

David Melerine: Coffee

Ed Williams: Second Breakfast

Andrew Campanelli: Crawfish Bread.


L4LM: Best place for crawfish?

Michael Girardot: Wherever Shaggy is set up. (L4LM TIP: He’ll be here April 25, 26, 27 along with George Porter, Jr., Jon Cleary, Nigel Hall, John “Papa” Gros, Billy Iuso & Restless Natives, Papa Mali, Eric Lindell, June Yamagishi, Raymond Weber, Tony Hall,  Anders Osborne, and more.)

Rob Ingraham: Try to find out if anyone you know in town (or anyone who knows somebody you know in town) is having a crawfish boil and show up with some beer and a smile (and maybe a mutual friend if you don’t know the host- New Orleans is a friendly town but there are limits).


L4LM: Best hangover cure?

Michael Girardot: Nothing can cure Jazz Fest hangovers. But you can avoid them altogether by drinking enough water. If it ain’t clear, DRINK MORE WATER!

Rob Ingraham: I love a good bottomless mimosa. My favorite drunk brunch spots are Apolline when I feel like going somewhere respectable and Warehouse Grill when I just want to eat some damned eggs while drowning under an endless tide of J. Roget

Ed Williams: Bloody Mary. Extra olives.

Andrew Campanelli: Water, some sort of green juice, air conditioning, po-boy of choice, bloody mary with okra


L4LM: If someone offers you beads for boobs, what do you do?

Andrew Campanelli: Leave Bourbon Street.

David Melerine: Leave Bourbon Street immediately.

Michael Girardot: Just walk past Bourbon Street and keep trying to find Preservation Hall or One Eyed Jacks.

Rob Ingraham: Freak the hell out because WHEN DID I GROW BOOBS?

Ed Williams: Be very confused how I suddenly have grown boobs, Go home and reevaluate my life.


Additional Tips:

Michael Girardot: Pick a meeting spot at the end of the day for all your clan if you get separated. Cell phones die, get lost, and can’t make calls sometimes, so pretend you’re back in 1999.
Be FRIENDLY! We try to be kind and hospitable down in New Orleans. If you’re a wanderer like myself, be polite and ask if you can stand and watch in someone’s tarped or chaired off area. They might even offer you a drink or a seat. If you’re a camper and are trying stake out a spot for the day be good neighbors and good guests to your fellow music lovers. You’ll make a new friend, and might even get some ice cold lemonade.

Rob Ingraham: Hydrate, gyrate, and say no to hate.

David Melerine: Tip!

Ed Williams: If you are coming from out of town and have never been, you have to go to Frenchmen street at least once. Don’t look who is playing, just pick a night and go and walk around. You want be disappointed, there is always incredible music their during jazz fest, and you never know who is going to show up to play. And while you are there get some tachos from 13 across the street from Blue Nile.

Andrew Campanelli: Everyone is here for the same reason so be prepared to make friends that you’ll see every year for the rest of your Festing days. 


Take Away Messages:

-Master the art of the nap.
-Bring additional phone chargers.
-Try crawfish bread.
-Go to Tipitina’s.
-Avoid Bourbon Street.