I’ll have it known that I was at Woodstock ’94, wading among 350,000 of my closest friends and rocking to Primus, Nine Inch Nails and Metallica. I’ve been to two Lalapallooza shows. I’ve been in my share of pits and general admission melees for many bands. I’m not a flyweight when it comes to crowds.
Which is why, standing asshole-to-elbow between the stage and the wall on Gibbs St, just trying to make our way around the stage that blocked the entrance, my experienced eye saw a situation that one well-timed cherry bomb or beer-spilling fist fight could easily have spun into a dangerous, embarrassing and potentially costly mini-riot. Was I the only one?
This is not the way to see a jazz show. If I’d been this crushed to see a metal show, well, I would have expected it. But I wanted to suck down some cheap wine, groove out to some laid-back music and watch the ladies dance. There was no doing that on Gibbs St last night. In fact, there was no one dancing on Gibbs St, that I could see.
In fact, the whole setup was surreal in its sheer stupidity: everybody knows that the Jazz Fest happens “on East Avenue,” but the stage on Gibbs was actually at the end of East, blocking traffic. Two narrow passages, less than twenty feet wide, were the only admittance for those of us coming from East – and there were a lot of us – into the stage area. As it turns out, the other end of the street was blocked by a huge structure that was home to the Xerox Tech Center. So, an entire street is completely blocked off – on both ends – in a festival?
We ended up going around and using the passage down Barret Place, where they had the toilets lined up. Pleasant…
Inside the stage area, it was filled with food vendors and people, packed nearly as tightly as our first ill-fated entry. Smoke, steam, heat, densely-packed humanity. The recipe for a relaxing jazz experience if ever there was one. We ended up sitting in the “Tech Center” at the non-sequitur coffee bar, deciding what we wanted to do to regroup. We were actually there for the Trombone Shorty show that was on Chestnut, but frankly, the night to that point had been such a buzz-kill that it seemed better to just catch a jazz show at Bistro 135. Which is exactly what we did.
I hope people had a good time – I know a few people on Twitter said they enjoyed last weekend’s festivities. But for myself, this just wasn’t a jazz experience at all. In fact, walking back to our car on Prince St, my wife remarked that everyone heading into the festival looked chipper and happy, whereas those of us leaving all had the same dour expression of resignation. That’s not a recipe for a lot of return customers.