French Quarter Festival, the kid sister of the more popular Jazz and Heritage Festival, remains one of Southern Louisiana’s most cherished celebrations. Once one of NOLA’s best kept secrets, it is quickly becoming not only the locals’ favorite on the festival circuit, but it’s drawing in tourists from near and far.
The setting for the uniquely local, cajun-jazz-altrock infused line-up is the heart of The French Quarter. There are 21 stages scattered across 25 city blocks along the Mississippi River, in Jackson Square, amidst the Quarter’s French colonial buildings, throughout the French Market, and around the Old U.S. Mint.
There are even stages and venues set up for children, chalk-full of engaging kiddy activities like coloring and craft stations. Check out my friends’ daughter CeCe, the budding musician performer:
The festival, which lasts four days, is completely free. Some of the city’s best food and drink vendors set up shop all over the quarter, offering the Big Easy’s most delectable culinary delights at affordable prices. My favorites of the weekend were Muriel’s crawfish and goat cheese crepes (seriously good) and shrimp and eggplant stuffing. You can also purchase a daiquiri in a “souvenir” bottle with discounted refills.
My friend’s graphic T-Shirt company, Dirty Coast, sponsored the local band Rotary Downs. I had thoughts of LCD Soundsystem….
My favorite of the weekend, though, was enigmatic Amanda Shaw: a sassy cajun girl with a fiddle and a voice that simultaneously reminded me of Gwen Stefani and Yea Yea Yea’s Karen O. Check her out in this video! Get it, girl!!
I loved stumbling upon hidden stages tucked away inside historic buildings.
I’m quite embarrassed to say that, being from southern Louisiana, this was my very first French Quarter Festival. Being a Jazz Fest veteran, I can honestly say that I enjoyed the ambiance and cultural vibe of The French Quarter Fest infinitesimally more. Not to knock Jazz Fest; I’ll always love it. The lineup is consistently superb, and it’s one of the best music festivals in existence. The cons, though, are the heat/lack of shade, the overly congested Fair Grounds Race Course, and the cost ($50 a day, which is not too pricey, but its not free like FQF). As I write this, though, I’m talking myself into staying in Louisiana one more week to get to Jazz Fest once again.
Louisiana festival season is in full swing. Competing with Jazz Fest this weekend is Lafayette’s International Festival. Like French Quarter Fest, it’s a multi-stage, free event. Unlike both the French Quarter and Jazz Fests, the bands are international. Hmmm, now I can’t decide what I want to do this weekend!!
If you were me, which festival would you attend this weekend? Let me know in the comments section below! You might help sway my decision!!
Check out my other posts on great American music festivals.
Thanks for reading!