Mid-City residents disappointed in the cancellation of the October Jazz Fest now have something to look forward to. A citywide event known as NOLAxNOLA (in a nod to SXSW music and film festivals in Austin, Texas) opens Thursday (Oct. 7).
To help fill in the void created by the cancellation of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, it is presenting 251 concerts — maybe more, check this link — around town during the 10 days that would have been filled with Jazz Fest and performances galore in clubs and other venues.
The Broadside, at 600 N. Broad St. and the Zony Mash Beer Project, at 3940 Thalia St. are among the local venues selected to participate, and they will present some of New Orleans’ best loved musicians.
The series is the brainchild of New Orleans & Company, formerly known as the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Sig Fest Events. Co-founder Sig Greenebaum is a music and festival producer with the Voodoo Music Experience, among others, to his credit.
NOLAxNOLA co-founder and producer Paul Peck points to just how strong the New Orleans music community is, and how it stretches across many neighborhoods and venues. “I see music as the lifeblood of the city,” he said, “and it has been tough going for them. Jazz Fest was going to be the light at the end of the tunnel because, as we know, visitors to the Fest also flock to venues afterwards.”
Sig Fest Events wanted to help support the venues and the musicians, so the idea of NOLAxNOLA was formed. “It’s a true coalition,” Peck said. He credited Stephen Perry, president and CEO of New Orleans & Company, and Ben Jaffee, the creative director of Preservation Hall, as being instrumental in making the event come together.
Kelly Schulz, the senior vice president of communication at New Orleans & Company, echoed Peck’s view on the New Orleans music community. “There is no New Orleans without New Orleans music. And it helps drive our economy and supports local businesses,” he said.
This extravaganza of local music aims to bring revenue to clubs and musicians in the face of cancelled gigs by drawing visitors to town and drawing locals back into the clubs.
All the regulations in place in New Orleans to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus will be enforced. The venues all require proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test within 72 hours. Masks are required when not eating or drinking.
New Orleans & Company addresses the pandemic head-on in a press release: “We want locals to have safe venues to attend shows and we will promote to travelers that they keep their travel plans, while following all vaccination and safety guidelines, because the shows must go on.”
Organizers hope NOLAxNOLA (pronounced “Nola by Nola”) will become a national model of how to safely present music during the pandemic. Locals and visitors are asked to get vaccinated and thereby help bring back New Orleans’ beloved live music scene.
“We hope to make this an annual October event,” Schulz said, “as Jazz Fest goes back to its regular spring schedule.”
The Broadside, the Broad Theater’s outdoor companion, kicks off its series of six concerts with the jazz, funk and R&B sounds of guitarist and singer Walter “Wolfman” Washington & the Roadmasters, with the Johnny Sansone Band featuring Papa Mali.
Next up on Oct. 8 is Hep Cat Presents: Cimafunk + TBA, self-described as defying classification, “a pilgrim in search of new musical miscegenation and the reunion of black music.”
This is followed on Oct. 9 with Big Sam’s Funky Nation, when the bandleader and trombonist Sammie “Big Sam” Williams will present the band’s boisterous blend of funk, jazz, rock and hip-hop.
Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen grace the stage on Oct. 10, with the added attractions of Walter “Wolfman” Washington, James Rivers and Nigel Hall.
On Oct. 14, the Honey Island Swamp Band takes fans back to the 1960s and 70s with “Dark Side of the Swamp,” a riff on the iconic 1973 Pink Floyd album “Dark Side of the Moon.”
The concert series closes out on Oct. 16 with the contemporary brass sounds of the Soul Rebels.
Just down the road, the Zony Mash Beer Project starts things off on Oct. 9 presenting the funk rock group Flow Tribe. Next up on Oct. 11 is A Tribute to Eddie Bo and the Lost Legends of New Orleans Funk. Events at Zony Mash conclude with more funk: The Future of Funk Under 30 All Stars hits the stage on Oct. 14.
The entire NOLAxNOLA lineup and links to purchase tickets can be found here.