While hundreds of thousands of people from across the globe flock to the world-renowned 42nd annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival to catch national acts like Arcade Fire, Bon Jovi and Willie Nelson as well as local legends Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas and the Neville Brothers, a smaller, funkier and freakier festival is happening a few miles away in the 9th Ward - and it just so happens to rhyme with the larger music confab.
Chaz Fest is celebrating its sixth anniversary this Wednesday (May 4) at a communal property on St. Claude Avenue known as the Truck Farm in New Orleans' Bywater neighborhood. The homespun music and culture festival takes place mid-week between the two sequential Jazz Fest weekends and is produced largely by the property's residents and friends. An uptown boutique called Plum, owned by a neighbor of the Truck Farm, is the festival's primary sponsor.
The impetus for the festival began in 2006 when the event's namesake, "Washboard" Chaz Leary and some of his colleagues didn't make the cut for that year's Jazz Fest, which had been reduced from sevent to six days. The locals decided to stage their own event, originally with bands not invited to the larger music fair. The only requirement at Chaz Fest now is that each performer allow "Washboard" Chaz to sit-in for at least one song if he so chooses.
This year's Chaz Fest will include 14 acts on two stages with artists such as New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars, Schatzy, Narcissy and the Vaparaiso Men's Chorus (full line-up below). And though no exact numbers have ever been tallied, the organizers estimate roughly a few hundred people attend each year.
Though JazzFest food can be utterly sublime, Chaz Fest's comestibles would seem on par with offerings that include shrimp tacos, and crawfish bread imported from beyond the New Orleans' city limits. There's also a "Chaz-bah" lounge decorated by a costume and set designer who lives on the Truck Farm. Also adding to the smaller event's allure is solar power courtesy of South Coast Solar.
Tickets for the all day affair (noon to 10:00 p.m.) cost $30 at the door (half the Jazz Fest $60 gate fee).
Chaz Fest 2011 Line-up:
The Main Stage
12:30 - War Amps
1:30 - Mas Mamones
3:00 - Rory Danger and the Danger Dangers
4:30 - The Palmetto Bug Stompers
6:15 - Valparaiso Men's Chorus
7:45 - King James & the Special Men
9:00 - The New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars
The Bywater Juke Joint Stage
12:00 - The New Dopey Singers
1:00 - The Actioneers
2:30 - Sarah Quintana
3:45 - Helen Gillet and Other Instruments
5:30 - The Geraniums
7:00 - Schatzy
8:30 - Narcissy