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Published: 2001/11/19
by Bill Kuntz

Can Too Much Jam Be More Than Enough? A Reflection on NOLAWEEN 2001

Returning to New Orleans for my third Halloween in a row, I can say it is
quickly becoming as popular as Jazz Fest in the groove scene. It’s like a
mini Jazz Fest lasting only four days. On Saturday there is the Voodoo
Fest.
Having four stages and hosting bands from several genres of music, the
festival is outside and lasts from 12:00 noon until 11:00 pm. There are
several early shows, and keeping with New Orleans tradition, several late
shows to choose from.
As I danced from show to show this Nolaween, I couldn’t help but notice the
lack of people in attendance. At Carlos Washington Giant People and Jive’s
show at Cafrazil there were no more than twenty-five people. At one
point during Carlos’s set, there were only seven people in the bar. I then
scurried on over to the warehouse district to the Howlin’ Wolf for a couple
of sets of fiery funk. I have never been to the Howlin’ Wolf when it wasn’t
packed. This year, it was empty, even on Saturday for the annual Mom’s ball
featuring Papa Grows Funk and Deep Banana Blackout.
Saturday, we headed over to the Voodoo Fest. Sunny afternoon with the high
temperature of seventy, the attendance was weak in comparison to last year’s
fest. Hustling over to the beautiful Saenger Theater to see Karl Denson’s
Tiny Universe and Robert Walters 20th Congress, the place was practically
empty. When Robert took to the stage, there were no more than one hundred
people in the Saenger. By the time KDTU came on, the crowd had thickened,
but only filled three-quarters of the floor. After the first set, ushers
and security left the isle doors allowing anyone with balcony tickets to
come down on the floor to get their groove on. The Saenger is a big place,
but again, I have never seen it so empty.
Sunday rolled around and we ended up at the House of Blues for some more
KDTU. Show time was 1:00-1:30. The band did not start until almost 2:30.
The reason: the place was empty. With a late start and an empty room, the
band ended the show playing only one funked-up set.
Analyzing my experience, I have this conclusion: #1. September 11, 2001 had a much larger effect on this country than I had
imagined. I think people are scared to fly. Unsure of the economies
future, I think many people did not want to spend the money to fly or drive
to New Orleans. I have had friends in Florida that have been laid off. I
can only imagine the affect this is having in the North East.
When money gets tight, entertainment budgets are the first thing to get cut.
Will this continue to have an affect on the jamband scene? Will the
smaller, bar touring jambands be able to survive? Live music is like a
religion to me, so EVERYONE please get out there and tithe. #2. Lakefront Arena offered on-site camping this year for the Wide Spread
Panic shows. This is a great concept: keeps people from having to drive
after partying, offers ease in getting to and from shows, and it makes the
"lot" scene "happen". I like this concept at Deer Creek, but not at
Lakefront. Lakefront is no less than a twenty-five minute ride from the
French Quarter or Up-town, and no less than a $20.00 cab ride. If you were
camping on-site, the cab fare alone would scare you away from the late night
shows, so would the drive if you were partying. What happened in my
opinion, people that were camping decided to skip the late shows. This
on-site camping had a negative effect on the late night scene. #3. I have always thought: the more bands the better. Not anymore!
After looking at the New Orleans schedule, I noticed there were
over twelve "jamband" shows listed on Friday night, with even more listed for Saturday.
This scene is still small. This leaves me to ask this question: why would anyone book so many
bands of the same genre to play on the same night? It forces the bands to
compete and it forces the promoters to compete. What effect does this have
on the bands? Playing to crowds of only a few people, it has to be
depressing to them as well as depressing to the wallet. What does this do
to the promoters? Loosing money on "jamband" gigs can’t be good, for them, or for
the scene.
Though lacking in attendance, again we left New Orleans having had a most
wonderful experience. Words cannot express the good times we had this year
and previous years in NOLA. Meeting old friends and new friends the North,
East, South, and West, New Orleans has become a place of worship for the
groove scene. I am looking forward to next years revival already.
Nolaween is growing like a sunflower on a hot summer day, but let’s go a
little light on the fertilizers or we may burn the roots.

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