NEW ORLEANS-Is that Gavin Newsom playing piano with Branford Marsalis on the final day of Jazzfest?...naw, it's Harry Connick Jr....from where I was standing, it sure did look like Gavin. If Mayor Gavin was down here, he would run into enough San Francisco voters among the 400,000 music fans here to hold a good sized campaign rally. For the past few years the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, better known as Jazzfest, has been one of the more popular events with residents of San Francisco and it's not to hard to find someone wearing a San Francisco Giants cap, a 49er jersey or a t-shirt advertising a San Francisco club, street fair or something else that can only be found in San Francisco. Speaking of San Francisco clubs, for the past two weeks San Francisco's Boom Boom Room has been producing nightly concerts with a mix of San Francisco and New Orleans artists at the Blue Nile, a club on Frenchmen Street, a New Orleans neighborhood that could be described as a cross between Haight Street and the Castro, a low key version of Bourbon Street.
In past years Sunset Promotions, another San Francisco music production company, has produced shows during Jazzfest and both companies have worked with New Orleans artists to being the New Orleans vibe to San Francisco and to present San Francisco music to New Orleans.
This year's Jazzfest winds down just as San Francisco's outdoor music and festival season begins, with Carnival SF kicking things off over the Memorial Day weekend, followed by Juneteenth, Art and All That Jazz on Fillmore Street, the Gay Pride Festival, the North Beach Jazz Festival in August and many other events on the schedule between now and Halloween, the unofficial end to the San Francisco festival and street fair season. This year's festival season comes amid concerns by festival fans and promoters that current city policies and new proposed rules and fees could reduce in size or even force the cancellation of street fares and festivals.
City officials acknowledge that street fairs and festivals bring in millions of dollars from both tourists and local residents, but recently various City Hall officials have been pressured to increase charges for police and park rental fees, and there's concerns that the Park Commission will expand their ban on drinking in the park to the point that it could become impossible for any producer who depends on beer and wine sales or sponsorship to produce events in the parks. Music producers also say that much of city policy toward street fairs and festivals is being shaped by small but politically influential neighborhood community groups that complain that street fairs and festivals produce too much noise, trash and traffic.
New Orleans is still a disaster zone in many parts of the city, and the locals don't hesitate to let you know that much needs to be done and that the fairs and festivals in New Orleans like Jazzfest helps with the healing process. New Orleans people say that best thing that folks outside of New Orleans can do is to write their member of Congress and to urge them to keep Katrina relief efforts on the front burner and to ask people to visit New Orleans, see the damage for themselves and to spend money in the clubs, bars, restaurant and hotels; New Orleans depends on tourism more than San Francisco and people here say the more demand there is for hotel space and work in the bars and clubs, the quicker the call will come for New Orleans folks living in San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston and other parts of the country to come home.
The massive success of Jazzfest should remind The City that much of its reputation of the last part of the 20th Century was shaped by the music and musicians who played in the clubs, street fairs and festivals, and that killing off or downsizing The City's street fairs and festivals will hurt efforts by San Francisco companies like the Boom Boom Room and Sunset Promotions to promote San Francisco music and culture to the 400,000 plus fans here for Jazzfest not to check out the Boom Boom Room or other San Francisco club made famous by artists who received their first break at The City's street fairs and festivals.