Jazzfest, New And Improved

Organizers hope a revamped version of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival will reverse the event’s fortunes after a devastating loss of $1 million last year.

With new partner AEG Live, longtime promoter Festival Productions is adding a broader lineup of performers; a VIP area featuring private restrooms, an air conditioned lounge, and special viewing areas; and a new stage dedicated specifically to New Orleans culture.

Other changes include the scrapping of nighttime concerts, which had been a financial drain, Festival Productions’ Quint Davis told The Times-Picayune.

After last year’s festival, where bad weather contributed to the event’s first loss since the 1970s, the board of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation began considering other producers, including AEG.

The board eventually chose to stick with Festival Productions but a week later, Festival announced that it would partner with AEG for the event. A final agreement between the two companies and the board wasn’t nailed down until January 27th, but the producers have been working on the festival since fall even as they continued to negotiate.

The 10-year contract is a change in itself from Jazzfest’s usual three-year agreements, the paper said.

Headlining acts on 12 stages include The Meters – who are reuniting for the first time in five years – as well as Dave Matthews Band, James Taylor, Elvis Costello, Nelly, Juanes, Wilco, Trey Anastasio, The Roots, Los Lonely Boys,B.B. King and dozens more.

“What could have ended in the ruin of the festival is headed in a good direction for the city, the state, the world, us, the board and the festival,” Davis said. “Not just good, but better. That was our goal: not just to survive, but do the best thing, from all the pain to make a Niagara Falls of lemonade out of a continent of lemons.”

The festival runs from April 22nd to May 1st.