This year, the Cajun splurged big time and decided to experience New Orleans Jazz Fest as a “Big Chief.” As a total music lover and die-hard New Orleanian, the Cajun was bummed about missing Jazz Fest over the last couple of years while sailing with the Pirate in the Caribbean. This year was not to be missed! The musical line-up included favorites such as Florence + the Machine, Better than Ezra, the Eagles, the Foo Fighters, the Zac Brown Band, the Neville Brothers, Jon Cleary, Bonnie Raitt, Cee-Lo Green, Ezmerelda Spaulding, Bruce Hornsby, Grace Potter, Ziggy Marley and many others. Since there were so many great artists on the schedule, we couldn’t pick just one day. We had to go to all of the them! Therefore the decision was made to break the bank and go in style as a Big Chief.
What does the Big Cheif Experience at Jazz Fest entail? First it means your own private, air-conditioned bathrooms. This is quite important when you consider that there are 70,000+ people at the fest on a given day and that they are all consuming large quantities of beer in 90 degree heat and sharing a handful of port-0-lets. Another big plus was that we had our own viewing tents at the major stages which were covered and raised and furnished with comfortable chairs, ceiling fans and a bar for drinks and snacks. You are always guarenteed a dry spot to sit and a good view of the band. This is also a huge benefit as it allows you to move from one stage to another to follow the bands you like and not have to worry about finding a good spot or staking your claim on an area and hanging out there the entire day only to have rude people come and encroach on your space ten minutes before the headlining act starts at the end of the day. A third benefit is the air-conditioned Big Cheif lounge where there is a full service bar and lots of delicious freebies each day (gelato, chocolate covered strawberries, pies, pralines, etc.). I cannot tell you how nice it was to have a place to go to get out of the stifling heat and cool-down. It is also a great place to bring all of the delicious food you purchase on the fairgrounds and eat it at a real table.
Is the Big Chief Experience worth the astronomical cost? That depends. If you truly love the musical line-up and want to go to the Fest all-day everyday it may be worth it. If you want a place in the shade and out of the crazy, hot New Orleans sun while you enjoy the music, it may be worth it for you. If you drink alot and therefore have to make frequent trips to the bathroom- it is definitely worth it 🙂
It is not for you if you like spending time at the smaller stages and tents as they do not have special seating set aside at those areas. Also, if you really enjoy the feel of being absorbed in the crowd or hanging with a large group of friends at the Fest, then Big Chief is not the way to go. Finally, if you like to split your Fest experience by going one day during the fist weekend and one day during the second weekend and not 3 or 4 days in a row, then Big Cheif doesn’t work for you.
For us, it was an awesome experience and we look forward to doing it again next year if the musical line-up is there and we find ourselves in New Orleans during the last weekend in April or the first weekend in May.. Gotta love New Orleans!