New Orleans, Louisiana is gearing up to host Jazz & Heritage Festival. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, a/k/a Jazz Fest, is a 10-day cultural feast in which thousands of musicians, cooks, and craftspeople welcome 400,000 visitors each year. The Louisiana Heritage Fair showcases unforgettable music on multiple stages, delicious Louisiana cuisine in two large food areas, and crafts artisans from the region and around the world demonstrating and selling their work. The Louisiana Heritage Fair is held at the Fair Grounds Race Course over the course of 2 weekends. They are April 27-May 6th.
This festival’s ticket price is a STEAL at only $65 for a weekend pass. Purchase your ticket here!
Mikayla Braun: Local New Orleans Musician, performed Jazz Fest
Mikayla moved to New Orleans in 2012. Her aspirations were to grow and develop as a talented musician. Her voice has blossomed into a “sensitive yet compelling” richness flexible enough to fit most every genre. Her electric stage presence draws audiences in to make any venue feel intimate, while being able to “rip the roof off the joint with nothing but a voice and ukulele.” In addition to writing her own lyrically driven music and performing with her Quartet around the city, Mikayla is also the lead singer of New Orleans based band The Crooked Vines. You may even find her playing outside on the Mississippi River or on the streets of the French Quarter.
On April 26th of 2015, Mikayla was invited to play at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. I was able to speak with her about her performance, the uniqueness of the festival, and why she would recommend it to visitors.
Festival Squad: First and foremost, congratulations on having performed at Jazzfest. That must be a big accomplishment since the festival is held in such a high regard. Can you tell us a little bit about what it was like performing at Jazz Fest and how you were able to land a spot in the lineup?
Mikayla: Thank you so much! It was definitely a huge accomplishment, maybe the biggest honor I’ve had in my life. I’ve known about Jazz Fest since I was very young because my parents had been before, but I didn’t get the chance to attend until I moved to New Orleans in 2012. When I moved here it was definitely my biggest aspiration to be able to perform at the festival, but I figured it would take years. To be completely honest, I have absolutely no idea how I landed a spot. I had some original music up on my website and I was working hard to perform around the city, so maybe someone on the board came to see a show or two.
The day I performed was so special for me. I will remember that day for the rest of my life. I had put together my first trio specifically for that performance so there were a few nerves but really mostly excitement and gratitude. I had been going to Jazzfest almost all 7 days each year I had lived here- studying the musicians and their choices and stage presence and what they would say to the audience. It was incredible to be on the other side of everything leading my own group, talking to people in the audience and connecting with them through my original music. It seriously gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
FS: Not only did you have your own performance at the Lagniappe Stage but you also sat in with a few different acts. This seemed to be common at Jazzfest. Can you tell our readers a little bit about the culture of musicians in New Orleans and why “sitting in” is common and encouraged?
Mikayla: Yes, I sat in with an Afro-Cuban Jazz band called Otra at the Jazz and Heritage Stage. The leader of the band, Sam Price, saw that we were playing the same day and asked if I would sing a song with them and I eagerly accepted the kind offer. I can’t even remember how we initially had met, but I know I sat in with them once or twice before around the city. One thing that’s so magical about the city is the camaraderie amongst musicians. There really isn’t a competition. We look around and recognize that people love what they do, and instead of wanting to do better than each other we want to collaborate and play with each other. So if, for example, you take a walk down Frenchmen Street and pop into a venue and someone recognizes you as a musician- they are likely happy to have you sit in. It’s really a beautiful thing.
FS: As a musician and a New Orleans resident, why do you think Jazz Fest is so unique?
Mikayla: Jazzfest is unique because New Orleans is so unique. It does an incredible job of showcasing the cultural barriers of New Orleans, which is so important to uphold. It provides a chance for people who don’t know about the history of New Orleans music to experience the beauty of it. So much music that we hear every day has been influenced by musicians from New Orleans. Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, Mahalia Jackson, Earl King, Louis Armstrong, Allen Toussaint, James Booker, I could go on and on but there are just so many. Of course, there are internationally known headliners that come through which is awesome (Aretha Franklin this year to name one that I am personally so excited about) but the headliners are not what Jazzfest is all about. It’s about New Orleans and its roots. I know I’m not from here originally, but when I performed I did a solo cover of one Earl King’s compositions which may have been more moving for me than playing my original music. New Orleans music is just so special.
FS: What would you say to someone who is interested in attending Jazz Fest? What would you suggest they do to get the full experience?
Mikayla: My biggest tip for someone attending Jazz Fest would be to wander around without a totally set schedule. I’ve discovered some of my favorite bands by stumbling upon them at a random stage. The headliners can become so crowded anyway, sometimes it’s a great experience to be in a small crowd with new unique beautiful music. There are also interviews with local musicians throughout the day inside the racetrack building which is fascinating and very educational. If you have children definitely check out the kid’s tent! And of course try as much food as you can – and a mango freeze from Wwoz!
Festival Squad: Hey! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us about Jazz Fest. Our first question is, why did you decide to attend this year and what are you hoping to gain from it?
Carin: I’ve only been to NOLA once before and my friends talk about Jazz Fest every year. Everything fell into place this year with my friends, work schedule and I finally decided to pull the trigger! Our crew of 15 is pretty much coming from coast to coast. I typically see bluegrass music back here in Colorado but do love funk music – I’m excited to switch it up for a weekend and see a ton of funk/jazz! I’m mostly seeing bands I’ve seen before but am excited to check out some new venues and bands like Jon Cleary at the Maple Leaf. I’m probably going to gain 10 pounds after all the amazing food I eat as well.
FS: The Festival celebrates the indigenous music and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana. The music encompasses every style associated with the city and the state: Blues, R&B, Gospel, Cajun, Afro-Caribbean, Folk, Latin, Rock, Rap, Country, bluegrass… the list goes on and on. What are you looking forward to hearing the most?
Carin: I’m most excited for all the funk but I’ve also heard the Gospel tent is A MUST! We have two sets of late-night tickets for Fri/Sat (show at 9 pm then another show at 2 am) and I’m really excited to experience music in a different format – the ‘late late’ night. I’m so excited to see bands I’ve seen previously, like JRAD, at a new and unique venue Mardi Gras World. Last time I was in NOLA was a random time of year, before festival season, and I’m looking forward to getting a better taste for the culture of the city through music.
FS: I’ve been lucky enough to cover many different festivals- from 4- day camping in the desert to daytime family-friendly fests. That being said, I’ve never experienced anything like Jazz Fest. The culture, food, music, heritage shines through in every aspect. There is a ton to do in very little time. What’s is your “plan-of-attack?
Carin: We have an Airbnb with a private pool! That is the main detail I’ve been telling everyone. We will be there for 5 nights Wednesday-Monday and plan on going to the festival for two days. I’ve even heard the food at the festival is amazing but we are starting to look at restaurants for reservations as well. Our crew of 15 also has late nights for every night – some even late late nights (2am). I think it’ll be a perfect mix to check out some of the day festivals and then have the late nights to go to as well. One of my favorite places is NOLA Brewery – will definitely have to squeeze that in some time as well. Mostly we are going to go with the flow and see where the city takes us but we also are starting to have a set plan for certain days, which is a good mix between organization and time to just explore.
FS: If you could tell another festival goer why they should attend Jazz Fest once in their life, what would you say?
Carin: I feel like I’ve been hearing about Jazz Fest for a long time, dating back to when I was a kid. There are a ton of festivals out there I’ve attended multiple years but Jazz Fest seems to be put on such a pedestal. I’m expecting there to be a huge variety in festival-goers which I’m really looking forward to. This festival also seems like it really puts effort into showing attendees the culture that is New Orleans and I think that is pretty unique. For example, if you are going to Bonnaroo, they aren’t really trying to showcase the culture of Tennessee. I’m really looking forward to hanging outside in warm weather, eating delicious food and checking out a ton of new music both at the festival and around the town!