A citywide event known as NOLAxNOLA (in a nod to SXSW music and film festivals in Austin, Texas) opens Thursday (Oct. 7).
To help fill in the void created by the cancellation of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, it is presenting 251 concerts — maybe more, check this link — around town during the 10 days that would have been filled with Jazz Fest and performances galore in clubs and other venues.
Of the more than two dozen local venues, five are located Uptown. Gasa Gasa, the Maple Leaf, NOLA Brewery, Rock ‘n’ Bowl and Tipitina’s will hold a combined 29 shows over the 10 days.
The series is the brainchild of New Orleans & Company, formerly known as the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Sig Fest Events. Co-founder Sig Greenebaum is a music and festival producer with the Voodoo Music Experience, among others, to his credit.
NOLAxNOLA co-founder and producer Paul Peck points to just how strong the New Orleans music community is, and how it stretches across many neighborhoods and venues. “I see music as the lifeblood of the city,” he said, “and it has been tough going for them. Jazz Fest was going to be the light at the end of the tunnel because, as we know, visitors to the Fest also flock to venues afterwards.”
Sig Fest Events wanted to help support the venues and the musicians, so the idea of NOLAxNOLA was formed. “It’s a true coalition,” Peck said. He credited Stephen Perry, president and CEO of New Orleans & Company, and Ben Jaffee, the creative director of Preservation Hall, as being instrumental in making the event come together.
Kelly Schulz, the senior vice president of communication at New Orleans & Company, echoed Peck’s view on the New Orleans music community. “There is no New Orleans without New Orleans music. And it helps drive our economy and supports local businesses,” he said.
This extravaganza of local music aims to bring revenue to clubs and musicians in the face of cancelled gigs by drawing visitors to town and drawing locals back into the clubs.
All the regulations in place in New Orleans to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus will be enforced. The venues all require proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test within 72 hours. Masks are required when not eating or drinking.
New Orleans & Company addresses the pandemic head-on in a press release: “We want locals to have safe venues to attend shows and we will promote to travelers that they keep their travel plans, while following all vaccination and safety guidelines, because the shows must go on.”
Organizers hope NOLAxNOLA (pronounced “Nola by Nola”) will become a national model of how to safely present music during the pandemic. Locals and visitors are asked to get vaccinated and thereby help bring back New Orleans’ beloved live music scene.
“We hope to make this an annual October event,” Schulz said, “as Jazz Fest goes back to its regular spring schedule.”
Gasa Gasa will present 10 shows, featuring a variety of groups such as the Lisbon Girls with Dana Ives and Nile Aston and the venerable blue guitarist Little Freddy King, who turned 81 this summer.
For their two events, the NOLA Brewing Company plans a tribute to Jimi Hendrix, 51 years after his death, and a blues experience.
The Maple Leaf will present the renowned blues piano player and composer Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen.
Rock ‘n’ Bowl opens its five shows with Cowboy Mouth. The closing act is singer-songwriter Marc Broussard, sometimes described as “Bayou Soul” with his mix of pop, rock, funk and blues.
Tipitina’s is hosting a total of 11 concerts, starting with Anders Osborne and ending with Dumpstafunk. The lineup includes Shorty Fest featuring Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue.
The entire NOLAxNOLA lineup and links to purchase tickets can be found here.