There was a moment early in the afternoon of the last Sunday of New Orleans’ first post-Katrina Jazz Fest when it appeared to me that everything about the event, my perception of it, and even my hopes for the damaged city I’ve come to call home for the past ten years, changed dramatically. I was standing just outside the Economy Hall tent listening to the Trémé Brass Band, one the city’s oldest and funkiest old-time-jazz aggregations, when it started to rain.
Up to that point, the festival had managed to avoid bad weather. First, it outlasted an early heat wave that had collapsed a week and a half earlier, just as music fans began streaming into the city, then it successfully dodged heavy periods of rain that fell overnight on the first weekend. Another wave of rain showers had passed immediately north of the city on the second weekend. Now, however, it seemed the festival’s luck had pretty much run out.