Behind-the-Scenes in New Orleans with Festival VIP Robert Estes
Robert Estes traveled from Manhattan Beach, Calif., to the Big Easy to celebrate the second weekend of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (May 1-3, 2015). As a Mercury Insurance Festival VIP winner, he and his girlfriend, Lisa, arrived in the city a night early to meet up with AXS TV’s film crew and enjoy some free time before hitting the Fair Grounds for a weekend of music, dancing and food. Our sweepstakes winners continue the trend of being true music lovers – Robert estimates that he’s “attended approximately 12 festivals and probably over 200 concerts” in his life, including all genres of music in locations around the world. Last year was his biggest year for live music, attending seven festivals and 53 concerts. Now, he can check Jazz Fest off his list.
Q: What was the first thing you did once you landed in New Orleans and traveled to your hotel?
The film crew met us at the hotel and we began shooting the introduction to the vignette. After the filming, I had dinner at an amazing new restaurant called Square Root. It highlighted bite size dishes from meat to fish to vegetables to fruit. Great food and a wonderful experience!
Q: Where’d you stay in New Orleans?
It was an extremely nice Renaissance Hotel close to Bourbon Street in downtown. It was very accessible to the Fair Grounds! We usually took a taxi in the morning and rode the city bus in the evening back from the festival. It usually took about 20 minutes on the bus and saved hours waiting in line for a taxi. Others rented bicycles and kept them at the festival’s bicycle park.
You could tell from the stands [the Fair Grounds] usually hosted horse races. It was a very unique place to have a festival but ideal because of the proximity to the city.
Q: Who was your favorite act to see at the festival?
My favorite was Ed Sheeran. I saw him once before but his set this time was so much better! He has gained a huge amount of confidence and ability to communicate with his audience.
Q: Who were some of the performers you discovered at the festival?
The one group I really enjoyed seeing was called Johnny Sketen and the Dirty Notes. They were a great mix of jazz and alternative.
Q: Did you get a chance to meet any performers or see any celebrities?
We were bouncing around from concert to concert. I did not get to meet any performers one-on-one but we were really close to several of the main artists: Elton John, No Doubt, Estelle, Ed Sheeran, and Chicago.
Q: New Orleans is a unique place. Natives, people who move there, and frequent visitors have been known to say “only in New Orleans.” Did you have an only in New Orleans moment while you were there?
I guess the “only in New Orleans” moment I had was coming across Buffalo style oysters in a local restaurant. The oysters were deep fried with buffalo sauce and served on a shell. It was delicious but a completely different style of oysters than I have ever had.
Q: New Orleans is known for live music – one can see it every day of the week. Did you go to any local clubs?
The local clubs were terrific! The culture and spirit showed through in all the music. Jazz was apparent everywhere, but I felt more included into the rhythm of the city in the local venues.
Q: As an avid music fan and concert- and festival-goer, how did Jazz Fest differ from your other experiences?
Jazz Fest was more inclusive of families and ages. Most festivals such as Coachella, Lollapalooza, Bumbershoot, etc., are more for young adults and older. I saw families with young children and newborns in strollers, as well as grandparents dancing in the crowd. It was a very unique and fun mix of people.
Q: How’d you spend your downtime (both at the festival and afterwards) if you had any?
Between concerts at the festival, I took full advantage of the great New Orleans cuisine. The crowds were also much thinner on Friday so I found a great place to rest and get shade. I took a short nap while listening to some of the jazz and blues artists.
The evenings allowed for a great chance to see the city. I spent time in the French Quarter and took a run along the waterfront. It was so much fun seeing all the different types of people and styles of housing.
Q: What was your favorite thing to eat while in the city?
Has to be the crawfish etouffee! My mouth was watering before I could even get off the plane J
Q: Anything else you want to add?
A few things that really stood out were the friendliness of the people and [their] willingness to share their experiences. We met people native to New Orleans and those who travelled around the world to be a part of the festival. Everyone was there for a good time. The feeling of the festival was that of excitement and genuine hospitality. I could have not asked for a better experience!