Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 12, 2013
"Jazz Fest has a lot to learn from ACL."
Shaun Norris and Elizabeth Mills should know. The New Orleanians are regulars at the older music festival, which focused almost exclusively on regional heritage acts when it started in 1970, but now presents plenty of pop, rock and other genres.
"I think ACL’s better than Jazz Fest," Norris says. "First, they didn’t oversell it, so I can move from stage to stage. Also, the services are better, the beer is better, everything is better."
Mills nods in agreement.
"I like that they tell you right away at ACL where you can park your chair if you want to move into the no-chair zone," Mills says. "But I will say that the Jazz Fest staff knows more about the music. We asked questions here and the staff just didn’t know."
"I would also encourage ACL to put more VIP areas near the stage," Norris adds. "That said, ACL is a better experience. At least you can get to the VIP areas. Everybody observes the walking lanes. I love them both, but this festival is more civilized."
The crowds in New Orleans, the pair reports, tend to shrink and swell dramatically day to day.
"At Jazz Fest, they sell any-date tickets," Norris says. "But you don’t know which days will have the best acts and weather. They just have no idea how many people will show up on a given day."
The C3 organizers of ACL seem to adapt quickly to each year’s problems, be it lines, water, food, weather, sound or trash.
"It’s amazing to me how the mobile recycling crews just swoop in behind the crowds," Mills says. "In New Orleans, you can’t even move into the crowds. There are no natural lanes there."
Also, rain has nearly killed of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival — almost always extremely hot, too, in April and May — some years.
"When it rains there," Mills says. "Somebody loses a lot of money."
At least Mills and Norris admire the festival stamina back in NOLA.
"Here, I saw a muddy spot that was corralled off," Mills says. "One girl stepped on it and said: ‘Oh my gosh, it’s gross!’ In New Orleans, if you corralled off the muddy spots, there wouldn’t be anything left."