The French Quarter Festival, the free four-day festival in New Orleans with 22 stages of music throughout the French Quarter, kicked off on Thursday and continued through the weekend, hosting over 800 local musicians for 250 hours of free music for over 500,000 festival goers.
While I’ve spent a fair amount of time in New Orleans, this was my first trip to the festival. For the three days that I spent on-site, each day included about an hour at Preservation Hall. The Hall was loaded with good tunes and heavy crowds throughout the weekend. Of note, the lineup included two sets from Aurora Nealand & The Royal Roses. On the first day, I happened to spot Ben Jaffe, director of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, who gave a glowing recommendation for Nealand’s set. Last time I was in New Orleans, I caught a set from Nealand’s former band, The New Orleans Moonshiners. Since then, she launched The Royal Roses, a band that has raised its profile inside New Orleans and out. Last year, the band released a tribute album for Sidney Bechet, one the first sax soloists in jazz (Spotify). Nealand also sings and plays on the fantastic soundtrack for the HBO hit series “Treme” (AmazonMP3 & Spotify).
Nealand and her Royal Roses delivered the most impressive set of my trip. Each of the band members shined with solos that demanded applause from a mostly tourist (and not so snobby) crowd in this holy of holies for NOLA jazz. This was the band’s second year at French Quarter Fest. The Hall doesn’t allow photography, but someone managed to sneak this video from last year’s performance. Check it. Learn more about Aurora here.