So begins the season of never ending opportunities for outdoor festivals – music, food, beer, Scottish, Irish, Renaissance. The State Fair? The list goes on, so that means I need to prioritize. Which ones am I going to? How long will I stay? Is this a 24/7 commitment or just a few hours of the day? How will I sustain myself, indoor or outdoor, walking shoes or sitting shoes?
This will be my third year being “all in” at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival and I have to say, this annual, Lowertown event makes my list of priorities clear and my festival planning easy.
The nature of this all free, open festival means I can walk all across Lowertown without standing in line, waiting for a wristband and having to go through security to reach the music. I can be inside the air-conditioned Big River Pizza hearing a solo artist, and then walk five minutes to Mears Park to be outside, surrounded by dozens of other listeners to hear a full band. I can make all these decisions based on what vibe I’m looking for, and with so many participating venues, the options are plentiful.
Next step of preparation, how do I prepare for the music? First, I hone in on the groups I know and love, and make my initial schedule from there. I might know musicians in this group or have seen them before and I can’t pass up an opportunity to see them again, outside, for free.
Of course, there is consideration of the headliners. Who do I want to see the full set of,do I want to sit and enjoy the full set, or stop by on the way to someone else? 2017 offers a well-balanced, and hefty, lineup of well-known jazz icons, like McCoy Tyner and Joshua Redman, with some newly established voices like Oskar Stenmark and AnatCohen, while also highlighting the local talent of Eric Kamau Gravatt.
I also want to leave room for discovery – what’s going on near the shows I plan to see, and who is playing? What are some venues I’ve never been into before but they are nearby? This is how I discovered local funk band PHO last year, and now they are on my list of groups to seek out around town any time of the year. The beauty of this festival is that it not only brings in world class, out of town artists to headline, but the wide range of local talent is what makes up most of the festival. It’s musically all inclusive.
With any festival, logistics are key to make it a smoother experience. You want to remember the sounds of McCoy Tyner’s solo on the last tune, not that you spent an hour driving around looking for parking. Have a spot in mind and an alternate route to get in and out of there. Remember the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market will kick off Saturday morning and be aware of Saints’ baseball games taking up more parking spaces (there are home games every evening of Jazz Fest). If you can, take a free GreenLine ride (don’t forget to download your complimentary pass here).
It’s a long weekend ahead of us, and a long summer season of festivals, and while I will try to prepare, plan, and pack my sunscreen and backup snacks, there’s also a certain level of improvisation and spontaneity that makes each festival experience unique. We hope to see you there!
Twin Cities Jazz Bio
Avid jazz listener and Twin Cities arts goer, Anna Buchholz works on the social media and marketing team for Twin Cities Jazz Festival as well as in event planning at Arts Midwest in Minneapolis. A Lawrence University alum, Anna studied jazz and classical saxophone and English in Appleton, Wisc. You will find her listening to the work of Maria Schneider, Fred Sturm, and Prairie Home Companion with Chris Thile.