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Bill Charlap & Gary Hobbs at the Earshot Jazz Festival

On the day of the concert, Roy was euphoric. He was clapping his hands and tap dancing in the green room. Come showtime, he delivered a sublime performance.

A small but vital new pulse invigorated the 2005 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. A stage dedicated to the city’s unique traditions of Mardi Gras Indians, brass bands and social aid and pleasure club parade organizations sprang up on the Fair Grounds Racetrack’s grassy infield. Key to the original concept of the event itself, the venue was dubbed the Jazz & Heritage Stage.

The importance and delights of the new area were many fold. Though these energizing and culturally significant ensembles had participated at Jazz Fest since its inception, previously their performances were scattered around various festival sites. But at last they’ve found a home where, just as on the streets, they could meet and revel together. These traditions are, after all, kissing cousins of the streets. Black Indians are frequently participants and spectators at the weekly Sunday afternoon second-line parades that roll in New Orleans’ back-of-town neighborhoods. Likewise, members of the pleasure clubs and brass bands often support Mardi Gras Indian activities.

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