[JPL] New Orleans Jazz Fest 2012 lineup shows producer Quint Davis is on top of his booking game

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Sun Dec 18 12:48:29 EST 2011


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> New Orleans Jazz Fest 2012 lineup shows producer Quint Davis is on top of his
> booking game
> Published: Sunday, December 18, 2011, 5:00 AM
>  By Keith Spera, The Times-Picayune
> Remember when Santana, the Allman Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison, Jimmy
> Buffett and B.B. King seemed to be in permanent rotation as the New Orleans
> Jazz Fest's main stage headliners? All worthy artists, certainly. All
> deserving of their formidable reputations as live performers. All responsible
> for many memorable moments at Jazz Fest.
> 
> CHRIS GRANGER / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE'I'm doing a lot more of the booking, more
> than I ever have,' says Jazz Fest producer/director Quint Davis, seen
> introducing Robert Plant last spring.
> But there's a whole lot more out there.
> 
> The roster of the 2012 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by
> Shell confirms that the fest's producers have embraced that notion.
> 
> The three most prominent names on the bill -- the Eagles, Tom Petty & the
> Heartbreakers and the Foo Fighters -- are Fair Grounds first-timers.
> 
> These new faces aren't necessarily new. Petty is 61. The Eagles' Don Henley is
> 64. But both front storied American rock bands that still fill arenas with
> songs that will populate rock radio as long as rock radio exists.
> 
> More telling is the diverse, second tier of Jazz Fest's "visiting" artists:
> Jill Scott. My Morning Jacket. Florence + the Machine. Bon Iver. Janelle
> Monae. Feist (she of the ubiquitous "1-2-3-4" iPod commercial). Grace Potter &
> the Nocturnals. The Zac Brown Band. Ne-Yo. Iron and Wine.
> 
> Ten, or even five, years ago, these names meant nothing to most music fans.
> Now they are more than deserving of a place at the table.
> 
> Their inclusion is indicative of the evolution of the Jazz Fest in general and
> Quint Davis, its producer/director, in particular.
> 
> Quint Davis was a Tulane University student when George Wein, the legendary
> founder of the Newport Jazz Festival was enlisted by New Orleans civic leaders
> to create the New Orleans Jazz Fest. Wein hired Davis to round up artists for
> that first, humble gathering in what is now Armstrong Park in 1970. Davis
> gradually assumed more and more responsibility.
> 
> For many years now, he's been the festival's public face and prime mover. His
> immersion in indigenous music from New Orleans and beyond, coupled with his
> business acumen, enabled the fest to thrive and grow. The Jazz Fest's
> personality is largely a reflection of his own.
> 
> But after decades on the job, complacency crept in. By the early 2000s, the
> fest clearly was in need of new energy. Nearly being fired in 2004 by the
> nonprofit foundation that owns Jazz Fest proved to be Davis' wake-up call.
> 
> The upshot of that drama was that his Festival Productions Inc.-New Orleans
> was compelled to partner with AEG Live, the international live entertainment
> conglomerate.
> 
> With AEG's backing, Jazz Fest stepped up its game. A succession of previously
> unobtainable, high-profile acts have since cycled through the Fair Grounds:
> Billy Joel. Bruce Springsteen. Pearl Jam. Bon Jovi. Rod Stewart. Tim McGraw.
> Simon & Garfunkel. Brad Paisley. John Mellencamp. Lauryn Hill.
> 
> Several staffers in the local and Los Angeles offices of Festival Productions
> select and book bands for Jazz Fest. But in recent years, Davis has taken on
> the task of choosing most Acura and Gentilly stage headliners himself.
> 
> "I'm doing a lot more of the booking, more than I ever have," Davis said this
> week. "It's something I never did, something that I never thought I would or
> should do."
> 
> Davis does not operate in a vacuum. These days, he is reportedly more open to
> suggestions from younger members of his staff, including his "consigliere,"
> David Foster, Festival Production's new media guru. And YouTube, Davis notes,
> has made educating himself about what's out there much easier.
> 
> He also consults extensively with executives at AEG Live. It is AEG's business
> to know which acts are rising, which are waning, how many tickets they are
> selling, how much they are grossing and how much they should be paid.
> 
> Davis ultimately selects Jazz Fest headliners -- pending approval of the
> multimillion dollar talent budget by the fest's owners, the New Orleans Jazz
> and Heritage Foundation -- but AEG is an invaluable resource.
> 
> "AEG," Davis said, "is there for us 110 percent."
> 
> It was Larry Vallon, AEG's senior vice president for national booking, who
> introduced Davis to ethereal indie-folk act Bon Iver, aka Wisconsin-based
> singer-songwriter Justin Vernon.
> 
> Bon Iver, aka Wisconsin-based singer-songwriter Justin Vernon, is in the midst
> of a big year. Hear Bon Iver at the 2012 New Orleans Jazz Fest.
> Bon Iver is on the brink of a breakthrough, Vallon told Davis months ago. You
> should consider the band for Jazz Fest.
> 
> Sure enough, Bon Iver's self-titled second album debuted at No. 2 on the
> national charts in June. When nominations for the 54th Grammy Awards were
> announced in November, Bon Iver received four, including song and record of
> the year and best new artist.
> 
> Come spring, Bon Iver will be at Jazz Fest.
> 
> AEG does not just anticipate up-and-coming artists. The company also
> facilitates Jazz Fest's pursuit of some of the biggest bands in the world.
> 
> Vallon's working relationship with Tony Dimitriades, Petty's longtime manager,
> did not hurt Davis' campaign to finally bring the Heartbreakers to Jazz Fest.
> 
> "That's a big help to us," Davis said, "to have people who know people."
> 
> Booking bands is not as straightforward as ordering an entrée off a menu. Many
> variables come into play. Will the artist be on tour at Jazz Fest time? Is the
> tour's routing conducive to a New Orleans stop? Is the artist interested,
> available and affordable? (Paul McCartney? Not affordable. Rolling Stones?
> Neither affordable nor available. Eric Clapton? Maybe one day...)
> 
> Meeting these criteria is still not enough. Enticing top-tier acts who are
> unfamiliar with Jazz Fest is a painstaking process; the courtship may stretch
> months or years. Diligent managers and agents want to know exactly what they
> are committing their clients to.
> 
> "They're very thorough," Davis said. "Very exact, very detail-oriented. They
> all are at that level. It goes through many twists and turns. It's on, it's
> off. On, off."
> 
> Before Bruce Springsteen agreed to perform in 2006, his advance team visited
> the Fair Grounds to determine exactly what The Boss would see when he gazed
> out from the stage.
> 
> Before Petty confirmed, Jazz Fest staffers sent his management team aerial
> photos of the Fair Grounds site. Dimitriades was surprised to learn Jazz Fest
> closes at 7 p.m. That Petty would be performing in daylight was not
> necessarily a deal-breaker, but information he needed to know before making a
> decision.
> 
> The Eagles nearly agreed to perform at the 2011 Jazz Fest. Having been through
> the familiarization process once, Davis had a head-start for next year.
> 
> One major obstacle: The Eagles had no plans to be on tour in the spring of
> 2012.
> 
> But the four principal musicians, and their manager, Irving Azoff, still
> wanted to play the festival. And because Jazz Fest is a festival, the band
> didn't need to assemble its own production -- the stage, lights and sound
> system would already be in place. All the Eagles would have to do is show up,
> plug in and play.
> 
> (However, they may want to reconsider the matching suits they wore at the New
> Orleans Arena in 2009, and opt for more heat-resistant stage attire.)
> 
> The Foo Fighters initially planned to build a brief tour around Jazz Fest.
> Normally an act of that stature and price would headline the Acura Stage on
> one of the two Saturdays, the fest's best-attended days.
> 
> But when the Foo Fighters' reps reached out to Jazz Fest, Petty was already
> confirmed to close the Acura Stage on April 28 and the Eagles were slotted for
> May 5. In order to participate, the Foo Fighters would have to work around
> that reality.
> 
> They agreed. Then they scrapped their spring tour, but still wanted to play
> Jazz Fest. Make us an offer, their agent told Davis.
> 
> Davis made an offer. The Foos accepted.
> 
> And Jazz Fest had another new face.
> 
> The Festival Productions team tries to have all major acts confirmed before
> the release of the fest's talent roster. But even announcing certain artists'
> participation can be complicated.
> 
> The 2012 schedule unveiled Tuesday night contained two prominent TBAs. Those
> "to be announced" acts were confirmed, but wanted to make their own
> proclamations about upcoming plans. On Friday, the vibrations were finally
> good enough for one of those acts to step up: The Beach Boys, reunited with
> keyboardist and primary songwriter Brian Wilson, will kick off their 50th
> anniversary tour April 27 at Jazz Fest.
> 
> The other TBA likely won't announce his plans until January. So the festival
> accommodated him, in the interest of building a better overall show.
> 
> The drive to invest that show with fresh talent hit its stride in 2011, Davis
> believes. Seven months ago, Jazz Fest presented the likes of Arcade Fire,
> Mumford & Sons and My Morning Jacket, the Kentucky rock band that has embarked
> on a fruitful collaboration with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. My Morning
> Jacket, returning to the Fair Grounds in 2012, is now "part of the family,"
> Davis said.
> 
> Those sorts of acts also populate the Austin City Limits Festival, Chicago's
> Lollapalooza, Tennessee's Bonnaroo and Southern California's Coachella. What
> sets Jazz Fest apart is its preponderance of local talent.
> 
> But the "visiting artists" are what get people talking and entice new fans.
> Such longtime Jazz Fest veterans as Bonnie Raitt will likely always be part of
> the mix, but no longer carry the day.
> 
> In the not-too-distant past, B.B. King headlined the Acura Stage. His most
> recent Jazz Fest appearance, in 2010, was in the much smaller Blues Tent.
> 
> King wasn't demoted -- the whole of Jazz Fest was promoted. Jazz Fest now
> plays in the here-and-now big leagues.
> 
> And there's no turning back.
> 
> Keith Spera can be reached at kspera at timespicayune.com or 504.826.3470. Follow
> him at twitter.com/KeithSperaTP.
> 
> © 2011 NOLA.com. All rights reserved.




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