In 2022, New Orleans entertainment and culture got their groove back | Events

Although the pandemic continues, 2022 was the year New Orleans got its groove back. The city officially ended indoor mask mandates in March, but Mardi Gras ran close to normal and some of the biggest celebrations returned in full form in the spring.

The Jazz & Heritage Festival has become one of the most anticipated markers of a return to normality, perhaps due to the planned and then canceled attempt to hold a festival in October 2021, as well as attracting many touring artists, from the rockers of arena to Ukrainian DakhaBrakha. But after the January talent announcement, it recalled the unpredictability of years past: The Foo Fighters canceled their appearance after the death of drummer Taylor Hawkins. Normally, the Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage would host a full lineup of musician interviews, but the regular lineup held indoors in the stands was not part of this year’s festival.

But in the spring, music legends like The Who, Stevie Nicks and Lionel Richie took to the Fair Grounds stages. Nicks dedicated the song “Landslide” to Hawkins as the crowd sang along.

The festival brought out its many facets. Headlining artists on the tour included Norah Jones and her side project Puss N Boots. Original Meter Leo Nocentelli played his entire 1971 folk album live. Rapper Mia X was joined on stage by Mac Phipps, who was paroled by Governor John Bel Edwards. And there were tributes to musicians we missed from the last festival, including Ellis Marsalis, Art and Cyril Neville, Dr. John and festival founder George Wein.

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The French Quarter Festival is also back with a bang, showcasing 270 mostly local bands on 20 stages spread across the historic district and river.

At the end of June, the Essence Festival of Culture returned after almost three years with a top line-up, but no Superlounges. Kevin Hart opened with a night of comedy, and then Janet Jackson, Nicki Minaj, Jazmine Sullivan, New Edition and The Isley Brothers took fans to the Caesars Superdome.

Many local festivals are back in full force. Hogs for the Cause returned to the grounds outside UNO Lakefront Arena and broke the fundraising record, raising more than $2.6 million to fight childhood brain cancer. In October, the Gretna Heritage Festival had one of its best lineups ever, with John Fogarty, The Beach Boys, Grace Potter, North Mississippi Allstars and more. Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo floated a tent on Bayou St. John for the first time.

At the end of the year, however, there are some big questions on the festival front. BUKU Music + Art Project held an event in March, but announced in August that it will not return in 2023. Voodoo Fest has been canceled and it is unclear if it will return.

Throughout the year, festivals and events showcasing the wide range of local culture returned, including Lafitte Seafood Festival, Gentilly Fest, Beignet Fest, Westbank Heritage Festival, Southern Decadence, Red Dress Run, Tales of the Cocktail, NOWFE , Greek Fest, Tet Fest and more. The NOLA East Festival made its debut at Joe Brown Park. The New Orleans Juneteenth Festival, founded in 2020, held its first event without Covid restrictions. After a few years of absence, New Orleans PRIDE is back under new leadership and has continued its parade.

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Carnival was cut in 2022. New Orleans condensed the parade routes, removing blocks of Magazine Street from its Uptown route. (Shorter routes will also be used in 2023.) But the schedule relaxed a bit this year. The Krewe of Nefertiti parades in New Orleans East well ahead of the cluster of parades in the official 12-day window of parades. Chewbacchus and a couple of foot parades have also moved up the calendar to take advantage of the open dates. The Nyx held a much smaller parade than usual after membership dwindled due to disagreements over leadership not supporting Black Lives Matter, and several krewe offshoot groups marched in other parades.

In Jefferson, Carnival also saw changes, including the debut of the Krewe of Symphony and the return of Atlas to the East Coast. On the West Bank, the Culinary Queens had their first parade, but Adonis didn’t roll.

On the cultural front, several museum spaces have reopened and/or expanded. The Backstreet Cultural Museum has moved to a new home on St. Philip. The House of Dance and Feathers, which was damaged by Hurricane Ida, also completed major repairs and reopened. The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities has opened a gallery space dedicated to the work of John T. Scott. Music Box Village added new music art installations, including collaborations with Lonnie Holley and the Congelese connections of Papa Titos Sompa.

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Prospect.5 was hampered by the pandemic and installation delays. The sculpture by New York artist Simone Leigh was not installed until the final weeks of the exhibition. The foundation named Miranda Lash, formerly of NOMA, and artist Ebony Patterson as curators of Prospect.6, which will open in 2024.

There have been several new additions on the arts and entertainment front. The National World War II Museum has used its giant dome in a new multimedia show celebrating the many civilians who contributed to the war effort. In Arabi, the Meraux Foundation opened an outdoor art park on Avenue St. Claude to host music, film and cultural events. In December, a new holiday parade was introduced downtown, albeit with commercially sponsored floats.

Many artists and cultural figures have passed away in 2022. Among them are cartoonist and former Gambit collaborator Bunny Matthews, entertainer and French Quarter personality Chris Owens, former K&B Pharmacy founder and philanthropist Sydney Besthoff, and Tennessee Williams scholar Kenneth Holditch.

As the year closes with announcements of Carnival and spring festivals approaching the new year, festivals and culture have returned to their regular place, capturing attention and inspiring creative spirits in New Orleans.


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