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Cam Marston on Jazz Fest

On this week's Keepin' It Real, Cam Marston shares his experiences from Jazz Fest in New Orleans last weekend. He saw some things he loved and some things he avoided.

My wife, a college friend and I stood amidst the peace and quiet of Jazz Fest in New Orleans last weekend along with what must have been 100,000 of our closest friends. It was a sight.

When my wife and I told our friends we were going, they reacted the same as when I told them we were going to Mexico for spring break. “Oh no,” they said. “That’s dangerous over there. You’re going to get shot.” During my thirty-six hours in New Orleans, I never once felt unsafe. To the great disappointment of my schadenfreude friends, we returned to Mobile unscathed, which has led me to the conclusion that many of my friends are ninnies and are best left at home.

I’m hoping heaven is a lot like the Gospel Stage at Jazz Fest. A cool breeze blew through the tented area. People were happy to slide a chair or two over to make room us. Most importantly, there were chairs, and, wow, the music. Argue if you want, but there’s more energy coming from the Gospel Stage than any other Jazz Fest stage. When you’re singing about the glory of the Lord, energy comes naturally, and when this middle aged, overweight, thinning haired white guy rose to his feet waiving his palms in the air to show that the spirit was moving…, well, I couldn’t believe myself. It was very out of character, but I felt it, and I loved it.

One thing I don’t love are large sweaty shirtless men or even small sweaty shirtless men, and there were a lot of them at Jazz Fest. They were everywhere. We left the Gospel Tent to wander the exhibits and try the food…, and they were everywhere. One of the hardest movie scenes to watch ever is the scene from when Ben Stiller’s character plays basketball and, well, rubs up against a big sweaty guy. If you know what I’m talking about, you know. That was my fear. Shirts should be required when you’re standing in crowded areas waiting for the acts to start, and when the music starts, the shirtless men more than others become quite the charismatic dancers. I minded my own business, but I kept them in my periphery hoping I wouldn’t have one of those Ben Stiller moments and have to wash my entire body in molten lava or, more likely, decide my life was simply no longer worth it.

After watching Jon Cleary play some fantastic funk music, we turned to leave, and hordes of people were filing in to see Kenny Loggins finish out the day on that same stage. You gotta respect Kenny Loggins, but, for me, his music isn’t good enough to risk proximity to gobs of sweaty, shirtless, charismatic dancing men; not my scene, but in they marched, packing the area, eager for Kenny Loggins.

They were excited to get Footloose as they headed into the shirtless “Danger Zone.” “Don’t Fight It,” “This is It,” and as for me not seeing Kenny’s show, “I’m Alright.”

I’m Cam Marston, and I’m just trying to Keep it Real.

Cam Marston is the Keepin' It Real host for Alabama Public Radio.