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Carlos Santana Rocks New Orleans Jazz Fest Day 1

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The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival day one wrapped with a combination of die-hard Carlos Santana fans one of which is festival Executive Producer Quint Davis who ended up playing maracas with the band; and The Avett Brother whose fans cleared a path as Seth Avett jumped from the stage to the crowd and jammed while strolling, in an interesting Mosesish maneuver.

Ticket prices are up to $70 at the gate this year, and some press coverage asked in advance how the crowds would bear up with the cost. They apparently bore up just fine. The first-day crowd that felt more like a Sunday to this local. The sandy racetrack was lined with kids making sandcastles, as always. Food lines snaked further out to the track as patrons lined up for their favorite seafood combo, as always. And THAT GUY, the one with hair that's business in the front and party in the back as he rocks his unbuttoned vintage red bean Bayou Wear shirt and boogies through the artist entrance was there, as always.

I've been thinking of what it is that draw the crowds back to the festival year after year. The writer I was standing next to at the scorchingly wonderful Reubén Blades set has been coming to Jazz Fest for all its 45 years. There she was, stage-side, waving at Quint as he introduced the band. As always. And that's what brings the crowds back. There's not a lot of As Always to depend on these days.

Yes, there are more Coachella-styled teens with flower wreath headbands spinning along the track. Hippies may eventually give way to hipsters and it's going to be fascinating to see where they go with Jazz Fest as it strides through middle age. But the music will still be there, no matter what turn the granddaddy of music festivals takes.

As always.

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Carlos Santana

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Leah Chase

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Shamarr Allen with his music students (guest John Popper sat in next)

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The Avett Brothers

All photos by Jeff Beninato