Paradox of Choice: Jazzfest Edition

Michael Giberson

By inclination I’m not favorably inclined toward the thesis of Barry Schwartz’s book, The Paradox of Choice: Why Less Is More. More choices a bad thing? Nah, my attitude is more “Don’t worry, be happy.” (Daniel Gilbert, in Stumbling on Happiness, helped me out a little here. Apparently people who want to ‘optimize’ become overwhelmed by more choices, while ‘satisficers’ just are happy to have a selection to choose from and don’t get all knotted up over which precise combination of things will be just right.)

Bonerama's MullenNew Orleans is certainly more of a laid back, satisficer’s kind of place, and a quick trip there should be and is just the sort of thing I like. But Jazzfest — more formally the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival — gives me a taste of what the ‘paradox of choice’ must feel like for you optimizers out there.

It is just too much, too good, and practically all happening at once. Just to pick the first day of this six-days-over-two-weekends event as an example: Surely I must go see Dr. John on Friday afternoon, but that means missing T-Bone Burnett appearing at almost the same time on the stage at the far end of the Fairgrounds. Then there is Bonerama, Trombone Shorty, and the James Carter Organ Trio. All worth seeing, and all pretty much at the same time, and all spread out over different stages. I was going to trek up to see Bonerama in Baltimore a week or two ago, but thought, “Oh, I’ll see them in a few weeks at Jazzfest.” But if it means missing Dr. John (and T-Bone Burnett and…). It’s just too much.

Marcia Ball 2006Later Friday is Van Morrison. Not a New Orleans act, but they like to bring in a little fresh blood, and how can I miss him if he’s there on stage after Dr. John? Course, at the same time on another stage is Mr. “When a man loves a woman” himself, Percy Sledge. And Kermit Ruffins & the Barbeque Swingers – you can’t get much more New Orleans than Kermit Ruffins — or Geno Delafose & French Rockin’ Boogie over on the Fais do do stage. My head spins just thinking about all of these choices.

HOB is Certified to Re-Open after KatrinaThen there is Saturday and Sunday.

Maybe that Barry Schwartz was on to something. (To keep this post at a reasonable length, I’m only hitting the highpoints. They run about 10 stages all day, all of the time, and even if you’ve never heard of the band on whatever stage you happen to be passing by, they’re good and you can sit down and enjoy it.)

But even with all the paradox-of-choice-head-spinning I suffer through when the stage-by-stage schedule comes out, I still volunteer for the trip. In fact, I’m looking forward to the day that I’ll be able to suffer through both weekends.

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