Quint Davis, producer and director of Jazz Fest, talks why he wanted Katy Perry to headline, how he accommodates the one-off show and how he got her on the bill.

How do you even go about starting to craft a lineup for something of this magnitude?
Quint Davis:
We start out by asking who are our core people that have been with us – who have been the most woven-in with us over the years? That’s Jimmy Buffett, Dave Matthews Band, Van Morrison, Santana, Earth Wind & Fire, even Pitbull – and then we want the greatest living of everything. So you look at reggae – Jimmy Cliff and Ziggy Marley. In the jazz tent is Herbie Hancock.

Something very special there is the Ellis Marsalis Family Tribute – that’s Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Delfeayo and Jason Marsalis playing together, with Ellis.

You have these core things, so to speak, which is one thing I thought was essential, and that includes Boz Scaggs, Buddy Guy closing the blues tent, Elvis Costello in there, Mavis Staples. Then the festival, at 50 years, needs to be relevant and throbbing (laughs) and popular. The word “heritage,” people think looking in the rearview. I think of heritage as looking out the window.

You have the next generation of musicians coming on carrying the music forward, but also of people – we have great-grandchildren coming if you do the math. So you want to be going in new directions too. We have J Balvin, we have Katy Perry, Logic, The Revivalists, Alanis Morrissette. These are not all new-new-new, but they’re people we haven’t had that have been on everybody’s list – Leon Bridges, Chris Stapleton for gosh’s sake, I’m thrilled about that.

How do you accommodate those who are playing one-offs?
If they’re not touring and they want to come, what do you think it takes for Katy Perry to do a one-off? You have to get the band, you have to get the trucks, the equipment, the crew, your self, it’s a big thing to do, but she really wants to do it and is really excited about it. It’s a lot easier if they want to do it, to figure out a way, which is the big compliment to the festival.

If you take the Rolling Stones and Katy Perry for example. Katy Perry has the greatest arena production in the world. I’ve been to two of her tours, not even close. The Rolling Stones have the biggest stadium production in the world, bar none. In starting to talk to them, we say we’re a daylight festival, this is our stage, it is what it is, we have no lights of course but we’ve got a lot of oyster bars (laughs). You have to come out here and just play. They’re like, “OK! We’ll do it! We’re gonna do it your way.” The magic of Jazz Fest, the reason Bruce Springsteen said his Katrina shows are the Top 10 of his life, is the daylight. Live music is the only art form where you have the artistic experience simultaneously with the artist creating it, and your energy drives it.


How about nailing the Stones?
Let’s say you’re used to hiking big sand dunes in Brazil, and relatively speaking you then book Mount Everest. The Rolling Stones at Jazz Fest is a biblical prophecy. There’s a lot of big groups out there in the world, but this is the one. If there’s anything constant in all 50 years, it’s “We want the Stones at Jazz Fest.” Stones at Jazz Fest has been uttered millions of times.

This is the 15th anniversary of our partnership with AEG. The only reason we have Katy Perry and The Rolling Stones is because AEG got them for us – pretty good partners to have (laughs). It’s been beyond heaven, it’s been really great. When I got the call that this could be the year from Paul Gongaware from Concerts West, I’m like “woof.” Paul Gongaware never stopped trying to steer them to Jazz Fest – not convincing them it was a cool thing to do, they knew that.

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