You Can Sit When You’re Dead: An Open Letter to JazzFest Squatters

Art by Ben Claassen What Jazz Fest means to me is the dawning of summer, when the sun comes out and chases away the winter blues, two weeks of perfect weather, before the heat onslaught. Jazz Fest means rocking the sunglasses, letting your hair hang loose and dancing in sandals while the race course grime sticks to your feet.

Last year, it was impossible to dance freely at Trombone Shorty because of the phalanx of cloth chairs. You know who you are, decimators of dance, destroyers of joyous flailing, bringing your chairs to gape at the show like you can suck joy out of the air without actually participating in it. (Some of you have completely valid reasons to be sitting and should be seated—and those are absolutely not the people I am addressing. And Jazz Fest does have a designated “dance floor” where chairs are not allowed. But the fact that they have to designate a space as a dance floor, when we really should all be dancing in the entire field, is ludicrous.) For the rest of you, those able-bodied folks who choose to sit when they could dance or at least sway, this is addressed to you:

May you choke on your Abita Strawberry and may your sunburned skin blister, leaving you red like you’re blushing from the shame you should be feeling. Your version of Jazz Fest, where you drink overpriced beer and fall asleep in a cloth chair—which you also use as a seat-saver in a place where there should be no seats—is about sucking vicarious pleasure out of the experience without actually participating as an audience member. You are an observer and a leech, because in that space where you sit, a blob of human mass, we could be dancing and giving back to the musicians who are working so hard to give to us. I bet you watched the Saints win the Superbowl planted on your couch. You are the same people who drag ladders to parades. I hope your children catch nothing. It only encourages you and inspires them to grow into adults who bring chairs to festivals.

I hope I accidentally whack your beer over while I rock out. I hope I block your view. I hope your chair gets stolen when you leave it behind to save your spot. I hope you throw your back out carrying all of your unnecessary crap to the festival. I hope you know that while you sit there in your chair, your pores sweating and your skin peeling and your mouth chewing like a Jazz Fest heifer, I am living.

And if you bring your chair anywhere near me during the Black Keys, I will rip it apart and use its shredded remains to start a bonfire. If you try to stop me, I will add your fanny pack to the flames. You know who you are.