In an omen of another possibly large jump in the number of people coming out for the nine days of live jazz and other music at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, the Club Pass sold out on Thursday. This is the earliest point that that the Pass has sold out; the last two years it sold out just days before the festival, which this year runs from June 11-19, began its nine day run.
The Club Pass is the best way to experience the festival as it provides you entry into hundreds of performances. As you might expect I use mine to the hilt (and get it soon after it goes on sale in November). Don't despair. You can still buy individual tickets for performances you want to see in the Club Pass venues (and for many of the performances in Eastman) and there are still a lot of great free music by local and other acts to be had.
That it sold out so early seems to support the the approach taken by XRIJF jefes John Nugent and Marc Iacona—growing attendance by bringing in people who otherwise are not jazz listeners through eclectic programming that presents a wide variety of jazz and other music. While this leaves some scratching their heads or muttering "that's not jazz!" while harrumphing to the next venue, if it was all jazz, you wouldn't be seeing 120,000 people on the streets of Rochester in mid-June. The fact that the Pass sold out so soon is proof to me that some of those who come for the free or "non-jazz" programming may have caught some of the "jazz" programming and decided it was worth plunking down some hard earned dollars to hear some more. That's growing the audience for jazz in general (and I hope for live jazz). If they're from out of town, it means that more of them are staying overnight and leaving some more of their doubloons in Rochester.
This development leaves this veteran XRIJF attendee (all nine days, baby!) with one question... is it going to lead to making it even more difficult to get into the venues? It might and for certain acts you may very well need to get to the venue quite early to secure a place. However, in my experience there are two factors that, I hope, will mitigate this possibility. First and foremost is that when you are barred by crowds or otherwise from getting in to hear an artist you'd put on your list, it can lead to you discovering another artist that you may not have found otherwise. Some of my most memorable musical experiences at the Rochester Jazz Festival have been through this serendipitous manner of discovery. Additionally, there are more venues and options this year (more about that as I start my coverage of the XRIJF soon). Of course, the proof will be in the pudding...