ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival is back and bigger than ever in 2018. This year's event will run from Friday, June 22 until Saturday, June 30 in downtown Rochester, with tons of premium performances, free outdoor concerts, food trucks, beverage stands and more.
A massive, 9-day festival in downtown can be a lot to digest, especially if you've never been before. Here's everything you need to know before the Jazz Festival begins:
Headliners — This year's festival is top heavy with accomplished artists headlining the lineup. Headliners include Seal (June 22), Boz Scaggs (June 23), Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (June 26), Alison Krauss (June 27), Lake Street Drive (June 28) and Jill Scott (June 29). As of Tuesday, the only sold out shows are Boz Scaggs and Alison Krauss. Ticket prices range from $30 too $135 based on seating. All headliner shows take place at Eastman Theatre on Gibbs Street. Tickets are still available online.
Free Shows — There are nearly 100 free concerts during the festival. No tickets necessary and all shows go on, rain or shine. The free shows begin in the later afternoon on Gibbs Street and as the night goes on, performances extend to the Chestnut Street stage and beyond. Although it is called the jazz festival, music enthusiasts will find performances from a wide variety of genres, some with a focus on traditional jazz and others with no jazz influence at all. Some of the big names on the free concert list include Scott Sharrard, Lakecia Benjamin, Vintage Trouble, Brian Setzer's Rockabilly Riot, Paradigm Shift and the Pshift Horns, Teagan and the Tweeds, Fat City, Tempest, Soul Stew, St. Germain, Pokey LaFarge, Joe Beard and the Tower of Power 50th Anniversary Tour. For the full lineup and stage schedule, visit this website. Note: For free shows lawn and stadium chairs are allowed. What not to bring: Pets, coolers and food.
Club Passes — There are two options for club passes this year: 9-day or 3-day options ($250 and $200, respectively). Club passes can be shared or transferred and offer unlimited access to Club Pass Series shows on any of the days of the festival you may choose. Club Show venues include Christ Church, Harro East Ballroom, Hatch Recital Hall, Kilbourn Hall, Max of Eastman Place, Montage Music Hall, Lutheran Church of Reformation, Rochester Regional Health Big Tent, Squeezers Stage at Anthology, Temple Building Theatre, Wilder Woom and Xerox Auditorium at Xerox Plaza. Each venue hosts two shows per night for the duration of the 9-day festival. Note: Club passes do not permit entry for headliner shows. Single entry access to Club Pass shows are $30, and $35 for performances at Kilbourn Hall. Preview our top pick for Club Pass shows, Robin McKelle.
Food & Drink — Come hungry! There are tons of food trucks, tents and beverage stands available throughout the festival. A wide variety of fare can be found from vendors lining East Main Street between Chestnut Street and Gibbs Street, in and outside the Rochester Regional Health Big Tent and on East Avenue near Chestnut and Gibbs on Fridays and Saturdays. Food and drinks will also be served at Club Pass venues. Additionally, there are a number of restaurants in the area that will compliment the outdoor options. Whatever your preference for food and drink might be, you'll be able to find it here. Some local favorites include Artichoke French, Macarollin, Le Petit Poutine, Red Osier, Abbott's, Jeremiah's Tavern, Bayou Billy's, Nenos, Tom Wahl's, Ludwig's Center Stage Cafe and much, much more.
Parking — The Jazz Fest doesn't operate any parking independently, but there are plenty of and garages and lots within walking distance of venues, including the East End Garage, Midtown Garage, metered parking near Midtown, Washington Square Garage, NYSUT Lot, South Avenue Garage, surface lots, Sister Cities Garage and metered street parking (free after 6 p.m.). There are also a variety of bike racks to place your bicycle and Pace bikeshare stations at Main and Gibbs, Main and Scio, Liberty Pole Plaza, East and Winthrop, East and Alexander and Chestnut and Court.
Merchandise — Get official Jazz Festival posters, apparel, portable seats and other great gear from the Merchandise Tent on Gibbs Street during festival hours. Limited items are also available for purchase online.
Poster Signing — Artist David Cowles, a Rochester based illustrator, is the creator of this year's festival poster, which will be available for purchase at the merch tent. on June 27 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Cowles will be signing posters at the merch tent. A limited number of past editition posters will also be available, but there aren't too many of them left, so first come first serve!
There's so much to see, taste and hear at the Jazz Festival. For a glance at the full guide, visit this website. Or download the free XIRJF app on your smartphone for full lineup, artist profiles, festival map and more.