The Pilgrimage to North Sea Jazz Festival


“Featured on the Love the Way You Live Podcast with Charlie Lewis on Episode 7 (Click here.)”

For the past six years, the 2nd Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of July has found me in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Those who know me and my extreme thirst for travel and exploration of new countries are always shocked that I have been repeating this trek for six years and counting. So, what keeps me coming back? It is none other than the best and largest indoor/outdoor music festival in the world, the North Sea Jazz Festival, simply nicknamed by my fellow crew of travelers and music lovers as NSJ.

The first edition of NSJ took place in 1976 in The Hague, Netherlands. Back then; it was six venues, a few hundred musicians and vocalists, and about 9,000 attendees. Now fast forward to this year’s 42nd edition in Rotterdam there are more than a thousand musicians and singers, 150+ performances across fifteen different stages, and 65K to 75K attendees, at under $250 for a 3day ticket; this is the NSJ that I look forward to every year!

I adore this festival because it is based on a foundation of great jazz, but other genres will also hit the stages from blues to gospel to soul to funk to hip hop to afro beat to pop and so much more. A sampling of this year’s musicians included jazz legends such as Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, George Benson, Lee Ritenour, Wayne Shorter, and Dianne Reeves. But, we also were treated to the musical talents of Mary J Blige, Gladys Knight, Solange, Steve Winwood, Usher, The Roots, Grace Jones, Trombone Shorty, Norah Jones, De La Soul, Erykah Badu, Van Morrison, and Jamiroquai to name a few.

Come with me in 2018, because I will be back for my 7th year! Join me in the craziness of waking up at 4 am on a Friday in November to go online and secure the early bird 3-day tickets before they sell out in 24 hours. You won’t know who is performing, but you will happily know that you will be there in seven months. The 43rd edition will be just as fantastic as the 42 others that came before it.

I will continue to make the pilgrimage (that’s what it feels like!) back to Rotterdam for NSJ because it has become a space for old and new friends to fellowship and party while experiencing the sights and sounds of phenomenal musicians as well certified musical geniuses and legends. And if you get tired of them, then you can always discover a new artist that you have never heard before but are sure to fall in love with after they perform.

The unmatched lineup, the international crowd full of pure music lovers, the extremely organized venue, the frenetic pace of trying to figure out how in the world you are going to see three different artists that overlap at the same time. My crew of friends and I thrive on this type of excitement. Of course, partying into the wee hours of the morning with the artists at the post festival jam sessions isn’t bad either! That’s what NSJ is all about, and that’s why I love it!

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