In August 2005, Michael Kline and his son packed up their belongings and drove straight through the night from New Orleans to Cape May, N.J.
The morning after they arrived in N.J., Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans.
“Maybe I’m bringing them with me,” he said after living through both Hurricanes Irene and Sandy in Cape May, where Kline had spent his childhood summers and lived full time from 1983 to 1992.
He also hopes he’ll bring some positive New Orleans history and flavor to the Jersey Shore with the first Exit Zero International Jazz Festival, which will take place in Cape May this weekend.
While the town was largely spared Sandy’s wrath, the musicians playing in the festival have not.
“Most of our musicians are coming down from New York and North Jersey, areas that were affected,” said Kline, who runs his own jazz booking agency. Despite their local destruction, they told Kline they hoped he wouldn’t cancel. “The clubs in New York were closed and they took a hit,” he said.
Jazz festivals aren’t new to Cape May. For almost two decades, Cape May had a spring and fall jazz festival. This fall, the organizers announced this that they were shutting down. Kline picked up the effort and re-branded the festival with Exit Zero, which refers to Cape May’s spot at the end of the Garden State Parkway.
This year’s event is just the start, he says. Musicians will play in venues throughout Cape May. In June, they’ll have a much bigger event, including outdoor stages and performances.
Despite the approaching nor’easter, weather will be on Kline’s side this weekend with forecasts for sunny days high temperatures brushing 60 degrees.
Just one more storm for him to live through so the music can go on.