To capture the throne of “NOLA Crawfish King,” you have to be the best of the best. Chris “Shaggy” Davis has earned that title, and the crown fits well on him. Davis has gone beyond throwing backyard boils to being a fixture in all the hottest New Orleans parties and around the country serving up his incredible wares. For the second year in a row, he has also put his heart and soul along with an unimaginable amount of crawfish, potatoes, and corn into his dream project, The NOLA Crawfish Festival. Combining the finest in New Orleans musicians and themes with the atmosphere of a backyard boil, he has created an atmosphere that locals and visitors can enjoy.
With the second helping of the Crawfish Fest just a few short weeks away, and with the excitement building, we thought we would check in with Chris about his plans for this year, the improvements he is looking to make and, of course, the crawfish. Check out his chat with our own Rex Thomson below:
Live For Live Music: So, as a chef, you must feel good when folks come back for a second helping of the magic you’re serving.
Chris “Shaggy” Davis: That always feels good, yes. We are definitely very excited for round number two. We’ve upped our game. We have a new location, new artists, and a lot of food and fun on the way.
L4LM: Where are you hosting the NOLA Crawfish Festival this year?
CSD: We will be partying the day away at Central City BBQ in a wonderful resurgent neighborhood in New Orleans, Central City. It’s a huge space. We’re gonna have two stages, one indoor, one outdoor. We are gonna have vendors this time around. And new artists and bands. We are just all around upping our game.
L4LM: How many folks can you fit in this new venue?
CSD: Well, it is more than double the size of last year’s facility, so we are ready for a big crowd. We are expecting a couple thousand each day. And this year, we won’t just be selling beer, we will have several full bars for all your refreshment needs. They also have some incredible BBQ. The place is a perfect fit.
L4LM: I’m sure the BBQ is good but this is the “Crawfish Festival” after all. There WILL be plenty of that on hand, right?
CSD: Yeah, there will literally be tons & tons of crawfish. We plan on cooking seven or eight thousand pounds of crawfish over the three days. There may be other food there, but hot boiled crawfish will definitely be the main dish.
L4LM: Now, each day ticket includes crawfish, music and beer, right?
CSD: Each ticket comes with two pounds of crawfish, potatoes and corn, and one NOLA beer, just like last year. Now all the VIP packages come with more of everything. More food and drinks. The packages are really good and you won’t be hearing any complaints from anyone who comes about not getting any crawfish, I promise you that.
L4LM: I read on the website that the “Super” VIPs get all access at the festival. Does that mean they can show up at six a.m. when you start cooking and sit and watch you cook?
CSD: Hey, if they want to get there that early then sure. The music starts at 3pm each day and we will have plenty of crawfish ready for those who show up when the doors open.
L4LM: Once again you are following the boil recipe with the music. You have put together some “One Off” super jams for each night. How do you pull these line-ups together? Do you just call folks and pull in all the favors and good karma you are always sharing?
CSD: Well, I’m lucky in that I know a lot of these guys personally. And I want to keep this festival in and of New Orleans. Last year we had a lot of folks from here in town come out as well as some out-of-towners. This event is for the home town crowd as much as it is the visitors…maybe more.
The super jams are me going through my head figuring out who I wanna see play with who. We switched it up a bit this year on purpose. There are different players in the All-Star jam. And I know we have some special guests coming by for that.
We got Alvin Youngblood Heart and his Muscle Theory coming with special guest Luther Dickinson. Alvin and Luther are best friends and it is not often they get to play together, so that should be fun. That is one of the things I asked Alvin one night over dinner and he said “Sure!”
We brought back the MVP band, “Most Valuable Players” – Jon Cleary, Nigel Hall, Raymond Weber, Tony Hall and Derwin “Big D” Perkins. That is gonna be awesome.
One of the bands that people really loved last year was Neville Jacobs and they are back for sure. We’ve also got Eric Lindell…I am lucky to know them all. I asked if they would come play my festival and they all said “Heck yeah!”
I’m not trying to say the “Daze Between” were boring before but now they are way better. And the best part is each day the event ends at 10pm so everyone can still go catch the late night shows.
Check out Neville-Jacobs stunning version of Prince‘s “Little Red Corvette” from last year’s festival below:
L4LM: Acts like Neville-Jacobs and even Good Enough For Good Times are side projects and rarities that you can only see during things like Jazz Fest. It seems like you are using your spot there in the days between to maximum effect.
CSD: That was the thought process behind all of this. Ivan Neville has a band with Eric Lindell called Dragon Smoke. They only really play one gig a year in New Orleans. Now…on that same day I have booked every artist in that band for the Crawfish Festival in hopes that we could possibly get them all together for a Dragon Smoke Jam. I have hopes…HOPES…that could happen for us.
And then there is the charity element. This year we’re working with Can’d Aid & Anders Osborne’s Send Me a Friend Foundation. It helps musicians who are just out of rehab and heading back out on the road to face the temptations they are gonna be running into. They try to have someone signed up in each city to be there for artists who need them.
Helping this cause is really important to me. I have been sober about seven years and when Anders started this foundation I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of. And for Anders it is personal.
Like so many other musicians it was hard for him to stay sober on the road. You gotta get back out there on the road to make your money. He had no choice but to head out to the bars and clubs where alcohol and more temptations can be found. Having folks in those cities he could talk to definitely helps him and others out.
Partial proceeds from every ticket go directly to Can’d Aid. It’s important to me that we help those who need it.
L4LM: It is impressive that people who fight that battle daily like Anders and yourself not only work in the party atmospheres but actually thrive in spite of it. I think I can speak for everyone when I say thanks for leading the way!
CSD: Me…and Anders too…we wouldn’t be where we are today if we hadn’t cleaned up our act. He and I have been friends for twenty-five or twenty-six years. We’ve been shoulder to shoulder through good times and bad. The scheduling for Anders is hectic as always during Jazz Fest. He isn’t officially on the line-up but I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t pop by for a jam or two. Something to look forward to.
L4LM: There are gonna be at least a few people there who have never ate a crawfish before. Got any tips for them?
CSD: Take your time. Eating is a socializing occasion down here. No one is in a big hurry. Get a plate, sit down with some friends, old and new and somebody will show you the way. And this is an experience you can’t get somewhere else.
You can’t go into a restaurant and order up crawfish like this. My company Nola Crawfish King thrives in the festival atmosphere. We recommend you belly up to the table & enjoy what we have to offer. This Is New Orleans baby Our Crawfish aren’t too spicy but they have a kick. Just like our music!
L4LM: Sounds like we are in for a treat! Looking forward to it. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us!
CSD: No problem! See you soon, and bring your appetite!
Tickets and information about the different packages available for the NOLA Crawfish Festival are available HERE.