For the eleventh straight year, the Bayou Boogaloo brought the people of New Orleans, LA together for a weekend of music and the arts in a free-to-all celebration of community and hope for the Bayou Saint John neighborhood and the city in general. Founded in 2005, the MotherShip Foundation set out to revitalize a city brought to its knees by Hurricane Katrina. With an emphasis on togetherness and hope, the Bayou Boogaloo draws heavily on the incredibly rich pool of musicians, along with a few national acts with ties to the area like The Wailers, The Lowrider Band (AKA the legendary funk band WAR), Irma Thomas, Anders Osborne, George Porter Jr., the Nolatet, Soul Brass Band and many more.
Closing off a few blocks of the Mid-City neighborhood for the weekend, residents flocked to the block party in record numbers. Thanks to partnerships with other charitable organizations, special exceptions and grants from the city and the tireless work of Jared Zeller and the board of directors of the MotherShip Foundation, the festival grown exponentially from its noble but humble beginnings. The diverse lineup featured everything from rock, funk, reggae, zydeco and soul, blaring from speaker stacks and whipping the crowd into a joyful dancing frenzy.
One of the more charming and unique features of the festival isn’t on any of the stages, it’s the bayou itself. Dozens of watercrafts, some barely sea-worthy, floated along the lazy stretch of water that runs along the park. Children run along the banks as the music plays, laughing and pointing to some of the more outrageous floating concoctions. With a strong commitment on bringing in families and giving the kids something fun and just for them, numerous faces painters, jugglers, play areas and a full, dedicated “Kids” tent with a non-stop schedule of daily activities gave pleased parents a place to make memories that will last a lifetime.
Friday’s lead-off schedule of bands was the shortest, with the festival waiting until after five to kick things off. Local rock act The Quickening got one end of the sprawling two city block affair going on the Dumaine Stage, while socially conscious hip hop band Truth Universal brought their positive message of unity and hope to the Orleans Main Stage. Dwayne Dopsie brought his natural born zydeco heritage to the crowd throughout his set. The skies darkened and the opened up with a gentle rain as reggae legends The Wailers kept the party going through the short, tepid cloud burst. Fans might have been a bit waterlogged, but the smiles on their faces told a story of enjoyment.
Dwayne Dopsie & The Zydeco Hellraisers – “Jambalaya>Iko Iko”
Leading off Saturday was a wonderful cross section of area talents, with the Soul Brass Band, the Creole String Beans, Big Pearl & The Fugitives Of Funk and Debbie Davis & The Mesmerizers. Davis was steeped in rag time jazz traditions and used her rich, sultry voice on a variety of originals and covers, including The Beatles classic “Your Mother Should Know.” Watch below.
Debbie Davis & The Mesmerizers – “Your Mother Should Know”
Area restaurants and caterers brought seemingly endless, delicious local specialities, with pastries, roasted meats and frozen concoctions to help music fans fight any pangs of hunger or thirst. To keep the event free, no outside food or beverages were allowed, but, with such an amazing array of delicacies available, it would have been a crime not to try a taste of the aromatic edibles.
Check out a choice sit-in as Rebelution and Runnin’ saxophonist Khris Royal joins his friends in progressive rock band Gravity A for a fun musical sandwich of their original tune Bark and the Paul Simon classic, “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover,” below:
Gravity A w/ Khris Royal – “Bark > 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover > Bark”
The duo of Carly Meyers and Adam Gertner, known collectively as ROAR!, made their return to the Boogaloo, and showed why they are a festival favorite with a free-wheeling set of pure charm and positive vibrations. Check out a bit of their impossible to ignore happiness below:
The highlight of the evening was surely the welcome surprised looks on the faces of the audience who didn’t realize the “Lowrider Band” was actually comprised of the majority of beloved seventies era funk band WAR. Upon taking the stage, Howard Scott, guitarist and lead vocalist explained that, for legal reasons, they weren’t allowed to play under the name WAR, but it was perfectly fine for everyone else to call them that. With multiple members of the band maintaining residences in New Orleans, it was something of a hometown show for the band, and they played a non-stop set of all of their most classic tunes. Check out their crowd pleasing opening number, “The Cisco Kid,” below:
The Lowrider Band (WAR) – “The Cisco Kid”
With issues of race relations in the public consciousness due to recent tensions across the country, festival promoters were pleased to once again see a truly cross section of humanity gathering together to share in music, the true language of us all. Nowhere was that more evident than in the Greyhawk Band/Rampart Revival set, where two bands and proud members of multiple ethnicities gathered for the purpose of creating something together. Listen to a sample of the wonderful results of their experiment below:
The Greyhawk Band & Rampart Revival
Sunday’s stages featured another full selection of the many styles and flavors of Nawlins music, with latin tinged Muevelo, Robert Tate, the Red Hot Brass Band and the “Songbird of New Orleans,” Robin Barnes all showing the crowd the many different ways music can be used to spread the same message of love. Check out a few selections of the diverse goings on below:
Robin Barnes “Tell Me Something Good”
George Porter Jr. brought his Runnin‘ Pardners to the main stage for a rump shakin’ set of the bass heavy funk as only he can play. Taking a moment to honor the recent loss of a friend, Porter dedicated a moving rendition of his song “Talkin’ Bout My Old Friends,” to her memory, along with the many musicians we’ve lost over the last year, from Allen Toussaint to Prince and many more. Check out his spirited tribute below:
George Porter & The Runnin’ Pardners – “Talkin’ Bout My Old Friends”
Legendary area percussionist and obvious madman Mike Dillon has joined forces with Johnny Vidacovich, James Singleton and Brian Haas to capture the essence of his insanity with the group known as Nolatet. Acting as band leader and whirlwind of motion Dillon burned more calories in a set than most folks do in an entire day. Check out some of his exhausting and chaotic musicianship below in his show opening tune:
Jared Zeller, founder of the MotherShip Foundation, took the stage alongside emcee The Voice to thank the crowd for their continued support before turning the mic over to fest closer Anders Osborne. Though not a true native, Osborne has spent the last couple of decades ingraining himself, personally and musically, into the heart and soul of the Crescent City. With special guest, Galactic‘s Stanton Moore on the drums, Osborne brought the crowd to a frenzied crescendo. Have a listen to his dark but moving ode to finality from his collaboration with the North Mississippi All-Stars, “Dyin’ Days,” below:
Anders Osborne – “Dyin’ Days”
With another successful year closed, the Bayou Boogaloo organizers took pride in their accomplishments, and justly so. With the noble purpose of reconnecting the families of the then-devastated city with the music and arts that inspire and enrich us all, they have helped heal a wounded city’s spirit. Their hard work and the power of music serve to draw us all together, resulting in a weekend of memories and a sense of community pride that will guide the coming generation to take up these wonderful traditions on their own, and ensure a brighter future for, not just them, but the world.