Bodacious Boogaloo

by Charlie London

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Since the beginning, the Bayou Boogaloo, held on the banks of Bayou St. John in New Orleans during May, has had a mission to give back to the community. The first Bayou Boogaloo in 2006 was a healing effort for the community. Many folks were still rebuilding their lives and their houses after “the storm”. The Bayou Boogaloo was a welcome respite from the daily grind. It provided much needed fun for both adults and children.

One of the often forgotten aspects of the Bayou Boogaloo is its emphasis on zero impact on the environment. I’ve personally witnessed the meticulous cleanup after the event. One would never know the music festival ever took place because the area is left as clean or cleaner than it was before the event.

The Bayou Boogaloo has promoted solar energy, recycling and encouraged folks to consider the environment. The Bayou Boogaloo has led by example. Several huge oak trees have been planted along the banks of Bayou St. John leaving a lasting positive impact on the environment and the community.

The Bayou Boogaloo gives back in other ways too! The event helps neighborhood organizations raise funds for their operations, has helped build playgrounds, has supported community sports initiatives, helped plant native habitat-building and erosion-preventing marsh grasses, and replaced trees lost during hurricanes.

The City even recognized the Bayou Boogaloo’s founder, Jared Zeller, with a proclamation for promoting an economically and environmentally sustainable event.

Join the Bayou Boogaloo this Friday, Saturday and Sunday May 20, 21, and 22. The Bayou Boogaloo is more than just a music festival, it’s a community building coalition!

More info at: http://thebayouboogaloo.com/

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THE BEAT GOES ON AT THE BAYOU BOOGALOO
By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

It’s been less than three weeks since the last notes rang out at the Fair Grounds to close the 2016 edition of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Not far away, bands will strike up again at the 11th Annual Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo. The free event is presented from Friday, May 20 to Sunday, May 22, 2016 along the banks of Bayou St. John between Dumaine Street and N. Jefferson Davis Parkway. It features three main music stages at Dumaine Street, Orleans Avenue and Lafitte Street plus a Kids Stage that has both music and other activities to please the youngsters.

There are some excellent local and national headliners at the festival that didn’t perform at this year’s Jazz Fest including Nolatet (Sunday, 6 p.m.), The Lowrider Band (Saturday, 7:45 p.m.) and the Wailers (Friday, 7:45 p.m.).

Let’s start with Nolatet, a band of all-star jazz masters – drummer Johnny Vidacovich, bassist James Singleton, vibraphonist/percussionist Mike Dillon and pianist Brian Haas. This performance marks the first time many local people will have the opportunity to experience this group as they’ve only performed in New Orleans several times. Formed spontaneously in 2014 and quickly releasing its exciting debut album, Dogs (The Royal Potato Family) just this year, Nolatet has been out on tour promoting the CD and, according to Vidacovich, has been very well-received. “They liked it a lot – a lot more than I imagined,” he is quoted in OffBeat magazine. “I thought the music would be a little too orchestral. There’s a lot of things that we’re doing that are just out of the norm.”

“I can tell you what it sounds like to me sometimes when I’m involved with the music and my head is spinning,” he continued. “It reminds me of a circus and a Christmas tree with a lot of lights.”

Because pianist Haas, unlike the other members, doesn’t live in New Orleans, Nolatet is a get-it-while-you can band though all concerned express their hope and intent to do much more in the future.

Just an aside – it’s great to have Dillon, who absolutely floored the crowd at last year’s performance of his New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium – back at Bayou Boogaloo. Hopefully, the Consortium, an amazing collection of rhythm masters will return next year or be booked somewhere else soon.

The Lowrider Band, which partly due to the presence of one-time Crescent City resident, drummer Harold Brown, feels almost like its from New Orleans. It’s also got that funk and street band attitude that music lovers here can really relate to. The last time the Lowriders performed in New Orleans was in 2009 at a benefit for the Save Charity Hospital organization. Now that’s awhile ago…

The band is, of course, made up of original members of the group War, including Brown, the great harmonica player Lee Oskar, guitarist Howard Scott and bassist B.B. Dickerson, who, because of health issues will be unable to perform with his fellow Lowriders. Due to a court order, nobody in the group is allowed to mention their participation in War in any promotional material or advertisements. Fortunately, these talents have been able to retain their rights to their compositions and receive royalties.

“Here’s how we say it,” Brown explained. “We are the original composers of and performers on ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends?,’ ‘The Cisco Kid,’ ‘The World is a Ghetto,’ and ‘All Day Music.’ All our friends know the Lowriders. Everybody knows exactly who we are.”

“When we come to play in New Orleans it’s like playing at home in our living room,” Brown once proclaimed. “You can drop all of your big shot attitudes. In New Orleans they want to know about your soul – your spirit. I tell people when they come into the city, to turn off the radio and roll down the windows.”

The socially conscious messages of tunes like Bob Marley’s “One Love” are much needed in today’s world. The Wailers keep that warmth, the much-loved classic songs and laid-back reggae riddims alive. Bassist Aston “Family Man” Barrett is the only member of the touring band that performed and recorded with the group that backed the late, legendary Bob Marley who influenced the world with the magic of his music and his pen. Barrett was the heartbeat of the rock steady beat, the sound that could be felt to one’s core. Reggae by the Bayou seems so right.

Our local stars like bassist George Porter & the Runnin’ Pardners (Sunday, 4 p.m.), the Queen of New Orleans Soul, Irma Thomas (Saturday, 5 p.m.) and zydeco go-getter, accordionist/vocalist Dwayne Dopsie (Friday, 6:15 p.m.) also bolster the impressive schedule.

Parents might want to bring their children to the Kids Stage on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. where Daria Dzurik, the leader/steel pan player/vocalist of Daria & The Hip Drops fame will hold a percussion workshop. With her talent, lively personality and big smile, Dzurik has the qualities to educate and entertain the whole family. She and the Hip Drops certainly caught the crowd at this year’s French Quarter Festival.

On Friday, the music schedule is abbreviated and begins in the evening on two stages starting at 5 p.m. The Wailers, which hit the stage at 7:45 p.m. close it down. On Saturday and Sunday the music gets going at 11 a.m. Naturally there are food and beverage vendors aplenty and arts and crafts booths from one end of the fest to the other.

One of the beauties of the festival remains its wonderful setting and just being able to sit along Bayou St. John and relax.

This article originally published in the May 16, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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