Thursday, April 26, 2012, UPDATED
Narrative to follow, having too much fun to write...look at this schedule. The fact that most Americans have never heard of most of these bands is a non-issue. The promoters have an ear for music that is connected with the predominantly French culture of southwest Louisiana.
In the words of the organizers… “Festival International de Louisiane is a community-based, non-profit arts organization formed in 1986 to produce an annual visual and performing arts festival celebrating the French cultural heritage of southern Louisiana - primarily a combination of French, African, Caribbean and Hispanic influences.”
Every music act on each of the five major stages is introduced in French and English. Wandering up and down the streets of downtown Lafayette, I’ve heard French with Cajun, Canadian, and African accents. Thousands of people jammed the center of Lafayette Thursday night. This is the biggest, friendliest block party in the world.
By 7:15 Thursday night, the festival was ON...
Ce Qui Marchent Debout (France - Brass Funk)- Scene Malibu, Fais Do Do Stage
These guys rock. Big-time fusillades of brass, trumpets, saxophone and a percussion system with power that could back up a fracking machine. You can feel the vibration in the pavement under your feet. These guys are a grab bag of everything, rock funk Latin rumba and a little bit of rap llte and it’s no small wonder thousands of bots are shimmying to the beat of this cosmic party band.
Soul Express Brass Band (Louisiana - Brass) Opelousas's first Brass Band
Heading back down Jefferson, I hear the unmistakable "taa daa daa daa daaaaa daa..." of a New Orleans brass band. The Soul Express is holding court on the corner of Jefferson and Vermillion, the epicenter of the festival.
Nothing in the world sounds like a New Orleans brass band. The sheer raw firepower of pealing trumpets, glissando raking trombones, a big bad tuba, crackling snare drums, and one booming bass drum, with that particular rolling thunder New Orleans rhythm that inspires foot stomping booty shaking hand clapping behavior from anyone with a beating heart. Little girls hold hands and dance around in circles. Their big sisters and brothers groove right behind them. I don’t know how spontaneous Lafayette residents usually are, but here they are shaking just about everything God gave them to the beat of the band.
Bombino (Niger - Desert Rock) on the Scene Popeye International Stage
Vocals in Tuareg, band led by led by Omara "Bombino" Moctar, a young Tuareg guitarist from Niger, driven by three guitars and one gigantic drum set that packed the power of a summer storm.
Joel Savoy's Honky Tonk Merry Go Round (Louisiana - Honky Tonk)
A rare event, music inside and not on a big stage outside where they will play later this weekend, Joel Savoy's Honky Tonk Merry Go Round plays at Antlers, a bar on Jefferson. Ample sized stage and dance floor make for happy people. Joel's parents Mark and Ann Savoy were in the audience as were fellow musicians who come onstage to jam. The next day a friend told me Wayne Toups stopped by and sang a George Jones country song with the band. That must have been just this side of spectacular.
Scene Popeye, International Stage, Robert Randolph Family Band (US - Funk/Rock/Soul)
The first song got my attention but as the set war on the band devolved into a mellow Grateful Dead groove, music that meandered, then occasionally exploded with Robert Randolph's impressive frenzied solos. 11 PM, time to head to my motel.