Despite dire forecasts for much of the weekend, the Bayou Boogaloo managed to stay mostly rain-free during its three-day stint along Bayou St. John (though there was a brief downpour on Saturday evening). This better-than-expected weather drew sizable crowds to the Mid City festival, where countless attendees took to the water in kayaks, inner tubes and an impressive array of barges. It was a sight that should be familiar to Boogaloo regulars, who spend as much time taking in a leisurely weekend at the bayou as they do enjoying the event’s varied musical offerings.
The celebration got off to a great start on Friday—unquestionably the sunniest day of the weekend—with a headlining set from Meters legend Zigaboo Modeliste and his appropriately named Funk Revue. While the iconic drummer provided a perfectly fine set, the headliner status might as well have gone to rising stars Tank and the Bangas, who brought one of the biggest crowds of the fest to their exhilarating performance. Over the course of an hour, the group—joined by guitarist Danny Abel and a pair of dancers in blue and pink unitards—proved they are as skilled at delivering show-stopping bangers as they are at creating moments of sublime, poetic beauty. Tarriona “Tank” Ball and her crew will undoubtedly be moving on to larger venues in the wake of their Tiny Desk Contest victory and, if Friday’s offering is any indication, the group should have no trouble filling them with their joyous sound. Friday also saw performances by Alfred Banks, Caesar Brothers’ Funkbox featuring Big Chief Juan Pardo and New York City-based R&B act John the Martyr, who closed out the Dumaine Stage under the soulful leadership of singer William Hudson.
The music got going earlier on Saturday as Kettle Black, Stoop Kids and Jamaican Me Breakfast Club kicked things off on their respective stages. Other performers included The Deslondes, New Breed Brass Band, Maggie Belle Band, Water Seed, Kumasi and Pink Magnolias, who covered plenty of sonic territory between them. However the big takeaway from Saturday was the enduring popularity of “Cupid Shuffle,” the 2007 hit that has been played at nearly every wedding, bar mitzvah and high school dance over the past decade. The man behind the tune—Lafayette native Cupid—brought more than just his signature song to the Bayou Boogaloo: he brought a world record attempt too. The R&B singer aimed to set a new record for longest “Cupid Shuffle” line dance by stretching his song out for 10 minutes while the packed crowd did its best to keep it going (the previous record, set in Atlanta, lasted 8 minutes). It wasn’t a difficult task for the audience—the instructional nature of the song’s lyrics makes keeping up easy—but it was certainly an enthusiastic one.
This video, courtesy of NOLA.com, should give you an idea of just how enthusiastic that crowd was.:
Saturday also featured a well-attended performance by Baton Rouge native Chris Thomas King, who took some shots at the legacy of Delta blues with his succinctly titled track, “The Blues Was Born In Louisiana, Not Mississippi.” Unfortunately his set cleared out pretty quickly when the long-anticipated rainstorm finally did show up for a brief, but intense, torrential downpour. On the bright side, things did clear up for Cracker, who offered an entertaining blend of alternative rock, blues and country during their headlining slot.
Perpetually gloomy skies kept the large crowds away on Sunday, which is a shame because some great acts took the stage throughout the day. New York-based keyboard wiz Marco Benevento led the Boogaloo through a particularly eclectic set that showcased his piano-driven pop-rock originals, as well as off-kilter covers like Butthole Surfers’ “Pepper” and a mash-up of Pink Floyd’s “Fearless” and Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets.” It was a perfect prelude to Jon Cleary & The Absolute Monster Gentlemen, whose piano-centric sound took a decidedly funkier route as the band performed material from Cleary’s Grammy-winning 2015 album “Go-Go Juice,” a rendition of The Meters’ “Just Kissed My Baby” and more.
However, the day’s most intriguing set came from The Holy Warriors, a brand new supergroup comprised of Sunpie, Barnes, Helen Gillet, James Singleton, Cole Williams, Calvin Johnson, Matt Hampsey and Rick Trolsen that alternated between jazz, zydeco, R&B and rock while giving every member of the talented ensemble as chance to show off their strengths. The band closed out the Dumaine Stage following a fun set from current OffBeat cover subject Mia Borders, who treated the crowd to material from her excellent 2016 album Fever Dreams.
All photos by Daniel Grey and Marine Laval