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What's new with Bayou Boogaloo 2014

Will Coviello on the ambitious plans for the annual fest on Bayou St. John

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As the Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo has expanded in its nine years, both filling the banks of Bayou St. John off Orleans Avenue and growing to three music stages and three days, director Jared Zeller has managed to keep the festival free and is glad to have one problem.

  "We have to narrow it down to 32 bands," says Zeller, whose Mothership Foundation sponsors the event. "It's not easy with all the bands in New Orleans, and there's so many new bands every year. But we've only had a handful of bands that have played the festival more than once."

  Bayou Boogaloo started as a small music festival on the bayou, and it has added a large art market, kids' activities and hub for nonprofit groups, particularly neighborhood groups, to reach out to festivalgoers. There are two bicycle events; new this year are cooking demonstrations.

  The musical lineup features performers from a diverse array of Louisiana musical genres, ranging from brass and jazz to rock and funk to Cajun and zydeco bands. Headliners include accordion player Rosie Ledet and the Zydeco Playboys (7 p.m. Sunday) and rocking Cajun fiddler Waylon Thibodeaux (12:15 p.m. Saturday), who blends Cajun and swamp pop sounds. Bounce artist Big Freedia makes his debut at the festival (6:30 p.m. Friday). (The second season of Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce premieres June 11 on Fuse.) California native-turned-Gulf Coast groove rocker Eric Lindell makes his debut at the festival (7:45 p.m. Saturday). Lindell recently released Indian Summer and after Boogaloo heads to Indiana to release Live In Space at the club where he recorded the album in January.

  The lineup includes several new up-and-coming local bands. Sweet Crude (2:45 p.m. Saturday) is a sunny Cajun-influenced pop band built around Alexis and the Samurai duo Sam Craft and Alexis Marceaux. Tank and the Bangas (4 p.m. Saturday) blends soul, hip-hop, R&B and spoken word performance. Soul singer Nigel Hall and the Congregation (7:45 p.m. Friday) also play their first Boogaloo.

  On the jazz front, cellist Helen Gillet and bassist Jim Singleton (11 a.m. Sunday) collaborate onstage and Kid Merv brings his band (3:55 p.m. Saturday). Vocalist Big Chief Juan Pardo leads the Golden Comanche Mardi Gras Indians (6:30 p.m. Saturday), and R&B pianist Davell Crawford joins Chris Severin (12:15 p.m. Sunday).

  Slow Food New Orleans curated a lineup of chefs and mixologists, cosponsored by local food producers including Grow Dat Youth Farm and Hollygrove Market and Farm. Chef Ryan Hughes, who runs the pop-up restaurant Purloo while he waits to open it in a permanent space, will do a demonstration Saturday at 6:30 p.m., and Sylvain's chef Alex Harrell is scheduled at 1:10 p.m. Sunday. The dishes they demonstrate will be included in the VIP area called Canopy Club (weekend passes cost $100 and include parking). There also are cocktail demonstrations and those drinks are available in the VIP area.

  Daily VIP tickets also are available.

  The art market has grown to occupy the stretch of the bayou between Orleans Avenue and Dumaine Street. The juried selection includes 70 artists and there's an emphasis on locally made crafts. Last year the festival featured a sculpture artist Marlin Miller carved out of a treer. This year Miller returns to add a 10-foot-tall likeness of Mardi Gras Indian Chief David Montana on the sculpture.

  Last year, the festival attracted 35,000 attendees. The event remains free, but last year it solicited donations at the festival grounds entry points. This year, Zeller has enlisted volunteers from neighborhood nonprofit groups to circulate and solicit donations. One-third of donations will be distributed to those groups, with the goal of improving the Bayou St. John area by planting trees, promoting public art and other projects, Zeller says. As the park has improved, the city has moved to charge a usage fee, as it does with other spaces. An appropriate rate has not been determined (read "Boogaloo-ing for bucks" from Gambit's April 22 issue), so for the time being, the festival is only paying a damage deposit.

  Support for the festival also comes from the Positive Vibrations Foundation, which underwrites many of the musical performances.

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