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What's new at French Quarter Fest 2018

New Orleans artists making their festival debut

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The 35th annual French Quarter Festival kicks off April 12, with hundreds of musical acts in Jackson Square, Woldenberg Park, at the U.S. Mint and other locations around the Vieux Carre. Besides the music, there's plenty to do, including children's activities, a musician speakers series, a Louisiana-focused series of film screenings and more.

  We break down who's new at French Quarter Fest this year, give suggestions on bands to check out, offer a few drinking and dining suggestions for before and after the festival and preview some of the movies that will be screened (p. 25). See you in the Quarter!


Bands making their first appearance at French Quarter Festival

French Quarter Festival presents 250 bands in more than 300 performances this year. More than 30 of those acts are making their debut at the festival. Here are some of the newcomers to catch this weekend.

Zachary Richard
Friday
7:30 p.m.-9 p.m.
Chevron Cajun/Zydeco Showcase 400 Decatur St.
Lafayette native Zachary Richard has been a musician, poet and ambassador for Cajun culture for decades, but this will be his first appearance at French Quarter Festival. He's also featured in a film, Zachary Richard, Cajun Heart, at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre. In the last decade, he's worked on several film and TV projects exploring the Acadian diaspora.

  Richard sang in school while growing up, but learning to play accordion drew him into Cajun music. He also incorporates zydeco influences, relying more on bluesy accordion playing than Cajun fiddling. Many of his early albums were sung in French and released while he lived in Montreal in the 1970s and early 1980s. When he returned to Louisiana, he recorded several albums in English for Rounder Records and A&M, but he has carried the torch for traditional Cajun music. He released his 21st album, Gombo, in October 2017.

Chocolate Milk
Friday
7:30 p.m.-8:45 p.m.
Abita Beer Stage, Woldenberg Park
Chocolate Milk was a solid New Orleans funk and soul band in the 1970s and early '80s, and it backed other artists as a studio band for Allen Toussaint. The band struck out on its own, signing to RCA and releasing eight albums for the label. It's best known for tunes including "Action Speaks Louder Than Words," "Girl Callin'," "Groove City" and "Blue Jeans." In the early '80s, the band left New Orleans, saw a lot of turnover in its lineup, dabbled in disco and disbanded in 1983. In the new millennium, Chocolate Milk regrouped, released a greatest hits album in 2002 and has re-emerged, showing that it hasn't lost its chops with deep funk, soul and R&B.

Alfred Banks with Cool Nasty
Saturday
2 p.m.-3:25 p.m.
WWL-TV Esplanade in the Shade Stage 400 Esplanade Ave.
New Orleans rapper Alfred Banks has performed at plenty of festivals, including Voodoo Music + Arts Experience and Buku Music + Art Project and he's just back from Austin's SXSW. His 2017 LP The Beautiful was inspired by the death of his brother Orlandas Banks, who suffered from mental illness and committed suicide. The album has been well-received, debuting at No. 12 on iTunes Rap/Hip-Hop chart and at No. 79 on Billboard's Heatseekers Album chart.

Blato Zlato
Sunday
1:30 p.m.-2:45 p.m.
Heart of Bourbon Street Stage 700 Bourbon St.
Bulgarian-born percussionist Boyanna Trayanova heads Blato Zlato ("swamp gold" in Bulgarian), one of several local bands leading an Eastern bloc musical renaissance. The group is inspired by music from the Balkans and Eastern Europe and performs both traditional folk songs and original compositions with harmonic singing over standup bass, violin, accordion and percussion. In December 2017, the band released the album Voyage, inspired by a traditional Bulgarian song included on a musical compilation selected by Carl Sagan to be sent into space on NASA's Voyager.

Bonsoir, Catin
Sunday
2 p.m.-3 p.m.
Chevron Cajun/Zydeco Showcase 400 Decatur St.

Bonsoir, Catin hails from Lafayette and was nominated for a Regional Roots Grammy Award for 2014's Light the Stars. Its lineup includes Christine Balfa, daughter of legendary Cajun fiddler Dewey Balfa. Guitarist Maegan Berard, daughter of musician Al Berard, also comes from a pedigreed family of Cajun performers. Violinist Anya Burgess, a renowned musician in her own right, performs with the Magnolia Sisters and runs a violin shop. But it's not an exclusively Cajun band. The almost all-female lineup — save drummer Danny Devillier — plays French-language ballads and Cajun dance hall standards, but also mixes in swamp pop, rock and blues.

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