Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo has always attracted music lovers to its three stages along Bayou St. John. It also attracted fans to float around the bayou in boats and rafts. It’s complicated, because the city officially advises against swimming in Bayou St. John (mainly because of the objects at the bottom). Nonetheless, Boogaloo fans arrived in canoes, makeshift barges, giant inflatables and more.
This year, Bayou Boogaloo is getting wet. One of the music festival’s three stages will float on the bayou – anchored to the shore – and will primarily feature marching bands.
There are a few changes from the pre-pandemic editions of the festival, but the Boogaloo is back with three evening music stages from Friday May 20 to Sunday May 22. There’s also a children’s stage, a large art market, food and drink vendors and more.
The musical lineup includes a mix of New Orleans bands and a few guest artists. Many artists were scheduled to play the canceled 2020 event and have been waiting for this festival.
Ani DiFranco is headlining the festival at 8 p.m. Saturday, and she’s due to begin a summer tour in June. DiFranco had just finished writing a suite of songs when the pandemic shutdowns began. She was able to record them in Durham, North Carolina, backed by musicians from bands located there, including alternative country band Hiss Golden Messenger and The Mountain Goats. “Revolutionary Love” was released last year and is a mix of folk, soul and jazz-pop.
Also hailing from the Triangle area of North Carolina, The Squirrel Nut Zippers enjoyed great success during the swing craze when the group was based in Chapel Hill. Over time, most of the members moved to New Orleans and reassembled the band, led by guitarist Jimbo Mathus. The Squirrel Nut Zippers perform at 6:45 p.m. Friday.
The Soul Rebels perform Friday at 8 p.m. on the main stage on avenue d’Orléans. Most marching band performances will take place on the Pacifico Bayou floating stage near the Lafitte Avenue end of the bayou. This includes the Young Fellaz Brass Band on Friday and the Big Six Brass Band, Kings of Brass and others on Saturday. On Sunday, the lineup includes the Young Pinstripe, Chosen Ones, Orleans and Lagniappe marching bands.
Brooklyn’s Red Baraat traveled to New Orleans often during the spring music festival season. His bhangra funk sound is a fusion of bhangra music from founder Sunny Jain’s legacy in India’s Punjabi region with jazz and New York funk and hip-hop influences. The band performs at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Dragon Smoke, featuring keyboardist Ivan Neville, guitarist Eric Lindell and members of Galactic, will perform Friday night. Also on opening night is Chapel Hart, a country band featuring the harmonizing of sisters Danica and Devynn Hart and their cousin Trea Swindle. Inferno Burlesque performs on the Pacifico Floating Stage on Friday.
On Saturday, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and the Golden Eagles and New Soul Finders, led by guitarist Marc Stone and vocalist Marilyn Barbarin. Houston’s Los Skarnales fuses ska and punk with Mexican-American music from Texas and northern Mexico.
On Sunday, Lafayette slide guitar and bluesman Sonny Landreth make the headlines. There are also sets from singer Maggie Koerner, Michot’s Melody Makers, the Colin Lake Band and Balkan-inspired band Blato Zlato. There’s also a tribute to folk and roots music stalwart Spencer Bohren by The Whippersnappers, conducted by his son, pianist Andre Bohren.
The festival’s children’s stage will feature band School of Rock, Brazilian martial arts and dance group Capoeira New Orleans, Poose the Puppet, a pirate improv show from Goat in the Road Productions and more.
The festival has around 20 food vendors, including Southerns and Da GM’s Smoke & Soul BBQ food trucks. The Clesi Restaurant and Caterer will offer boiled crayfish. There’s also Bub’s Burgers, Empanola, and Ajun Cajun. New to the festival are Dat Dog, Jamaican Jerk House, Soule Cafe and Keyala’s Pralines. Many vendors offer vegan or vegetarian items.
The Art Market has 60 artists and artisans offering ceramics, glassware, jewelry, puzzles, paintings, home decor, pet supplies, gifts and more.
Tickets to the festival are $15 on Friday night and $30 for all-day admission on Saturday or Sunday. Advance tickets are available online, and ticket holders can enter any of the festival’s three gates. To purchase tickets at the door, there is a box office on Orleans Avenue on the French Quarter side of the bayou. VIP ticket holders will receive electronic wristbands to use at beverage vendors inside the park. The bars accept credit cards, but not cash. Most food and craft vendors accept cash or credit cards.
Bayou Boogaloo has posted its water access rules, intended both for safety and to improve post-party cleanup. Some floating vehicles can be launched before the festival and many ships will require a deposit, refundable when the boat or raft is retired after the event. Motor boats are not permitted. State laws regarding water safety apply. Visit the website for a full list of rules and guidelines. Visit thebayouboogaloo.com for details and tickets.
Why do pirates spend so much time hiding and looking for treasure instead of just spending it?