Concert review: Festival International brings epic, diverse sounds to Lafayette, Louisiana, April 27-May 1
The world showed up in Lafayette, Louisiana for Festival International. The 25-year celebration of international music was held over five days and six stages bringing international and celebrated local and American musical stars to Louisiana.
The music scenes are staged throughout the downtown area. The free festival is held annually on the last weekend in April and supported by corporate sponsors and revenues from the sale of festival pins and posters Food vendors featuring local Louisiana fare. There are world crafts as well as a juried art fair.
The festival begins on Wednesday’s single stage and expands to the full six stages on Saturday and Sunday. The Festival kicked off Wednesday evening with two bands from Lafayette: Horace Trahan and Lil’ Nathan and the Zydeco Big Timers.
There were a number of venues that hosted bands after the festival ended for the evening. I chose the Blue Moon where Lil’ Band of Gold played on Wednesday. Lil’ Band of Gold is an all-star band featuring swamp pop legend Warren Storm. The rest of the week featured the Iguanas, The Bluerunners, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Cedric Watson; all were joined with international guest artists from the festival. The merging of the local and international artist showed how universal music is. Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Feufollet and the Zydepunks played the weekend at the nearby Artmosphere.
On Thursday the event expanded to two stages opening with Sonny Landreth, Master Drummers of Burundi, and Keb’ Mo’ at the Main Stage and Toubab Krewe, Rootz Underground and The Duhks at the Fais Do Do Stage. The distance between all stages was less than 10 blocks so it was very manageable to see the more than one set. Sonny Landreth, the renowned slide guitar player was followed by the opening ceremonies with the flags of all nations were carried across stage. The Drummers were a visual and musical crowd pleaser. The popular Winnipeg folk group, The Duhks, wowed the full crowd at the Fais Do Do Stage.
A strong Friday featured Grammy winner Terrance Simien. Seroit the folkrock quartet from the Isle de la Madeline returned to the festival and did not disappoint their loyal Louisiana fans. Local Cajun players Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys and Jesse Lege with Joel Savoy played to a full crowd of dancers.
The Saturday/Sunday highlights (most groups played both days) were the Louisiana folkrock group The Givers and an Israeli/US pop band Balkan Beat Box, both performing to a packed venue of energetic fans. The lovely songstress Maria de Barros from Cabo Verde became one of my favorite performers. Louisiana local Cajun/Zydeco artists Beausoleil, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Chubby Carrier, Jeffery Broussard, Feufollet and Keith Frank were dancers’ favorites. Brass bands Soul Rebels (New Orleans) and Red Barat (India) brought outstanding energy to an enthusiastic audience. There were also many more international performers from Haiti, Congo and Belgium.
The streets also were alive with music and artistic performers with the MarchFourth Marching Band, the Tetes en l’air (streetwalkers from France), the Soul Express Brass Band and Peruvian Runa Pacha.
If you needed a break from the all day events you could duck inside a local restaurant or one of the local art galleries or shops. Getting to the event was made simple with free bus transportation.
Check out my photos from the festival here.