The eight annual Crescent City BBQ Blues Festival was held on October 18 – 20, 2013 at Lafayette Square in the CBD in New Orleans. It was my first one but it will become an annual event for me. There were a mix of New Orleans blues bands and those from elsewhere, mostly the US South.
Great BBQ from a variety of traditions fueled the audience over the three days. On Saturday and Sunday there were two stages with performances timed so one started as the other finished. You did not have to make choices, like many other multi-stage events. You simply had to keep moving from one side of Lafayette Park to the other with no wait time between acts.
Saturday began with New Orleans’ own Guitar Lightning Lee, who played a significant role in the HBO series, Treme. I have seen him in town and he is one of the better blues players in the city.
Blind Boy Paxton played a solo acoustic set. His strong presence carried the stage without needing an electric band behind him. It was the only solo act and he displayed a wide range of roots blues, playing the fiddle, harmonica, guitar, and banjo.
Sonny Landreth is a master blues guitar player. However, I had seen him in the New England and was disappointed with the seeming lack of passion at that performance in a Worcester MA parking lot. Perhaps he was out of his element then, as his set at the BBQ Blues Fest did not disappoint. He got that blues guitar working quite well with a lot of energy. An artist did a painting of the band during the performance that was auctioned off for over $3,000 for a worthy cause.
For me, the highlight of the day was Shemekia Copeland who displayed great passion in her performance. She grew up in Harlem. Her father was a famous blues player, Johnny Copeland, and she grew up with this career in mind. Shemekia told a great story about a talent day in her second grade class in Harlem in the 80s. The boys did hip hop and the girls mostly did Whitney Houston. Instead she sang old school blues. Her teacher called to complain to her parents about Shemekia singing about making love to an alligator, Her simply replied, “what do you expect, she is a blues singer.”
Top photo credit only of James Cotton from offbeat.com - James Cotton, Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival, 2013, photo by Kim Welsh