By: Kevin Shannahan
This past weekend, the downtown riverbank was transformed into a musical powerhouse by the annual Natchitoches Jazz and R&B Festival featuring over 25 bands and singers on four stages playing everything from Zydeco to Country, Jazz and Rock to a capacity crowd.
Friday evening saw local legends Cane River Mutiny and Hardrick Rivers setting the bar for the festival, followed by a high energy set performed by up-and-coming Country singer Lainey Wilson. Friday’s performances were brought to a close by Zydeco legend Wayne Toups, a perennial Louisiana favorite who had the crowd happily dancing the night away.
Saturday’s schedule started shortly before lunch and continued the Festival’s tradition of featuring a wide variety of musical styles as well as encouraging local talent. Billy O’Con and Badd Apple rocked the house. The superb NSU Jazz Orchestra was a delight to listen to with their smooth-as-silk sound. Grace Brumfield made her debut as lead singer for Kopacetic with Beau Voinche on keyboard and Jacob Bryant on guitar. The Lukejazz Quartet, a longtime fixture on the Natchitoches music scene, provided the perfect ending for the discerning jazz fans at the Jazz Stage at Beau Jardin.
The legendary guitarist James Burton once again appeared with Natchitoches’ own Johnny Earthquake and the Moondogs in what is, hopefully, to become a yearly tradition. He was joined as a guest by Estelle Brown, a member of the famed Sweet Inspirations and backup singer for Elvis Presley. The Moondogs were followed by Midnight Star who changed things up with their signature non-stop choreographed moves and old school dance music. While they were on the stage, there was indeed no parking on the dance floor. The festival was closed by headliner Grand Funk Railroad before a capacity crowd lining the riverbank without an inch to spare. They kept the audience on their feet and moving with a high energy show featuring their classic standards. This year’s Jazz and R&B Festival was an enjoyable success.