After a week of rain, Mother Nature was finally cooperative, as the downtown riverbank was transformed into a packed, standing room only musical powerhouse by the annual Natchitoches Jazz and R&B Festival, May 22. This year’s event, the latest of over 22 years of musical excellence, featured 18 bands and singers on several stages playing everything from Zydeco to Jazz, Country, and Rock to a delighted crowd.
The festival continued its 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 50 Man Machine brought with what may very well be the only bagpipers and Celtic dancers ever to grace the Natchitoches Jazzfest, a most welcome addition! The Hardrick Rivers Review featured its legendary namesake backed up by some amazingly talented musicians. These acts and the Kelly Roberts Band were just a sampling of the musical entertainment available to festivalgoers on the side stages.
The main stage was opened by local band the Nakatosh Rhythm Chiefs, who were followed by the infectiously danceable Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers. Johnny Earthquake and the Moondogs, a perennial fixture on the local musical scene, had the crowd on its feet and were followed by Rare Earth’s Peter Rivera. Headliner Neal McCoy gave an eclectic performance that featured everything from a dead-on impersonation of Charlie Pride, to tunes from Donna Summer, Michael Jackson, Bruno Mars and some of his own hits. He also performed a beautiful rendition of the classic hymn How Great Thou Art. The delighted audience literally did not know what song or genre would come next! The festival was closed by returning favorite AC/DC tribute band Back in Black who positively blasted the audience with a solid wall of sound. The musicians in this year’s festival gave the audience their money’s worth and then some.