Natchitoches’ downtown riverbank was transformed into a packed, standing room only musical powerhouse by the annual Natchitoches Jazz and R&B Festival, Saturday, May 21. This year’s event, in its 25th year of musical excellence, featured 26 bands and singers on several stages playing everything from Zydeco to Jazz, Country, and Rock throughout the day to a delighted crowd.
The festival continued its tradition of featuring a wide variety of musical styles as well as encouraging local talent. The 50 Man Machine returned with what may very well be the only bagpipers and Celtic dancers ever to grace a Natchitoches stage, showing once again that bagpipes make everything better! The locally grown acts of The Snake Doctors, The Nakatosh Rhythm Chiefs and Forsyth Jazz Collective as well as the Kelli Roberts Band were just a sampling of the musical entertainment available to festivalgoers.
The main stage was opened by Houston’s Klockwork band, featuring several members who are NCHS Alumni. Their return home was celebrated by the NCHS Class of 1975 who came out wearing “NCHS Class of ‘75” t-shirts to support their classmates. The group’s superb R&B tunes were followed by the Chase Tyler Band’s Country and Swamp Pop.
Mother Nature threw a wrench into the works with a brief shower and a series of lightning strikes, necessitating shutting down the sound systems for about an hour. In the best “The show must go on” tradition, emcee and 94.9 The River radio personality, Trini Triggs introduced local singing sensation Deshawn Washington who treated the audience to several of his well-known hits sang a cappella. This wonderful bit of impromptu lagniappe delighted the audience.
The lightning delay was handled with aplomb by festival officials who juggled the schedule in order to keep things moving. Johnny Earthquake and the Moondogs, a perennial fixture of the local musical scene, graciously ceded most of their playing time. The group played a few songs along with guitar legend James Burton. Marty Haggard, son of the legendary Country star, played a set of his father’s many hits.
In addition, here was also a short ceremony at which the James Burton Foundation, dedicated to promoting music education for young people, donated eight guitars to the Natchitoches Boy’s & Girl’s Club.
The legendary Grammy winning group The Commodores delighted the festivalgoers with their well known hits from a almost 50 years of making music. Their eagerly awaited performance was moved up to insure they would not be hindered by the possibility of the storm returning. Luckily, the storm did not return and the Journey tribute band Resurrection returned for a second year to Natchitoches, closing out the evening with a superb performance that kept the good times rolling. The musicians in this year’s festival once again gave the audience their money’s worth and then some.