The Baton Rouge Blues Festival returns to downtown Saturday for an eclectic, full day of music, including blues, soul, hip-hop, zydeco, gospel and indie-rock.
Due to inclement weather forecasted for Saturday, the normally outdoor festival is moving from the Repentance Park and Galvez Plaza areas to inside the Baton Rouge River Center. Performances will take place in the River Center Exhibition Hall, Galleria and Ballroom.
Featuring four stages, an increase from last year’s three, and the most diverse musical lineup in the event’s history, the free festival runs 11 a.m.-10:45 p.m. Saturday. Festival-goers may enter the River Center through the Exhibition Hall entrance on River Road and the second-floor plaza entrance on St. Louis Street.
The 2015 lineup, announced in February by presenting organization the Baton Rouge Blues Foundation, features Arrested Development, the hip-hop group whose hits include “People Everyday” and the Grammy-winning “Tennessee”; the impassioned Brooklyn-based soul singer Charles Bradley; the Austin-based indie-rock band Heartless Bastards; and Grammy-winning zydeco group Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band.
Blues performers at the festival include local artists Larry Garner, Kenny Acosta, and Slim Harpo band alum James “Chicken Scratch” Johnson. Like Johnson, singer, guitarist and harmonica player Lazy Lester, another of this year’s performers, is a classic Louisiana swamp act. Baton Rouge’s elder blues statesman, 90-year-old singer-pianist Henry Gray, a festival regular, is also on the bill.
Last year’s Blues Fest added gospel and zydeco music to its schedule. This year, through the inclusion of Arrested Development, the festival is presenting hip-hop music for the first time.
“Arrested Development,” Blues Festival chairman Chris Brooks said, “they’re a very positive band when it comes to their music and lyrics and messages. They have a lot of originality and broad appeal. We’re excited to have them.”
Brooks hopes festival attendees drawn to the event by the musical variety in this year’s schedule will also be exposed to the Baton Rouge area’s indigenous blues and swamp blues.
“With our goal to promote swamp blues, we also have the opportunity to educate the public that blues music started in Louisiana,” Brooks said. “And blues is the basis of all American pop music.”
Last year’s Blues Fest drew an estimated 18,000 to 20,000 attendees.
Blues Fest Rent Party
A benefit for the Baton Rouge Blues Foundation, the Blues Fest’s rent parties take place at 8 p.m. Friday at the historic Prince Hall Masonic Temple, 1339 North Blvd. Classic swamp-blues performer and Excello Records artist Lazy Lester will perform. Tickets are $50 person or $45 per couple. Doors open at 7 p.m.
The Prince Hall Masonic Temple, which dates to 1924, was the scene of countless performances by Guitar Slim, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and many others. It’s located across the street from the former site of Tabby’s Blues Box and Heritage Hall, longtime home of the blues in Baton Rouge.
Backstage at the Blues Fest
Artist interviews will take place at a still-to-be-announced River Center location. The 2015 interviewees include blues, swamp blues, zydeco and gospel performers. The eight artists are matched with knowledgeable interviewers. Each session will end with a Q&A during the final 10 minutes.
This year’s interviewees include Arrested Development, Chubby Carrier, Larry Garner and Lazy Lester. Clear Channel radio will broadcast the event live on 97.7 FM.
In addition to interviews, LPB will screen the documentary “Rainin’ in My Heart … Back to the Blues” noon-5 p.m. in the Old State Capitol House Chambers.
A limited number of VIP passes are available at batonrougebluesfestival.org/vip.
Parking and bicycles
Parking is available at the River Center parking garage. Street parking is available along River Road. A bike corral with valet bicycle parking will be available at no charge, courtesy of Bike Baton Rouge.
The following items are not allowed at the festival site: ice chests or alcoholic beverages; cans and bottles purchased off site; weapons; recording devices; professional cameras and video equipment; pets; beach umbrellas; and tents.
Foundation Stage (rIVER CENTER EXHIBITION HALL)
12:10 p.m.: Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band
1:30 p.m.: Son Little
3 p.m.: Heritage Blues Orchestra
4:55 p.m.: Heartless Bastards
7:05 p.m.: Arrested Development
9:30 p.m.: Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires
Swamp Blues Stage (RIVER CENTER EXHIBITION HALL)
11:30 a.m.: Wil Jackson
12:50 p.m.: Troy Turner
2:10 p.m.: Kenny Acosta & the House Reckers
3:50 p.m.: James “Chicken Scratch” Johnson
6 p.m.: Larry Garner
8:25 p.m.: Lazy Lester
Soul Of BR Stage (RIVER CENTER BALLROOM)
12:15 p.m.: Quiana Lynell & the Lush Life
1:45 p.m.: Cliff & Company
2:30 p.m.: The Lighthouse Singers
3:30 p.m.: Harvey Knox & the Soul Spectrum Band
5:15 p.m.: Henry Turner Jr. & Flavor
The Back Porch (RIVER CENTER GALLERIA AREA)
11 a.m.: Tipitina’s Interns under the direction of Chris Thomas King
12:30 p.m.: Baton Rouge Music Studios
2 p.m.: The Chambers
3:45 p.m.: Louisiana Blues Revisited with Clay Parker, Ryan Harris, & Denton Hatcher
5:30 p.m.: Henry Gray
Busking Performances (RIVER CENTER EXHIBITION LOBBY AND EAST PLAZA ON ST. LOUIS STREET)
12:15 p.m.: The Wilder Janes
1 p.m.: Johnny Midnite
1:45 p.m.: St. Frantic
3:15 p.m.: The Rakers
4 p.m.: Peter Simon
4:45 p.m.: Honeyvibe
Backstage at the Blues Fest (RIVER CENTER LOCATION TBA)
11 a.m.: Son Little (interviewed by musician and Baton Rouge Blues Foundation’s Brian Breen)
11:45 a.m.: Henry Turner Jr. (interviewed by WHYR’s Clay Achee)
12:30 p.m.: Kenny Acosta (interviewed by LSU Press author and LSU Manship School of Mass Communication instructor Alex V. Cook)
1:15 p.m.: Heritage Blues Orchestra (interviewed by LSU musicologist Brett Boutwell)
2 p.m.: Chubby Carrier (interviewed by WJBO’s Karen Henderson)
2:45 p.m.: Arrested Development (interviewed by WRKF’s Amy Jeffries)
3:30 p.m.: Larry Garner (interviewed by WBRH’s Rob Payer)
4:15 p.m.: Lazy Lester (interviewed by Dialogue on Race Louisiana’s Maxine Crump)