On the eve of the 2018 Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo, organizers announced that admission will be free, as it has been for the previous 12 editions of the festival along the banks of Bayou St. John.
Weeks ago, they had announced plans to charge admission after 3 p.m. each day of the festival, which opens on Friday and runs through Sunday. The cover charge was billed as a way to offset production costs and guard against weather-related shortfalls in concession and merchandise sales.
But on Thursday night, less than 24 hours before gates open, the Boogaloo announced that admission would be free after all.
The change resulted from a permitting issue related to staging a ticketed, rather than free, event on city property. Plans made in the last days of the Landrieu mayoral administration apparently did not translate smoothly to the newly installed Cantrell administration.
"We planned this year’s event with a ticketed-admission, free-until-3 model with an agreement in hand with City Hall," said Jared Zeller, the festival's producer, in the news release announcing the change. "We found out today we need more time to implement that plan. So now we are focused on putting on another great Bayou Boogaloo."
Attendees can still make donations at the gate to Friends of Bayou St. John, the nonprofit that presents the festival.
Anyone who purchased weekend Boogaloo passes in advance can receive a refund or have the pass converted to a festival "membership," which includes various perks and privileges.
In addition to a roster of mostly local music on four stages along Bayou St. John on either side of Orleans Avenue, the festival also features a curated arts market with more than 60 regional artists, a Family Village with games and activities, food from 30 local restaurants and caterers, and paddling, biking and yoga activities.
Notable acts on Friday’s limited, late-afternoon music schedule include the all-female Pinettes Brass Band, south Louisiana soul/Americana singer-songwriter Marc Broussard and garage-pop band Pet Fangs.
On Saturday, the music plays from 11 a.m. to 9:15 p.m. Tony Hall, the Dumpstaphunk bassist who has backed everyone from the Neville Brothers to Dave Matthews, will front his New Orleans Soul All-Stars tribute to James Brown. The 101 Runners Mardi Gras Indian funk band features Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and Big Chief Juan Pardo. Popular genre-defying local bands Johnny Sketch & the Dirty Notes and Naughty Professor plug in later Saturday afternoon. And Meters guitarist Leo Nocentelli shuts down the day with the Funkin’ Truth.
Sunday offers the Bayou Boogaloo’s most consistent music lineup, with Corey Ledet & His Zydeco, crackerjack trumpeter Eric Bloom & Sonic Bloom, the Mardi Gras Indian funk band Cha Wa, singer-songwriter Alex McMurray and blues-funk guitarist Walter “Wolfman” Washington & the Roadmasters with special guest guitarist Samantha Fish.
Later on Sunday, catch the Honey Island Swamp Band’s Big Easy swamp blues, ace bassist Roland Guerin’s band, Toubab Krewe and costumed cover band Bag of Donuts.
For the Sunday night festival finale, Bayou Boogaloo booked “Deacon” John Moore & the Ivories. For more than 50 years, Deacon John has been a New Orleans music community mainstay. He's never had a hit record of his own, but contributed guitar to the original recordings of Irma Thomas’ “Ruler of My Heart,” Ernie K-Doe’s “Mother-in-Law," Lee Dorsey’s “Working in the Coal Mine" and Aaron Neville’s “Tell It Like It Is.”
In his trademark fedora and bow tie, he's played jump blues, New Orleans R&B, disco, Motown, gospel, Beatles covers, “Uptown Funk” and everything in between for successive generations of New Orleanians at every imaginable social event, from weddings to frat parties to Carnival balls to nightclubs.
The festival is produced by the nonprofit Friends of Bayou St. John (formerly the Mothership Foundation), which uses some festival proceeds to plant trees along the bayou and combat litter on its shoreline.