Allen Toussaint, Monk Boudreaux and the Golden Eagles, Ellis Marsalis, Shannon Powell and his Traditional All-Stars, Guitar Slim Jr., and Benny Grunch and the Bunch are among the more than 1,500 musicians who’ll perform at the 2015 French Quarter Festival.
The 32nd French Quarter Festival, running April 9 through April 12, will feature 23 stages throughout the Quarter, up from last year’s 21.
The free festival, which also features more than 60 vendors, drew a record-breaking 733,000 attendees in 2014, producing a $251 million economic impact, according to its organizers.
“People love to compare us to Jazz Fest, but we’re such different animals,” French Quarter Festival Executive Director Marci Schramm said. “They are something so unique, and we’re something completely different from them. It’s all good.”
Differences among the French Quarter Festival, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and the Voodoo Experience, Schramm said, include their distinctive settings.
“We take a living neighborhood and turn it into a festival grounds,” she said. “That’s one of the major factors that contributes to making French Quarter Festival the special thing it is.”
Toussaint, the New Orleans pianist, songwriter, producer and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, will make his first French Quarter Festival appearance since 1998. He’ll perform April 9.
Toussaint’s 2015 French Quarter Festival performance follows the 2014 appearance by another of the city’s international music stars, Dr. John. Toussaint has been on the festival’s wish list for years. In 2013, he performed at its sister event, Satchmo Summer Fest.
Despite Toussaint’s long absence from a French Quarter Festival stage, he’s been a frequent presence at the event, Schramm said.
“Every year, he comes and hangs out,” she said. “He’s a local, and he likes to hang out with the locals. He’s one of us.”
Doug Kershaw is another national name in the 2015 lineup. The 78-year-old Cajun music singer and fiddl1er’s national hits include “Louisiana Man” and “Diggy Liggy Lo.” He’ll appear with Cajun fiddler and accordion player Steve Riley on April 9. Kershaw and Riley released a duo album of traditional Cajun music, “Face to Face,” last year.
Dee Dee Bridgewater, a Grammy- and Tony-winning jazz singer and host of NPR’s “JazzSet,” is tentatively scheduled to join trumpeter Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra on April 12 for a program called “The New Orleans Songbook.” She’s the honorary chairwoman of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra’s board of directors.
Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, also known as NOJO, will play the festival’s first residency. In addition to its appearance with Bridgewater, the group will perform the music of Stevie Wonder, the Beatles and the Grateful Dead on April 9; the music of Led Zeppelin, Nirvana and Queen on April 10; and a program of children’s music on April 11.
On April 10, the Dixie Cups (“Chapel of Love,” “Iko Iko”), the singing group that celebrated its 50th anniversary at least year’s festival, will return to the event.
Two new stages are being added this year. The Spanish Plaza Stage will expand the music across Canal Street with three days of programming. The Omni Royal Orleans Stage at 500 Royal St. will present traditional jazz on April 11-12.
The 2015 lineup at the popular Chevron Cajun Zydeco Showcase Stage, launched in 2013, includes four-time Grammy nominee Jo-El Sonnier, the Lost Bayou Ramblers and Amanda Shaw.
More than a dozen acts will make their French Quarter festival debuts in 2015, including Guitar Slim Jr., the Write Brothers, the Honorable South and the New Orleans Swamp Donkeys.
Younger-generation acts include the Doghill Stompers, grandsons of zydeco music-pioneer Boozoo Chavis; Jenard Andrews, son of trumpeter James Andrews and cousin of Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews; and Neshia Ruffins, daughter of singer-trumpeter Kermit Ruffins.
Special events and programs include “Let Them Talk: Conversations about Louisiana Music,” at the Old U.S. Mint, and a three-day film festival presented by Timecode: NOLA at Le Petit Theatre.