In October 2005, New Orleans native Jared Zeller had an idea that he hoped would help revitalize his community. Following Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaks, Zeller’s devastated Mid-City neighborhood needed plenty of help.
“I had this crazy idea to start a free music festival,” he said last week. “There were still a lot of questions about whether or not this neighborhood would come back to life. I felt like a music festival would be a great way to celebrate why we live here and why we should come back.”
“We allowed just about anybody who wanted to participate to participate,” Zeller said. “It was really just a big free-for-all.”
Zeller’s crazy idea marks its 10th anniversary Friday through Sunday on Bayou St. John. Since 2006, it’s grown from a one-day, one-stage festival to a three-day, three-music-stage event. Last year’s attendance reached 38,000.
As in years past, the 2015 Bayou Boogaloo music lineup is predominantly local. Exceptions are Sunday morning’s performance by the Chicago’s Children’s Chorus and Friday’s headlining show by Acadiana’s Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience.
Zeller and the other Bayou Boogaloo music bookers have much New Orleans-area talent from which to choose.
“We want to hire everybody, but the reality is there are only 32 slots annually,” he said. “The selection part is tough. There are so many great bands. And we try to pick a couple of bands from each genre, which is also impossible. The whole point is inclusion. We want to include everybody in the community and not leave anybody out.”
Also on the schedule, percussionist Mike Dillon returns for a second consecutive year, something usual for Bayou Boogaloo. But Dillon will perform with a new group this year, Mike Dillon’s New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium. Membership in the drum collective includes Jason Marsalis, Stanton Moore, Terrence Houston, Simon Lott and Daria Dzurik.
“It’s something special,” Zeller said.
The nonprofit MotherShip Foundation produces the Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo. About 60 percent of the festival’s revenue comes from beverage sales. Food and art vendors, sponsors and donations at the gate provide additional revenue.
In the years before the festival bought rainout insurance, fear of precipitation kept Zeller awake at night. Financial worries eventually compelled him to expand the event to three days.
“I needed more hours to sell beverages,” he said.
Ten years into the festival’s existence, the mission remains the same.
“Our mission is to restore a higher quality of life to Louisiana residents through the promotion of art, culture and recreation,” Zeller said.
The festival is also restoring Southern live oak trees that Bayou St. John lost during hurricanes Katrina and Isaac. Membership in The Canopy Club, which is $250, gives patrons shade, seating, a private bar, food prepared on site, reserved viewing for the music stages and other perks.
“So far we’ve planted eight trees in the same locations of those trees that we lost,” Zeller said. “It just wasn’t the same without them.”
New in 2015
Canopy Club VIP
Benefits the MotherShip Foundation’s efforts to restore the bayou canopy as well as other community improvement efforts.
The Krewe of ChewBacchus’ MechaGator will appear at 6 p.m. Friday. Aerialists will perform Sunday’s evening before Dumpstaphunk.
8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sunday morning on the bayou. Paddle race including canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and build your own. Open to the public for $20 per person; $30 for boat rental. Winners will receive single-day passes to the festival’s VIP Canopy Club.
Floating root beer float and beer and wine gardens
Festivalgoers can visit the Abita Root Beer Float and pull their boats up to a dock at the Beer and Wine Gardens.
Advance parking reservations
Reserved parking, $10 per day or $25 for three days, is available at http://thebayouboogaloo.com.
Friday, May 15
5 p.m.: Dave Jordan and the Neighborhood Improvement Association
6:30 p.m.: Mannie Fresh
7:45 p.m.: Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience
5 p.m.: Pontchartrain Wrecks
6:45 p.m.: Alexandra Scott and her Magical Band
6 p.m.: Silent Jam Experience with Rebomija
saturday, May 16
12:15 p.m.: Soul Creole
2:45 p.m.: Wild Magnolias
5:15 p.m.: Tony Hall and Friends
7:45 p.m.: New Orleans Suspects
11 a.m.: Ecirb Mullers Twisted Dixie
12:35 p.m.: Davis Rogan
2:15 p.m.: Pirate Choice
3:55 p.m.: Funky Dawgz Brass Band
5:35 p.m.: Yojimbo
7:15 p.m.: Kristin Diable
11 a.m.: Bantam Foxes
1:30 p.m.: Kevin Stylez
4 p.m.: Erica Falls
6:30 p.m.: Woodenhead
11 a.m.: Crafts
Noon: Pamela Marquis
12:30 p.m.: Music and dance for parents and toddlers
1 p.m.: Hope Stone Kids
2 p.m.: Jazmyne Watts
2:30 p.m.: Alli Craig
3 p.m.: Annie Gaia and Naughty Pie/open mic
SUNDAY, May 17
Noon: Papa Mali
2:20 p.m.: Mike Dillon’s New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium
4:40 p.m.: 101 Runners
7 p.m.: Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk
11 a.m.: Chicago Children’s Choir
12:45 p.m.: Meschiya Lake and Tom McDermott
2:30 p.m.: Christian Serpas and Ghost Town
4:15 p.m.: Nawlins Johnnys
6 p.m.: Rotary Downs
11 a.m.: Bhakti Caravan
1:10 p.m.: Kim Carson
3:30 p.m.: Colin Lake
5:50 p.m.: To Be Continued Brass Band
11 a.m.: Crafts
11 a.m.: Children’s farmer’s market
11:30 a.m.: Junior League’s Kids in the Kitchen
12:35 p.m.: Calliope Puppets presents Aesop’s Fables Alive
1:45 p.m.: Singing Beats
4:45 p.m. Rebomijo (check)