Thirty years ago, “Alligator” Mike Falgout’s parents started hosting a popular Good Friday crawfish boil on the family’s crawfish and alligator farm in Larose. Over the decades, the celebration waxed, waned and evolved as other family members got involved, including those of Falgout’s generation. “Finally,” he recalled this week, “we said, ‘Why don’t we try to legitimize this thing?’ ”
With that, the T-Bois Blues Festival was born.
Now in its seventh year, the festival is still staged on the farm about an hour’s drive southwest of New Orleans and still staffed by Falgout’s family and friends. It features a roster of regional and visiting acts, many of which play some variation on the blues. Most attendees camp on the grounds.
The 2016 T-Bois Blues Festival — T-Bois, the name of the farm, translates as “lil woods” — kicks off Thursday evening with a pre-party. Friday’s roster includes Dave Jordan, the Honey Island Swamp Band, Jason Ricci and soul/funk keyboardist and singer Nigel Hall. The jam-packed Saturday schedule features Billy Iuso & the Restless Natives, Texas blues guitarist Carolyn Wonderland, Baton Rouge’s Jonathon Boogie Long, southwest Louisiana’s Lost Bayou Ramblers and the New York and soul-blues-rock band Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds.
As they do every year, guitarists Colin Lake and Anders Osborne, festival favorites since year one, bring it all home late Saturday night. Lake will play a set with his band, followed by Osborne. After Osborne wraps up about 1 a.m., Lake closes the festival with a second, acoustic set, a festival nightcap played out around a campfire that, Falgout says only half-jokingly, “is only for the diehards.”
Last year, T-Bois attendees came from 25 states, Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany. “Once you get into the blues network, it’s easy to get discovered,” Falgout said.
For the past two years, the festival has sold all 1,200 tickets and is on track to sell out again this year.
A two-day pass for Friday and Saturday, which includes food, beer and a spot for tent camping, is $128.50 plus service charges. A single-day Saturday ticket is $90. Additional add-on tickets are good for Thursday night’s music, airboat rides and other options. A VIP ticket includes such amenities as air-conditioned bathrooms — as opposed to port-a-lets — and an enhanced menu. Tickets are available at tboisbluesfestival.com.
Organizers serve three buffet-style meals a day served between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to bring snacks and ice chests, even though NOLA Brewing Co. is a sponsor and provides free beer.
“That’s why we encourage everyone to stay on site,” Falgout said of the free beer.
In 2015, the family harvested 40 sacks of crawfish from the farm’s ponds for the festival. This year, the ponds haven’t been as productive, Falgout said, so he’ll need to outsource additional crawfish; attendees can purchase a “crawfish add-on” to make sure they get some.
The heavy rains that drenched much of Louisiana over the past week largely spared the festival site in Larose. Upgrades — including “turtlebacking,” or building up certain areas so water runs off to the side, as from a turtle’s back — have helped, Falgout said: “We’ve improved the drainage tremendously.” The main camping site has served as a cow pasture for a century, so “it’s good, hard, solid ground.”
At sundown Saturday, they still plan to set fire to “Big Al,” a 30-foot-tall alligator, made out of plywood, wielding a huge guitar. But given the potential for rain this weekend, the festival’s two stages will both be inside an 80- by 120-foot tent. They sit side by side; as soon as a band finishes on one stage, the next act starts on the other.
“You can set your chair up in the middle, and the music goes back to back between the two stages,” Falgout said. “There’s no overlapping music.”
Falgout curates and books the music. “I used to have to beg bands to play. It’s getting easier now. People answer my emails. We’ve gained some notoriety over the last few years. We pride ourselves in introducing new music.
“We’re a blues festival. I try to end it with a blues show. But we also do something a little funkier on Friday night.”
He likes to check out other music festivals, though being the father of a 6-year-old and a 14-month-old has curtailed his traveling. He and his family moved to New Orleans in 2002; he works as an oil and gas landman, among other pursuits.
But his father and brother still run the alligator and crawfish farm that is home to the T-Bois Blues Festival. What do the resident alligators think of the music?
“They have a good time, I think,” Falgout said. “And they’re good security. People are scared to venture off the highlighted areas.”