Buckwheat Zydeco, slide guitarist Sonny Landreth, rock band Cowboy Mouth and rhythm and blues vocalist Jean “Mr. Big Stuff” Knight will make their French Quarter Festival debuts in 2016. Organizers unveiled this year’s schedule of more than 1,700 musicians on Wednesday.
The free festival opens on Thursday, April 7, and continues through Sunday, April 10. Performances will take place on 23 stages in Woldenberg Park, Spanish Plaza and throughout the French Quarter. If the weather is favorable, overall attendance is expected to be in the hundreds of thousands.
The festival will officially kick off with a second-line parade at 10 a.m. April 7, which will start in the 100 block of Bourbon Street and make its way to Jackson Square.
In addition to music, events will include a film festival at Le Petit Theatre, a musician interview series at the Old U.S. Mint, free dance lessons and two areas with children’s activities.
Cowboy Mouth will perform April 7 on the main Abita Beer Stage along the riverfront. Landreth will plug in that same day at the nearby Tropical Isle Hand Grenade Stage.
Buckwheat Zydeco hits the Abita Beer Stage on April 10, the same day Knight sings.
Other first-time performers include: Amy Nicole & Zydeco Soul, Andre Bohren, the Andy J. Forest Trio, Bad Penny Pleasuremakers, the Caesar Brothers’ Funk Box, Cha Wa, Chance Bushman & the Ibervillianaires, Charlie Halloran and the Quality 6, the Charlie Wooten Project, Dex Daley & Jam-X, the comedy troupe Goat in the Road, Little Maker, MainLine, Mason Ruffner, Sarah Quintana & the Miss River Band, T’Canaille, Thais Clark & her JAZZsters, the Batture Boys featuring Tommy Malone and Ray Ganucheau, the Salt Wives, and Wes Raymond & the SOUL Factory.
The festival is produced by the nonprofit French Quarter Festivals Inc., the same organization that presents Satchmo SummerFest in August and Christmas New Orleans Style in December.
Admission is free. Funds are raised through sponsorships and the sale of food, beverages and official festival merchandise.
The festival does not pay bands directly. For much of the festival’s history, musicians were responsible for lining up their own “sponsors” in order to be paid. Since 2012, French Quarter Festivals Inc. has administered its own sponsorship program. In 2015, it said, more than 150 businesses, individuals and foundations agreed to “adopt an artist.” This year’s sponsors include the locally shot television show “NCIS: New Orleans,” which is financing the performance by Buckwheat Zydeco.
Chevron is once again the festival’s title sponsor.
Isabelle Jacopin, a French artist who lives part time in New Orleans, painted the official 2016 French Quarter Festival poster of St. Louis Cathedral reflected on a tuba’s bell. It will be sold as 2,000 signed and numbered silk-screen prints for $50 each, and as 400 signed and numbered artist proofs for $65.
French-born folk artist Simon Hardeveld, whose stylized, text-heavy prints are seen around New Orleans, has again created a limited-edition poster for the festival. It proclaims New Orleans as the “birthplace of jazz and po-boys.” It will be sold as a limited edition of 500 signed and numbered silk-screen prints for $65 each.
A drawing by Bunny Matthews, the local cartoonist and music journalist who created the naturally New Orleans Vic and Nat’ly characters in 1982, will be featured on a limited-edition 2016 French Quarter Festival T-shirt. Last year, Matthews was diagnosed with cancer of the central nervous system. He has chronicled his battle against the disease on Facebook.
On Friday, April 8, a festival after-party at the House of Blues will pay tribute to Allen Toussaint, the New Orleans music legend who died in November.
Toussaint made his French Quarter Festival debut last year and was featured on the event’s poster.
The nighttime event is a fundraiser for the charity Toussaint co-founded, New Orleans Artists Against Hunger and Homelessness.