Nestled in amongst some trees and long stretches of highway is a community which has over the past couple of years been building a small oasis by bringing some music to their laid back part of the state in Louisiana. A hidden little gem known as the Bogalusa Blues & Heritage Festival, it doesn’t need superman acts to waltz into town and lay down a lot of rock star attitude. They don’t need spray painted pop singers or football length stage acreage. No, all this little festival has to offer is good music, good food and people having a good time.
Jumping up on their third year of existence with both feet kicking, organizers brought in enough talent to light up the streetlamps on Bourbon Street all night long. All the performers brought their A+ games because these were their people, the ones who they see supporting them year after year, whether in cramped-together hot boxes like Tipitinas or the massive grounds of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. The people dancing and bopping to Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone and swaying to Ruthie Foster deserve the best of what they know how to do. What better time to cook up the mojo than in their own backyard.
The festival kicked off on a hot Friday night with Walter Wolfman Washington and Paul Thorn and bled into Saturday with Big George Brock dressed to a T in black and red, just like a good bluesman with a catty smile and twinkle in his eye. Sansone began his set sneaking into the crowd with his harmonica and blowing a hole in the sky. Bringing out Chief Monk Boudreaux & The Golden Eagles was icing on his sweat-drenched cake. Slide guitar playing was elixir of the gods as both Mike Zito and Bobby Schneck Jr came alive to rain some southern hot blues down onto our already whipped up overheated souls.
Driving straight down from St Louis following an into the wee hours gig, Devon Allman, lately of the New Orleans born Royal Southern Brotherhood, summoned the crowd as close as they could get and proceeded to knock out a blistering set as the sun faded in and out of clouds that never brought the rain but welcome relief from the humidity. Ruthie Foster followed Allman with a jolt of solemn-tinged blues, summoning a fire before she was all done. And then JJ Grey & Mofro ended the whole shebang with a can of whip ass.
The grounds also included a smaller stage near the pond, where the Mandeville High Jazz Band and Keenan Knight performed, as well as plenty activities for the kids, including a fun harmonica workshop.
After this weekend, the Bogalusa Blues & Heritage Festival won’t be much of a secret anymore. With this year drawing an even bigger crowd in attendance, word is going to spread like wildfire to come out for two days of feasting on blues, boogie and booze. I mean, what more could you ask for.
Photos by Leslie Michele Derrough