Festival New Orleans - Free In London

Posted on: 23 September 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

The O2's first ever festival celebrates Louisiana music and culture on 24th and 25th October 2008, and it's free.

The unmistakable sounds, sights, tastes and styles of New Orleans are set to descend on London later this year when, for two days in October, The O2 will become home to Festival New Orleans.

Coinciding with the New Orleans Saints' official NFL - American football - game against the San Diego Chargers at Wembley, London is preparing for one of the largest ever celebrations of New Orleans music and culture outside of Louisiana and the USA.

"We are bringing Louisiana's unique culture to London with the largest showcase of Louisiana sports, food, music and arts ever seen outside of the borders of the United States," says Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana Mitch Landrieu. "Potential visitors to Louisiana especially want to know what Louisiana locals do for fun."

Here's a taste of who'll be there:

Dr John

The 'Night Tripper', as he is often known, is a staple of the New Orleans music scene, and no celebration of the city's cultural heritage would be complete without his swinging blend of soul, funk, jazz, boogie-woogie, R&B, rock n' roll and, of course, The Blues. His distinctive vocal sound and vibrant piano playing are only part of his huge sound, and few artists can match him for sheer energy and enthusiasm.

Dr JohnBeloved by fellow luminaries such as Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger - he even had a Muppet created in his honour - as well as millions of devoted fans across the world, Dr John's universal appeal comes from more half a century of performing and creating music straight from the heart and his performances are always a highlight in any music fan's calendar.

Allen Toussaint

As one of the most influential figures in twentieth century R&B, Allen Toussaint's compositions have been covered by some of the most famous names in the music business. As a writer and producer, he has penned tunes for and worked with the likes of The Meters, Eric Clapton, Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Solomon Burke, Jerry Garcia, Robert Palmer, Bonnie Raitt and countless others.

As well as being a hugely successful songsmith, he is also a extremely talented pianist, having been tutored by the great Fats Domino in his early years. Now in his 80th year, he remains a vital part of the New Orleans sound and can still belt out his hits with the best of them.

Buckwheat Zydeco

One of the few zydeco players to achieve mainstream success and the first to sign a contract with Island Records, Stanley "Buckwheat" Dural was also the first zydeco artist to win an Emmy award, and has been nominated for a Grammy award on five separate occasions. Famed for his high-energy live shows, the accordionist and his band have been performing for over twenty years and still going strong, winning fans the world over with their upbeat rootsy Southern tunes.

BeauSoleil Avec Michael Doucet

Since forming in 1975, BeauSoleil's mix of zydeco, New Orleans jazz, Tex-mex, country and blues has won them worldwide acclaim and recognition, with Bob Dylan once famously exclaiming, "that's my kind of music!" Combining accordion, fiddle, guitar, bass, percussion and vocals, the group play creole and Cajun music rooted in the Deep South and have put out over twenty recordings in their career, picking up the Best Traditional Folk Album Grammy Award in 1997.

Rebirth Brass Band

Rebirth combine the traditional New Orleans sound with solid funk and jazzy soul grooves. Formed in the early 1980s by brothers Phillip and Keith Frazier - tuba and bass drum respectively - and trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, the 9-piece group's sound is centred around the traditional marching bands of New Orleans combined with the more modern sounds of hip-hop, R&B and funk.

As one of the most popular brass bands in the world today, the Rebirth Brass Band are a wonderfully lively and energetic addition to the Festival New Orleans' billing, and guarantee a lively set of uplifting party tunes for everyone to enjoy.

Kermit Ruffins & The Barbecue Swingers

Kermit RuffinsSinger and trumpeter Kermit Ruffins founded the Swingers in 1992, a traditional New Orleans jazz quintet who have become a fixture of the city's music scene since their inception.

Taking a musical cue from the likes of Louis Armstrong and Louis Jordan, Ruffins' brazenly entertaining tunes are not the only draw to his live shows; the band are famous for cooking barbecues for the crowd, combining two of the principle ingredients of a good time in the Big Easy, great music and great food.

Marcia Ball

The singer and pianist is revered the world over for her own brand of deeply emotional southern boogie, roadhouse blues and heartfelt ballads. Her studio albums have won her great critical acclaim since her first release in 1972, and have variously been nominated for Grammy Awards and Blues Music Awards and her live performances - often over 100 dates a year - are always exceptional, infused with a heart-felt sense of New Orleans' history and musical heritage. 

John Mooney & Bluesiana

Guitarist and singer John Mooney has one of the most distinctive and identifiable guitar styles around, noted especially for his slide playing. His early career was informed by sessions performing on the New Orleans R&B scene, and was mentored by blues legend Son House after leaving home in New York and in later years has collaborated with artists such as Dr John, The Meters and Earl King. Mooney's trademark rocking bluesy rhythms provide a great musical backdrop to the Festival.

Pleasure Club

An institution of both the Los Angeles and New Orleans rock scenes, Pleasure Club is the brainchild of singer/songwriter James Hall. Named after his 1996 solo album, the band is a smooth blend of his dark post-punk influences with a blasé rock 'n' roll approach. Formed with bassist Grant Curry, who had performed on Hall's solo projects, the band was completed with L.A based rockers Marc Hutner and Michael Jerome.

Wearing their influences on their sleeves, the Cult being perhaps their biggest inspiration, this New Orleans rock band will bring energy and swagger to Festival New Orleans. Prepare to be seduced.

Big Chief Monk Boudreaux

Bourdreaux joined the Wild Magnolias - the Mardi Indian Group - in the late 60s appearing with them at the first ever New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 1970. In recent years, he has participated in the recording and accompanying tour of the Voice of the Wetlands All-stars, a band that featured Tab Benoit, Cyril Neville, and Dr. John amongst others.

His soulful and evocative vocals delve deep into traditional Indian roots and traditions having a huge impact on funk and r'n'b at the same time. The self-penned "Big Chief of New Orleans", Bourdreaux will certainly rank highly in the most eccentrically dressed at this year's festival when he strides onto the stage at the O2 Arena feathers and plumes in abundance. 

New Birth Brass Band

At the forefront of the brass band renaissance, NBBB fuse hip hop, mardi gras, modern jazz, gospel and funk with traditional Crescent City jazz. Despite consisting entirely of members under thirty years of age, they are all veterans of the jazz scene having played with stars including Dizzy Gillespie and Wynton Marsalis and are part of a long line in the New Orleans brass band tradition.

This hard-working eight-piece are mainstream enough to appeal to fans of traditional brass bands but their eclectic range of styles will appeal to a younger audience too.

The Anointed Jackson Sisters

Bertha Jackson, mother of seven children and wife of a pastor was a dedicated Christian who would spend most weekends on the road singing and preaching the gospel. Her daughters grew up with a strict prayer and rehearsal regime, singing from church-to-church and town-to-town and eventually took to the road under the moniker Evangelist Bertha Jackson and The Jackson Sisters when they ranged in age from twelve to twenty-eight. Their father, Bishop Carlton Jackson took on the role as manager, driver and spiritual advisor.

Having been signed by a major record label and enjoying ever-increasing success, they changed their name to the Anointed Jackson Sisters and not long after, their visionary leader Mama Jackson passed away, leaving their faith in God to lead them on their future path - world tours, sell-out shows and a performance at one London's most prestigious live venues.

Apache Hunters & Hardhead Hunters Mardis Gras Indian Tribes

Apache HuntersMardi Gras is full of secrets and the Mardi Gras Indians are as much a part of that secret society as any other carnival organization. The Mardi Gras Indians are comprised, in large part, of the blacks of New Orleans' inner cities. They have paraded for well over a century, often resulting in violence, yet their parade is perhaps the least recognized Mardi Gras tradition. Each Big Chief will eventually stand back and, with a theatrical display of self-confidence, acknowledge the artistry and craftsmanship of the other's suit.

With the violence a thing of the past, it is now Mardi Gras tradition for the Indians to simply compare their tribal song, dance and dress with other tribes. The 'suits' are made with incredible craftsmanship and workmanship in an effort to out-do the other tribe - prepare for a visual feast.

New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Rhythm Section

The New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Rhythm Section is made up of an array of percussion and drums. Their distinct rhythms and grooves that are influenced by Caribbean, soca and calypso, will be sure to bring an incredible energy to the O2 and will have audiences swinging their hips and singing along to their rhythmical chants. This outfit that ranges in size from performance-to-performance will certainly bring the festival spirit to Greenwich.

Young Men Olympia Untouchables Social Aid

This group of performers is inspired by The Zulu Aid & Pleasure Club that was originally founded in 1916 in New Orleans, Louisiana which puts on the Zulu parade each Mardi Gras Day. Zulu is New Orleans' largest predominantly African American carnival organization. Young Men Olympia Untouchables Social Aid will be bringing character and individuality to the proceedings at Festival New Orleans.

Visitor Information

Festival New Orleans is open Friday 5pm to 11pm and Saturday 3pm to 11pm. Free entrance.

The O2, North Greenwich: www.TheO2.co.uk

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