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Eye Catching Line-up at the Westbank Heritage Festival

29th August 2016   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

With so many festivals, concerts, special events and tempting club dates continually taking place in the New Orleans area, it’s easy to just sort of breeze through musical line-ups and schedules. The bookings at the second annual Westbank Heritage Festival, however, proved to be absolutely eye-catching. The festival, presented during Labor Day weekend, Saturday, September 3 and Sunday, September 4, 2016, at Westwego’s Segnette Field at the Alario Center, boasts an impressive and diverse array of artists both local and national. Saturday night’s closer is the multi-platinum album selling R&B, hip-hop, vocal quartet Jodeci that kicks off at 9:10 p.m. Sunday night’s headliner, starting at 9:25 p.m., is the ever-funky Morris Day and The Time. The always sharply dressed Day might often be recognized as Prince’s antagonist in the film “Purple Rain.” He and the late icon also had a band together in high school. Day, a presence and instigator on the bandstand, and his free-wheelin’ group, The Time, have enjoyed a lot of success on their own with get down tunes like “Jerk Out” that reached number one on the rhythm and blues charts. New Orleans own rap superstar, Mystical, heats up the stage on Sunday when he precedes Day beginning at 8:10 p.m.

Granted, the late night artists at the festival are adult-oriented, but throughout the day of the free event, the music features many family-friendly performances by the likes of such artists as the Morning Star Baptist Church Choir that brightens Saturday beginning at 12:35 p.m. Both Saturday and Sunday the youthful 21st Century Brass Band opens the festival at noon. It has been inspired by those who came before and can be an inspiration to youngsters interested in picking up a horn. Speaking of being inspiring, the Free Agents Brass Band was conceived and formed by bass drummer Ellis Joseph following Hurricane Katrina in September 2005. The leader saw the need to keep the music alive on the streets and gathered other musicians eager to play and at loose ends – “free agents” – to join him. The ensemble, together now for 11 years, brings its sound to the festival at 2:45 p.m. on Saturday. The event will also feature activities for the kids.

Other notable artists at the festival include two versatile New Orleans vocalists Angela Bell (Saturday, 5:10 p.m. ) and Gina Brown & Anutha Level (Saturday, 5:45 p.m.) performing back to back. Bell, of course, remains best recognized for what became a New Orleans Saints’ anthem, “I Believe.” The tune, which some consider the best Saints rallying cry ever, really soared during the team’s 2009 season that led to its first Super Bowl win. Brown, who like Bell, is comfortable in many genres – rhythm and blues, soul, blues, pop – gets a crowd on its feet with her “G-Slide” line dance. It’s not time to sit down as following those soulful women at 6:20 p.m. is New Orleans rapper and record producer 5th Ward Weebie whose specialty is bounce. Local favorite, the always enthusiastic trumpeter and vocalist Shamarr Allen hits the stage at 4:55 p.m. on Sunday. The free festival with parking available at an affordable $5 is presented by the New Growth Development Association.

Just a note: Because of the similarity of their names, the Westbank Heritage Festival, a newcomer, could easily be confused with the Gretna Heritage Festival. The Gretna Fest, which has an admission fee and has been around for almost 15 years, takes place October 7–9, 2016.

For the complete schedule and other information including a map of the festival site go to

Sunday Night Free Films

The critically acclaimed documentary, “Bayou Maharajah,” on the brilliant yet troubled life of the late piano genius James Carroll Booker III, will be shown twice at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. in the back music room of Buffa’s Bar, 1001 Esplanade Ave. Produced by Lily Keber, the film, which was first shown in 2013, features footage from Booker’s childhood, live performances and comments and insights from those who knew “The Piano Prince of New Orleans” and his musical contributions well including Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Harry Connick Jr. and more. The documentary, which is being presented as part of the NOLAsyncroCITY Film Series, has gained unanimous praise for its straight-forward depiction of Booker, a complicated man and a music master. Viewing “Bayou Maharajah” at Buffa’s, an intimate and true New Orleans spot filled with music-loving people, seems so appropriate.

The free series continues on Sept. 11 with Stephenson Palfi’s wonderfully unique “Piano Players Rarely Ever Get to Play Together” that captures three of New Orleans piano treasures, Allen Toussaint, Professor Longhair and Tuts Washington, exchanging stories and licks. On Sept. 18, Jason Berry’s “Up from the Cradle of Jazz” will be shown.

This article originally published in the August 29, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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