Festival International is one of Lafayette’s biggest pride and joys. And this year’s Cajun Coachella is not wanting for local or international flavor.
The festival will feature performances from Irish, Chinese, Cuban, Russian, Canadian and Indian bands, and serve up a smorgasbord of international art and food.
Though the festival officially kicked off Wednesday night, my first evening partaking in the festivities took place on Thursday.
One of the first events of Thursday evening was a beer talk from Parish Brewing – one of the many breweries from around the state, located in Broussard, Louisiana.
Afterwards, Irish band Celjun kicked off one of the first performances of the night. The band is locally based, and blends Irish and Cajun music using instruments like the fiddle, Irish Bouzoki, guitar and Irish flute.
For Celjun guitarist and vocalist Tony Davoren, the festival marks the anniversary of the day he and his wife decided to perminantely stay in Lafayette. Davoren says, “It’s the 14th anniversary of my wife and I buying our house. We came down here 15 years ago today for the festival and bought a pin, a t-shirt and a house. We like the festival because it has the scene we both grew up in, family oriented with music, good times and dancing. Plus, you can experience music from all over the world for free.”
Throughout the night, vendors served food from around the world, including alligator balls, falafel wraps, spanakopita and duck empanadas.
Festival goers could browse the wares of artisans throughout the country and take in exhibits like Original Art of Festival International and the Festival International Poster and Pin. (Exhibit sponsored by the Acadiana Center for the Arts.) ACA Curator Brian Guidry says, “Every year, the festival picks an artist to make an original artwork like a water color, painting or sculpture, and then a designer turns the art into an image, which they use to make the festival poster and pin. The original artwork is then sold to help support festival.” The festivalgoers are then encouraged to buy a "Friend of the Festival" pin, which is a ten-dollar purchase that goes toward keeping the festival free.
Later in the night, crowds took in a performance from local Lafayette legend, Marc Broussard.
Broussard wowed crowds with his soulful Cajun tunes and served up a festival-worthy performance, complete with a grand piano and strobe lights and smoke reminiscent of a Cajun rock show.
The final performance of my evening was one by the GuGu Drum Group from Shanghai. The GuGu Drum Group lives and trains together in order to perform over 300 shows a year in China. Additionally, the group practices for more than four hours a day to achieve their theatrical and athletic performances. Every performance is based on a fable or historical Chinese event, and while the performance was both beautiful and rhythmic, the group showed they knew they were in Cajun country when they used the final song to solicit audience participation.
In addition to hearing the eclectic mix of bands, the highlights included purchasing an annual blackberry lemonade from Pamplona Tapas Bar; hearing the New Natives Brass Band play, dance and sing their hearts out at The Wurst Biergarten; and connecting with friends both old and new.
Festival activities will continue through this evening and the weekend. Guests can see many more acclaimed artists including another performance by the Gugu Drum Group, the Lost Bayou Ramblers, French band Ginkgoa and Zimbabwe group Mokoomba; along with art battles, panels and after hour events.
For more information about the Festival International or to view a schedule of the events, visit festivalinternational.org.
Soleaux: A Short Festival of Devised Work, Sat., April 29, 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Lafayette
For the second year in a row, The University of Louisiana at Lafayette's School of Music and Performing Arts presents eclectic presentation of new work features devised pieces by talented university performance artists.
Works come from the minds of UL Theatre's solo performance artists.
General admission is $10 and the exhibit will be hosted at The Hive @ 810 Jefferson Street on Saturday and Cite des Arts on Sunday.
Tunica Hills Music Fest and Jam, Sat., April 29, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., St. Francisville
All day event with Louisiana musicians playing music and leading jams for participation in multiple genres. David Hinson of the Baton Rouge Adult Music Club will be onsite to offer instruction. Bring your lawn chair, cooler and your musical instrument.
Festival Sunday at The Wurst Biergarten, Sun., April 30, 5:30 p.m. to 12 p.m., Lafayette
Festival Appreciation Party, Sun., April 30, 8 p.m., Lafayette
Come to the Festival Appreciation Party at Blue Moon Saloon to hear the French band Cqmd and end Festival International with a bang.
Volunteers get in free with Festival shirt or badge and general admission is $15.