The Emeril Lagasse Foundation celebrated its 12th annual fundraiser with the proceeds from the event's food, craft beer, high-end bourbon and music experience going to support children’s charities specifically culinary, nutrition and arts programs.
Champions Square, situated next to New Orleans' Mercedes Benz Superdome played host to the Foundation's gala where many of the country's best and most well-known chefs donated their time, their food and culinary expertise to Lagasse's foundation.
The mouthwatering food and beverage festival, specifically for Adults 21+, featured boudin (a cajun sausage commonly made from a pork and rice mix) inspired dishes from over 60 chefs (including Lagasse, Jacques Torres, John Currence, Stephen Stryjewski, Donald Link, John Folse, Isaac Toups and Frank Brightsen). The evening also Bourbon cocktails from Buffalo Trace, Benchmark, Sazerac Rye and W.L. Weller and craft beers from Abita as well as other edible delights, wines and spirits. Blues, soul and rock acts Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, Anderson East, Banditos and Lost Bayou Ramblers provided the party's musical soundtrack. The original headliner Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings had to cancel due to Jones' heath issues.
Commencing promptly at 6pm, Champions Square was adorned with a number of large tents where the famous chef's plied their craft creating single serving boudin inspired treats for the crowd. A number of bars were set-up on the perimeters where alcoholic beverages and softdrinks were available to festival goers. A tent featuring a number of different bourbon cocktails was situated in the middle of the Square, with a living room area just outside its confines. This living room area also served as a prime spot (for those lucky enough to score seats) to watch the musical performances. A beer garden and bourbon lounge flanked either end of the bourbon tent. Merchandise and beer bars as well as a fully stocked bar were placed on the outskirts of the area where the food tents were located. Strategically placed hydration stations featuring coolers filled to the brim with bottles water were found just outside the entrances to each tent. Off to the side, for those who took the time to fully explore the festival grounds, atop the staircase that leads to the Superdome entrance was the Pig Pen Saloon featuring dessert bars offering homemade ice cream, a coffee station and a chocolate station with bourbon-infused hot chocolate. In addition, this area was home to a small cigar lounge.
Over the years, the festival has become as much about the music as the food. The festival was scheduled as a four hour event (though as in the past, it ran slightly longer) and as such each band played a short set half-hour set. Lost Bayou Ramblers took the stage promptly at 6pm. Banditos appeared at 7 pm. At 8:15pm Anderson East graced the stage and Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears closed out the evening with its set which began at 8:35pm.
Lost Bayou Ramblers came together in 1999 when brothers Andre and Louis Michot took the traditional Cajun music they were raised with and added flourishes of blues, punk, psychedelica and good old fashioned rock 'n' roll. In addition Andre (accordion, lap steel) and Louis (fiddle, vocals), <P>Lost Bayou Ramblers feature Jonny Campos on guitar and vocals, bassist Bryan Webre and drummer Eric Heigle. Its latest CD, Gasa Gasa Live was released in 2014 on Bayou Perdu Records. The Michot brothers and the other Ramblers got things started with a short but spirited set that saw many of the attendees forego the food for a short while as they danced in front of the stage while the band played. Some dancers reveled in the indie-rock cajun pop that the band was playing, pogo-ing their way across the floor. Others eschewed the psychedelic and punkier elements of the band's sound to dance the traditional cajun and zydeco influenced steps that have been handed down for generations.
Banditos is a six-piece band. Its special brand of roots rock 'n' roll incorporates elements of pop, garage rock, electric boogie, folk, honky tonk, rockabilly, jazz, blues, soul and a touch of country. The group featured Corey Parsons on guitar and vocals, Stephen Pierce on banjo and vocals, vocalist Mary Beth Richardson, Randy Taylor Wade on drums and percussion, bassist Jeffery Daniel Vines and Jeffery David Salter on guitar and lap steel. Originally from Birmingham, AL, Banditos is currently based out of Nashville, TN. Its self-titled debut CD was released in 2015 on Bloodshot Records. Dressed liked the cast of Duck Dynasty had the Robertsons been hippies and exuding a laid-back cool vibe, Banditos delivered a strong set that was highlighted by Richardson's Janis Joplin meets Allison Mosshart-esque vocals. The band's Americana sound is sure to gain more exposure in the coming year. How could it not, especially when while watching them perform it was evident that the group is equally at home covering Waylon Jennings, singing its soulful and heart wrenching ballad "No Good," laying it on the line with the honky tonk, let-the-good-times-roll rockin' of "Still Sober (After All These Beers)" or the '50s influence slow love song "Old Ways."
Anderson East was born Michael Cameron Anderson in July of 1988. The soulful singer-songwriter has taken fused roots music, R&B, soul, rock and gospel into a signature sound. East is originally from Athens, AL, and is currently based in Nashville, TN. His major-label debut CD, Delilah, was released on the Elektra/Low Country Sound in 2015. East's stage presence is both electrifying, fun and refreshing. His strong and expressive voice resonated with the crowd much sounding like a younger more soulful Kid Rock with a touch of Sam Cooke. His blue-eyed soul music sounds like it could have been recorded in the 1970s by Van Morrison. Highlights of his set included the performance of his soulful hit single "Satisfy Me," "Quit You," the bouncy "Only You" and the radio staple "Devil In Me."
Black Joe Lewis was influenced by the blues music of Howlin' Wolf and the funk 'n' roll/soul of James Brown. He formed Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears in Austin, Texas in 2007. Lost Highway Records signed the band to a contract in 2008 and has released Tell 'Em What Your Name Is! (2009) and Scandalous (2011) on that imprint. In 2011, Def Jam/Island/Universal released the <em>iTunes Live: SXSW EP. The Electric Slave album (Vagrant Records) was released in 2013. The band is comprised of Lewis on guitar and vocals, Bill Stevenson on bass and keyboards, drummer Eduardo Torres, saxophonist Jason Frey, Joe Woullard on baritone saxophone and Derek Phelps on trumpet. The minute that the band hit the stage the six piece band put the pedal to the metal and didn't let up until the evening came to an end. The horn section gave all the songs the groove they were meant to have. The band performed songs from <em> Electric Slave</em> as well as key early tracks while working the crowd into a frenzy. The "real" highlight of the Honeybears energetic set was when Lagasse joined the band on congas. He has done this at past Boudin Bourbon and Beers, so it should not have come as a surprise, but it was still a nice experience. And, because Lagasse has the chops (the famed chef played drums in a band as a teen and had the talent to regularly perform paid gigs and earn a music scholarship) it only added to the performance.
At the end of the evening the crowd left in, what can best be described as, a fat and happy mood. The festival goers received a gourmet multi-course meal with unlimited second helpings, good beer, bourbon, wine and spirits, excellent desserts and top-shelf musical performances. By attending and paying the price of admission, purchasing event merchandise and/or bidding on the silent auction items they helped raise funds for children's charities that create opportunities to inspire, mentor and enable the younger generation.
Photographs By Christine Connallon
Additional article contributions by Christine Connallon