By Ricky Richardson

Contributing Writer

        (New Orleans, LA.)- After being holed up inside for the last couple of years, I’m like most people who experienced some degree of cabin fever. The Spring season is upon us, with its cooler weather and longer days. This is the perfect time to get out and about to explore your local community or venture outside of your state.

        I was overjoyed with excitement to join hundreds of thousands of tourists from across the United States, along with international visitors to New Orleans. We were beckoned to the Crescent City for a weekend of fun as we continued on our journey forward to a semblance of normalcy.

        New Orleans is a city known globally for its fabulous cuisine, great music scene and for offering a great cultural experience. 

        The French Quarter Festival presented by Chevron is what summoned me, music aficionados and foodies to New Orleans, April 21-24, 2022. Bon Temps-Feed Your Soul!

        The French Quarter Festival presented by Chevron returned after a hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. Boasting twenty stages, fest goers were able to immerse themselves into the full spectrum of music genres presented at the French Quarter Festival presented by Chevron: traditional jazz, jazz, R&B, hip-hop, New Orleans funk, brass bands, folk, gospel, Latin Jazz, Cajun and Zydeco and more. French Quarter Festival presented by Chevron offered the best of both worlds, good food, music and vibes.

        There was a smorgasbord of restaurants on site to satisfy a multitude of taste buds to top off your cultural experience. The French Quarter Festival Culinary Lineup, sponsored by Broussard’s Restaurant & Courtyard, returned with some classics New Orleans dishes as well as new takes on the classic items that can only be found at the Fest.

        The festival got underway with the Opening 2nd Line Parade. The parade ventured through the French Quarter, from Bourbon Street to St. Ann, and over to Jackson Square. The parade was led by the 504 Krewe, with Darryl Young, aka, Dancing Man 504. Participants strolled on Bourbon Street with French Quarter festival officials, volunteers, Grand Marshals, several brass bands- New Birth Brass Band, New Wave Brass Band and TBC Brass Band.

        The festival was made possible by the generous support of sponsors who also paraded with their staff, KREWE as they say in the Crescent City. 

        The Opening Ceremony followed the parade in Jackson Square on the GE Stage. The Honorable Billy Nungesser Lieutenant Governor, State of Louisiana, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, Emily Madero, President & CEO of French Quarter Festivals, Inc., Barrett Cooper, Board Member, French Quarter Festival, Inc.  and Leah Brown, Public Affairs Manager Chevron Gulf of Mexico welcome the large crowd in attendance for the first day of the festival. In a published statement, Leah Brown said, “Even though the event itself has been on hiatus the last two years, Chevron’s support of French Quarter Festival has never wavered.” She continued “together, we funded local musicians and the gig community during COVID’s most difficult days. Now, we’re more excited than ever to see these legendary artists return to the stage. This year’s festival will be an opportunity to again support Louisiana musicians and businesses—and celebrate the Crescent City’s special culture, cuisine and character. Chevron thanks the French Quarter Fest staff for their longstanding partnership and invites everyone to join us!” Father Philip Landry Blessed the occasion.

        Throughout the festival, I witnessed a variety of families, friends and strangers reunite with festive hearts after a two-year hiatus. There were plenty of hugs, handshakes, fist pumps, elbows pumps amongst everyone, waves and other welcoming greetings. This was a reunion of the global community of music aficionados and foodies.      

        The musical highlights for Thursday included Kermit Ruffins & The Barbecue Swingers dishing out a generous serving of swinging jazz, along with Kermit sending off a flurry of musical notes high into the stratosphere.  Kermit Ruffins & The Barbecue Swingers performed “Sleepy Time Down South,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” “Iko Iko,” We Are One” by Frankie Beverly & Maze, Wonderful World” classic tune by Louis Armstrong, “Overjoyed” by Stevie Wonder. The band featured two special guest vocalists, Nisha Ruffins on the song “Love Was Made for Me and You” and Hallelujah, I Love Her So” performed by James Winfield. The band concluded their set with “Skokiaan” with some New Orleans and Caribbean beats. Actor Wendall Pierce was on site to check out the band. The band consisted of the phenomenal Yoshitaka Tsuji on piano, Kevin Morris on bass, Jerry Barbarian Anderson keeping time on drums. Joe Krown & Jason Ricci was smokin’ after their set was delayed due to technical issues on the Abita Beer Stage. Lena Prima wowed the crowd gathered in Jackson Square, on the GE Stage.

        Longtime festival artist and Jack Daniel Stage headliner Corey Henry & Treme Funktet closed out day one of the festival.

        April 22, 2022, Earth Day is celebrated all over the world. Festival organizers continued efforts to be a leader in sustainable festival production in the Gulf South. FQFI, in partnership with the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP), launched the Geauxing Green program in 2021 with hopes for a cleaner, healthier, and happier festival season in Louisiana. The initiative focuses on marine debris prevention by allowing only reusable, recyclable, and compostable food and drink products at the festival.

        Tuba Skinny and popular artist Banu Gibson thrilled the crowd gathered in Jackson Square, on the GE Stage with popular music of the 1920’s and 1930’s- trad jazz and blues.

        Tuba Skinny’s set list featured the songs- “Ain’t Nobodies Business,” “Mighty Anchor,” “Tricksters Rag,” “Springfield Stomp,” Mickey Strut,” and “Hot Turn” to name a few.

        Banu Gibson stayed in the same genre of music and performed “I’m Feeling High and Happy,” “Down Hearted Blues” by Bessie Smith, “I’ve Got a Heart Full of Rhythms” by Louis Armstrong, “Crazy Capers,” and “219 Blues” to name a few.

        George Porter Jr, & The Runnin Partners funked it up during their time in the spotlight on the Abita Beer Stage. The band featured Brad Walker on saxophone, Chris Atkins on guitar, Michael Lemmler on keyboards/organ and Terrace Houston, in the pocket grooves on drum. The band performed “Porter 13a,” “Runnin’ Partners,” “Cloud Funk,” “Get Back Up,” “Crying Up Hope,” “Wanna Get Funky,” and I Get High.”

        Singer/songwriter Rickie Lee Jones enchanted festers as she performed songs from her extensive music catalog, highlights were “Chuck E’s in Love,” “The Last Chance Texaco,” “Pirates,” The Horses,” and “Living It Up.” It was apparent that Ricki Lee Jones was having a great time throughout her set.

        A trip to New Orleans would be incomplete without seeing Irma Thomas, “Soul Queen of New Orleans.” Irma Thomas held court on the Chevron Stage as she regaled the crowd with classic songs.

        Saturday, Deacon John & the Ivories with special guest Hot Rod Lincoln put on a powerful, awe-inspiring performance. Fermin Ceballos Merengue4FOUR cranked it up a bit with a set of Caribbean rhythms, merengue, bachata and vallenato, on the Tropical Isle Hand Grenade Stage, on day three of the festival. The festival goers was up and dancing to “Something to Do,” “Muchachita de Campo,” “Pa’ Que Te Enamores,” “Popurri Cumbias- Corazon de Piedra, Baila Mi Cumbia, Cumbia Sampuesana,” “La VIP de la Noche,” “Negra Linda,” and “Jamey Adentro,” to name a few.

         Singer, songwriter and violinist Amanda Shaw’s set was electrifying. She had the people rockin’ in JAX Lot, of the Chevron Stage.

        Sunday, the final day of the festival, we went to Church with Zulu Gospel Choir, for a joyous good time featuring hand clapping and foot stomping, uplifting music.

        Washboard Chaz Blues Trio performance of early blues was fantastic on the Omni Royal Orleans Stage. My enjoyment of the French Quarter Festival presented by Chevron concluded with an exciting and entertaining performance by the Dixie Cups, as they took the festers down memory lane, on the Abita Beer Stage. A brief down pour of rain caused the crowd to seek shelter.

        French Quarter Festival presented by Chevron is produced by French Quarter Festivals, Inc., (FQFI) the 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, which also produces Satchmo SummerFest presented by Chevron in August and Christmas New Orleans Style in December. FQFI’s mission is to promote the Vieux Carré and the City of New Orleans through high quality special events and activities that showcases the culture and heritage of this unique city, contribute to the economic well-being of the community, and instill increased pride in the people of New Orleans.