Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Taste of the Bayou in the Canal District: Paulie’s big festival moves its acts

Like most kids of the ‘70s and ‘80s, Paulie Collyer grew up listening to stations such as WZLX to get the daily allowance of The Who, Led Zeppelin, Clapton and the Rolling Stones. He liked classic rock, and never branched out much in his tastes. Collyer went to New Orleans in 1981 for the first time. He was 17, and thought it was cool to have a beer in the morning, but didn’t think much of it.

But in 2007, touched by Katrina, he started turning his eye toward the area. Many of his friends had made the annual trek down there for its jazz festival, and Collyer decided to join them.

 “They said, ‘Just go. Van Morrison is playing,” said Collyer. “I was in my late 40s and the city just took me over. I saw everything. There are so many different types of music. Here, we have lots of heavy metal and things, but in New Orleans there are so many different types. Now, I listen to WCUW on Friday nights. It just took me over. I started to listen to new music, and my neighborhood needed something.”

Maybe he wouldn’t transform his neighborhood into a hopping zone where women lifted their shirts for beads, but he sure could bring on a party. In 2008, when Collyer started his jazz and blues festival in Worcester, he did it just because he “wanted to throw a good party for his neighbors.” He popped up some tents in a parking lot that he owned on Chandler Street in Worcester, booked some local bands, and some 300 people showed up. Seven years later, and his event has moved twice, this year for the first time to the Canal District.

Centered around the field in front of Crompton Collective, Paulie’s New Orleans Jazz and Blues Festival spans three days and features more than 15 national, regional and local acts. “It’s going to be very interesting for Kelley Square that weekend,” said Collyer. “I had a hard time looking for a new space. The Canal Alliance approached me and said, ‘Hey, why don’t you bring it down here?’ There aren’t a lot of spaces in the city, really, since we sell food and need a three-day liquor permit. I was looking for the route of least resistance, and they came at me with a private lot to use and were very receptive to the idea.”

 The Bobby Paltauf Band and Mem Shannon and the Membership kick off the festival, opening for Friday night’s headliner Roomful of Blues, the eight-piece powerhouse known for its kicking horn section and punching mix of R&B and blues.

 Big Al Carson and the Blues Masters kick off the music at noon on Saturday. Carson, before taking to the front of the stage, started out at a young age on the tuba, joining some of New Orleans’ best brass sections. Billy Iuso and the Restless Natives, which formed in 2002 in New Orleans, play a mix of originals in the jam and funk vein from 2-4 p.m. The Honey Island Swamp Band, which plays what is described as “Bayou Americana,” goes on at 4 p.m. and Eric Lindell and the Sunliners follow. Guitarist George Porter Jr. and his band the Runnin’ Pardners light it up before Saturday’s headliner, Marcia Ball, performs. Singer and pianist Ball pulls in elements Zydeco, Louisiana and swamp blues and boogie boogie.

 Buckwheat Zydeco headlines Sunday, with openers that include Little Freddie King and Big Chief Juan Pardo& The Golden Commanches.

 “The festival is Louisiana-centric, with an emphasis on New Orleans,” said Collyer. “Buckwhat is closing out the show. He’s from Lafayette. He won a Grammy a few years ago. From Big Jon Short to Marcia Ball, there isn’t a weak link in the whole bunch. We have a potpourri of Zydeco, funk, blues and New Orleans jazz. This is a who’s who of New Orleans. The first year, I had the local guys and slowly developed it. I wanted an authentic Louisiana festival. It’s like painting your house; you want to have good lines and everything.”

 Get lots of information on bands, food, vendors and more, right here:


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