This is Michael Arnone’s twenty-seventh edition of his now legendary Crawfish Fest that has found a very consistent home at the Sussex County Fairgrounds in Augusta, New Jersey. The Festival has become a Northeastern regional musical institution that continues to grow in popularity – a rarity and testimony of accomplishment of
Arnone’s shrewd music acumen. The fest is predominantly known for New Orleans style music though there’s also a smattering of Blues music that’s all served up with Louisiana cuisine, plus craft exhibits. For those so inclined there’s also camping facilities. This year’s lineup featured popular recording artists like: The Stooges Brass Band, The New
Orleans Suspects, Raw Oyster Cult, Anders Osborne, Kermit Ruffins, John Gros, C.J. Chenier, Geno Delafose, Marc Broussard, Rosie Ledet, Sister Sparrow, The Honey Island Swamp Band, and the legendary Dr. John who closed the festival this year. As previously mentioned Blues fans enjoyed up and coming performers Samantha Fish and Jarekus Singleton as well as rocking jam banders From Good Homes who are from New Jersey.
I attended on Saturday afternoon and enjoyed the back end of the Honey Island Swamp Band set and the Stooges Brass Band. I was also very impressed with the From Good Homes band who reunited at the 2015 Crawfish Fest after a lengthy hiatus as Todd Sheaffer formed his very successful Railroad Earth Band. Raw Oyster Cult consists of Radiators guitarists Dave Malone and Camille Baudoin and drummer Frank Bua Jr, with Papa Grows Funk keyboardists/singer John Gros and Johnny Sketches’ Dirty Notes bass player Dave Pomerleau. Their kicking performance was their second consecutive appearance at the Crawfish Fest and a delight. Speaking of delights Kermit Ruffins and his Barbeque Swingers swung mightily in authentic Big Easy tradition merging a mix of Crescent City jazz standards and his own originals. My only knock to this performance was when Kermit turned over the vocal chores to his female singer Nayo Jones who opened with “At Last” made famous by the great Etta James, I wasn’t impressed. The other somewhat odd moment occurred when Kermit announced that he stopped smoking reefer and drinking beer. For as long as I can remember Kermit always had a bottle of beer nearby on the bandstand, and he also possessed a very big and happy smile. But when he made his announcement about becoming clean and sober from drugs and alcohol – the audience reaction was filled with jeers and boos. Go figure? Finally two-time Grammy winner and producer/songwriter/vocalist/guitarist Anders Osborne ripped-up the main stage with his powerful guitar playing and well-constructed tunes.
Michael Arnone is a Louisiana native, and is the founder and producer of the Crawfish Fest. Arnone recommends ordering a King Cake and Mardi Gras beads from a traditional New Orleans bakery such as Haydel’s Bakery or Gambino’s Bakery. Arnone’s Jambalaya Mix can be ordered in the Crawfish Fest Online Store and is the next best thing to Arnone’s (made-from-scratch) jambalaya served at the Crawfish Fest. As Arnone annually opines, now that this year’s Crawfish Fest is behind us, the main thing he looks forward to is planning next year’s Fest. Keep checking their site at www.CrawfishFishfest.com for updates. Yeah, you right.
Photos by and courtesy of Bob Putignano.
For 16 years Bob Putignano has been pivotal at WFDU with his Sounds of Blue radio show (Wed. & Fri. 9am-1pm) www.SoundsofBlue.com – 2015’s most pledged to ($21,000+) radio program at http://wfdu.fm . Previously a contributing editor at Blues Revue, Blueswax, and Goldmine magazines, currently the Music Editor for the Yonkers Tribune www.YonkersTribune.com – www.MakingAScene.org & www.wfdu.fm/Whats-Happening/Bob’s Music Reviews/bobs music reviews/. Bob was the 2003 recipient of the “Keeping the Blues Alive” award (given by the Blues Foundation in Memphis) for his achievements in radio broadcasting. Putignano can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.