The 5 festivals are: the Austin Reggae Festival, the Houston International Festival, the Festival International De Louisiane in Lafayette, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and the Pachanga Latino Music Festival back in Austin. If you’re schedule is flexible and you’re a music fanatic you can make all five. All the festivals are family-friendly and have free or reduced admission prices for kids.
The 3-day Austin Reggae Festival (4/20-22) at Auditorium Shores has always been a great showcase for both international and regional reggae bands and almost always features one non-reggae headliner. This year that honor goes to Grupo Fantasma, who will add salsa and cumbia to the mix. The international bands this year will be New Kingston (Jamaica), Collie Buddz (Bermuda), Dubtonic Kru (Jamaica), Tidal Wave (South Africa), and Rootz Underground (Jamaica). An advance 3-day pass to the festival costs $35 and advance day tickets are $15. Kids 12 and under get in free. The festival is a benefit for the Capitol Area Food Bank and attendees are encouraged to bring a few can goods to donate at the festival. More info at http://austinreggaefest.com/
The Houston International Festival occurs over two weekends (4/21-22 & 4/28-29) in three adjacent parks around City Hall in downtown Houston, and features a mix of international music, imported and locally-based, as well as regional music of various types. The featured country this year is Argentina and there will be several tango ensembles and dancers on various stages including the Hector del Curto Tango ensemble both weekends. The first weekend’s other international offerings include Ecuadoran rock singer-guitarist Eljuri, the Latin funk of Los Amigos Invisibles from Venezuela, and the reggae and traditional sounds of South Africa’s Tidal Wave. The second weekend features Tuareg blues guitarist Bombino from Niger, the big-band cumbias of Chilean Chico Trujillo, percussionist Pedrito Martinez from Cuba, Seun Kuti from Nigeria, and reggae group Steel Pulse from the UK. Tickets to this festival run $12 per day (Kids under 12 are $4). More info at http://www.ifest.org/
The Festival International De Louisiane (April26-29); is one of the nicest World Music festivals anywhere and it’s FREE! Taking place in downtown Lafayette, a small college town (with a lot of great restaurants!) and the center of French Acadian (Cajun) culture in Louisiana, the festival has always featured but has not limited itself to musicians from the Francophone regions of the World like Quebec, the French Caribbean and West Africa as well as France and, of course, Louisiana. This year features multiple performances over four nights and two days by Cheikh Lo (Senegal), Bombino (Niger), Pedrito Martinez (Cuba), Beats Antique (USA), Chico Trujillo (Chile), Khaira Arby (Mali), Lindigo (La Reunion), Debo Band (USA/Ethiopia), Ceux Qui Marchent Debout (France), Seun Kuti (Nigeria), Slavic Soul Party (Balkans/USA), Lamajamal (Middle East/USA), Teada (Ireland) and a whole lot of Cajun and Zydeco bands as well. Admission is free but you should buy a festival pin for $10 just to help support this marvelous festival. More info at http://www.festivalinternational.com/site.php
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (April 27-29 & May 3-6), more affectionately known simply as “Jazz Fest”, is a huge festival that spans seven days over two long weekends with all kinds of music of which World Music is but a small part. But they always seem to have one or two artists that are not playing the other festivals. This year those artists are Jamaican reggae icon Bunny Wailer, Mexican singer Paulina Rubio, and Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo Y Gabriela who are touring with the Cuban band with whom they recorded their latest album. Other international acts include Seun Kuti, Steel Pulse, Slavic Soul Party, Cheikh Lo, Lindigo, Chico Trujillo, Pedrito Martinez, and Bombino. Given the $50/day ($5 for kids under 10) admission price you’ll want to check out the entire schedule which includes many stars from Rock, R&B, Gospel, Louisiana music and, of course, Jazz. Info at http://www.nojazzfest.com/
The Pachanga Latino Music Festival (May 11-12) is a fairly new festival that showcases international Latin artists as well as regional ones in another park on the shores of Ladybird Lake called Fiesta Gardens. The headliner for this year's event plays on Friday night and is the amazing hip-hop duo from Puerto Rico called Calle 13. The rest of the performances take place on Saturday all day long and include Ana Tijoux (Chile), Forro In The Dark (USA/Brazil), Chico Trujillo (Chile), La Santa Cecilia (LA) and local favorites like Los Lonely Boys, Alejandro Escovedo, Ruben Ramos, David Garza, Brownout, Girl In A Coma and Maneja Beto. Advance tickets (by April 15) are $33 for Friday night headliner and $15 for all day Saturday. More info at http://pachangafest.com/
Finally, for those of you who are ready to hit the road and make all of these festivals here are the driving times between the four cities which but for Austin are all on Interstate 10: Austin-Houston (3 hours-165 miles); Houston-Lafayette (4 hours-216 miles); Lafayette-New Orleans (2.5 hours-135 miles). And a note about lodging: There is usually plenty of hotel space in Lafayette at very reasonable prices; however, the better hotels tend to book up fast. New Orleans hotels are ridiculously expensive during Jazz Fest but the prices are much more reasonable on Sunday night so a nice option is to drive over to New Orleans on Sunday morning from Lafayette for a day of Jazz Fest and either stay at a hotel in French Quarter that night or just drive back to your hotel in Lafayette. All of the festival web sites have further information about lodging options.