The night before Chaz Fest 2015 organizer Alex McMurray is in Lowe’s frantically searching for ratchet straps. Befuddled, he says, “I’ve never bought ratchet straps before.” However, the fest is on Wednesday (4.29) and these two Mimosa trees have gotten so big that they are blocking one of the stages. So, McMurray and his friends are going to use the straps to pull them out of the way. And, therein, lies the spirit of the backyard party cum fest that is Chaz Fest.
The fest took a one year hiatus, but the tree is about all that is different. When asked what’s new this year, McMurray’s answer is direct. “Nothing. It’s the only thing in the Bywater that is the same. Same stages. Same Bands, Same food.”
Ten years ago, McMurray, his wife Courtney Keller, and some friends created the fest for locals who had been did not make the Jazz Fest cut after a format change. The party is held at the Truck Farm (3020 St. Claude Avenue), a complex of four adjacent backyards. The name is a both a clever pun on the more commercial offerings at the Fair Grounds and an homage to beloved local musician Washboard Chaz.
Now, many of the bands on the lineup play both fests, but the rest remains static. There are two stages at the Farm, the Main Stage and the Hard Liquor Stage. Bywater staples like Helen Gillet, King James and the Special Men and Rory Danger and the Danger Dangers still captivate the crowds. No festival is complete without food and there will still be tubs of beer, margaritas, and various tasty delights served from beneath tin roofed lean-tos. And, of course, there will still be Christmas light illuminating the grounds.
“Chaz Fest is a beautiful scene in a great venue. It’s a great looking place. The bands are all friends of mine which I like,“ concludes McMurray.
The other acts include the New Lonely Lonely Knights, Gregg Schatz, TBC Brass Band, Luke Allen and special guests Helen Gillet and Alex McMurray, NCP (Nuccio, Cabral, Pirner), Helen Gillet's Other Instruments, The Geraniums, The Tin Men, The Valparaiso Men's Chorus, Alex McMurray, MC Sweet T and the Charming Prix, and Herringbone Orchestra.
McMurray says that the rationale behind the allegiance to the traditional format is simple.”It works.”
Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door.