Rockin' at the Crab Fest
- by Karen Fineran
If you ask Bay St. Louis residents what they plan to do on Fourth of July weekend next month, most of them will include the Our Lady of the Gulf Crab Fest.
With the free event stretching through three days and nights, many people will stop by more than once to take the kids for cotton candy and carnival rides, meet up with friends over a beer, see their favorite bands, or just pick up a quick lunch or dinner.
This will be the 33rd year that Our Lady of the Gulf Church has hosted its Crab Fest on Independence Day weekend on the church’s South Beach Boulevard grounds, overlooking the coastline. Locals and tourists alike come each year to enjoy the live music, rides, raffles, arts and crafts booths, and of course the seafood — boiled crabs and shrimp, seafood gumbo, and crab-stuffed potatoes!
Talk of the Town
The festival begins on Friday, June 30, at 11 a.m. The music kicks off with Hog Wild Production from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by the ever-popular Pat Murphy with his new band Sippiana Soul from 3–6 p.m. The five-piece tribute band Chee-Weez will finish the night from 8–11 p.m.
Pat Murphy reminisced about his long history with the OLG Crab Fest, having played at least 15 times on several of the fest’s stages. Pat remembered playing at the very first Crab Fest in 1985, with his wife Candy, guitarist John Bezou and drummer Jerry L’Enfant.
Sippiana Soul is made up of Pat Murphy, keyboards and vocals, John Bezou, guitar and vocals, Phil Guay, bass and vocals, Steve Sandberg, drums and Mark Rybisky, tenor sax. Murphy's known Phil Guay since he was sixteen, Guay traveled with his band from Baton Rouge to play for local teen dances.
“I’ve always enjoyed Crab Fest because I run into people there that I don’t see very often,” says Murphy. “Also, I love where they’ve put the stage now, back under all the beautiful big live oaks!”
Pat predicts that the sound from the stage this year will be phenomenal, with Aaron Lee heading up sound and production.
The Chee-Weez have pulled in sizeable audiences at Crab Fest on Friday night every year for the last eight or nine years. Joey Mangiapane, Chee-Weez’s bass player, spoke about his band’s long relationship with OLG Crab Fest.
“When we first started playing the Crab Fest, it was a newer festival, and they didn’t have a stand-alone stage yet. We played under the crab-eating tent, right in front of the tables and chairs. After they got a big stage up the next year, I think that we were the first band to ever play on it.”
Mangiapane added that Crab Fest is one of the band’s all-time favorite festivals to play, because there is usually an enthusiastic crowd of six or seven thousand people there on Friday nights (and because the food there is so delicious).
The horn-powered Bucktown All-Stars have become legendary in Louisiana, performing their own mix of rock, soul, funk, R&B and New Orleans classics at outdoor festivals, nightclubs and special events across the Gulf South.
This summer, the award-winning All-Stars celebrate their 25th anniversary as a band. (They have taken one of Offbeat Magazine’s Best of the Beat Awards for nearly 10 years in a row, as well as several of Gambit Reader’s Choice Polls.)
The All-Stars have played their second-line funk and Motown soul at the Crab Fest at least five times over the last several years. Steve Alfonso, the band’s drummer, elaborated upon the Crab Fest.
“We love it. It’s one of the more top-notch festivals that we play — one of the reasons is that it’s always very well run by Pam [Metzler]. There’s just a great mixed crowd of locals and New Orleanians, it’s extremely family-oriented, and it’s in the most beautiful setting you could imagine, shaded by those big oak trees. Oh, and there’s also great food and boiled crabs. It doesn’t get much better than that!”
Ryan Foret is a nationally recorded country music artist with four CDs released since 1999. His band’s mix of country with a dash of zydeco, R&B and funk is in high demand along the entire Gulf Coast.
There you have it — three days and three nights of premier live music and dancing under the stately oaks! Come on down to the Crab Fest to pass your Fourth of July.