Every year, it seems like Festival International kickoff events get earlier and earlier. You can’t really fault folks for getting antsy for Lafayette’s signature party, which also happens to be the biggest world music festival in America. April is Festival month, as evidenced by the proliferation of halter-top dresses and linen pants, and all shows point to the big dance in Downtown Lafayette. The district takes on some 300,000 visitors during the five-day collision of djembes and DJs. But locals know the action is after-hours.

Thursday, April 19
Dwight James and the Royals
Jefferson Street Pub

Dwight James and the Royals
Image courtesy of Joey Morvant via Facebook.com/DwightJamesandTheRoyals/

Fashioning himself a next-generation Creole bluesman, Dwight James runs hot and cool. On stage, backed by a restless five-piece, he’s a gunslinger in the Gary Clark Jr. mold: He flashes recklessness and spark more than technique — an approach to bluesmanship influenced by the drama of 1970s rock and roll and thoroughly at home on modern rock radio. But, from the hush of his front porch in Arnaudville, his coo of a singing voice soothes with homespun longing for Acadiana or a temptress from across the Narrow Sea.

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Wednesday, April 25
Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble
Festival International - Scene Fais Do Do

Curley Taylor
Image courtesy of Facebook.com/ctandzt/

Curley Taylor works at the intersection of zydeco and soul. He’s a crooner of innuendo with a knack for zydeco that floats like Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.” Tracks like “All Night Long” feature deep-channeled grooves that roll like a muddy river. Early in his career, Taylor was a drummer for CJ Chenier (among others), the son of King Zydeco himself, Clifton Chenier. Taylor now spends most of his time behind an accordion fronting his band Zydeco Trouble.

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Thursday, April 26
Los Texmaniacs With Sabra & The Get Rights

Los Texmaniacs
Image courtesy of Facebook.com/texmaniacs/

The Germans did a number on Louisiana and Texas when they introduced the button accordion to the region in the 19th century. Between Cajun, zydeco and cojunto tejano, there are magnificent volumes of air chank-a-chanked, squeezed and tickled out of bellows on either side of the Sabine River. Los Texmaniacs, a San Antonio outfit known for its collaborations with legendary accordionist Flaco Jiménez of the Texas Tornadoes, has made frequent diplomatic trips to Acadiana to congress with the Cajuns and Creoles, fellow Americans who ply non-English musical traditions that prominently feature accordions. Check out this rendition of “México Americano,” a standard made famous by fellow Texans Los Lobos and a declaration of American identity.

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Friday, April 27
Mannie Fresh DJ Set With DJ Digital
2nd Floor Night Club

Mannie Fresh
Image courtesy of Facebook.com/events/180980379375863/

You don’t really have to understand bounce to get Mannie Fresh. A legendary New Orleans producer, best known for CASH MONEY mega hits like Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up.” Mannie Fresh has a famously deep bench of beats culled and crafted from the American pop and soul canon - Michael Jackson; Hall & Oates; Earth, Wind & Fire. Fresh reanimates nostalgia with wall-rattling bass. “We really bounce everything,” he tells this NPR audience before dropping a quaking rumble on Kenny Chesney’s “Somewhere With You.” This after-hours Festival International DJ set promises a survey course in the making of Mannie Fresh.

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Saturday, April 28
The Platform

Image courtesy of Sophie Berard via Facebook.com/giversmusic/

GIVERS were born for the big stage. And there’s perhaps no better stage on earth for their Afro-Pop bombast and transcendental polyrhythm than Festival International. Catching GIVERS on a club stage, however, is to become a candy wrapper in a wind tunnel. (This radio performance does not do the band’s live charisma justice.) Even after 10 years, GIVERS exuberance is a force of nature that shakes a room like a can of coke.

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