From the pirate ship to wedding vows, more than music
An insider's guide to the five things you can't miss at iFest
The Houston International Festival (iFest) kicks off its 40th birthday downtown this weekend with a celebration that spans 16 acres. For live music lovers, iFest offers an embarrassment of riches on eight stages, from reggae to salsa to roots rock to blues and beyond. Here are the five (musical and otherwise) things for the first festival weekend that you do not want to miss.
1). One-Two Punch No. 1: The Joe Ely Band and Ozomatli
Tomorrow, Texas roadhouse rock will meet a fusion of hip-hop, salsa, reggae and funk when the Joe Ely Band and Ozomatli take the stage back to back on the Bud Light World Music Stage.
The Grammy-Award-winning band Ozomatli (8 p.m. Saturday on the World Stage), espouses the mantra that they will “take you around the world by taking you around the city of Los Angeles”. Along the way, these celebrated performers (who are also U.S. State Department Cultural Ambassadors) will dazzle you with a set likely to throw down everything from East LA R&B, hip-hop and New Orleans second line to Jamaican reggae and more.
Expect to get a preview of tracks from Ozo’s latest CD, “Fire Away”, set to drop on Tuesday.
Closer to home and equally compelling, the lead-in to Ozomatli will be the hard-rocking Texas honky-tonk sound of the Joe Ely Band (6 p.m. tomorrow on the World Stage). Joining Ely on stage will be guitar great David Grissom with Davis McLarty on drums and Jimmy Pettit on bass — the band featured on the blazing “Live At Liberty Lunch” that many consider one of the finest live Lone Star albums around.
2.) One-Two Punch No. 2: Mighty Diamonds and Eddie Palmieri
Veteran Jamaican reggae band Mighty Diamonds will capture your attention at 4:30 PM Sunday on the World Stage. Beloved for their soulful harmonies and skillful songwriting with a message, Mighty Diamonds are among the most enduring and popular reggae bands worldwide.
Closing out the iFest lineup on the first weekend will be legendary Latin salsa and jazz bandleader Eddie Palmieri. A nine-time Grammy Award winner, Palmieri has been called “the genius and prophet of Afro-Caribbean jazz” for a career that spans 50 years, with a 36-title discography (6:30 Sunday, World Stage).
3.) Pirate Ship Ahoy: At the heart of the Houston International Festival is an educational mission. Each year iFest sets out to spread the word about one particular country or region through programs that reach up to 900,000 children across Texas. This year the spotlight shines on the Caribbean, and the festival has produced an entire Living Museum (sponsored by Chevron) chock-full of cultural and educational exhibits in Sam Houston Park.
As you enter the Living Museum, you won’t be able to miss the 40-foot long pirate ship (complete with pirates, belly dancers and more) that has sailed into downtown Houston.
4.) Renew Your Vows: Next door in the Living Museum, iFest has recreated the historic Alto Vista chapel from Aruba, one of the oldest churches in the Caribbean. And the chapel is open for business, whether you want to light a candle for a loved one or renew your wedding vows.
This Sunday at 2 p.m, one lucky contest-winning couple will renew their vows at the chapel with Sunny 99.1 radio personality (and ordained minister) Marc Sherman and will then head off on a five-day trip to Aruba, compliments of Aruba Tourism Authority.
The contest winner has already been selected, but even if you didn’t win, you can still renew your own vows with Sherman, who’ll be on-site at the chapel from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday.
5.) Satisfy Your Inner Foodie: It’s easy to work up an appetite when you’re cruising from stage to stage or shopping at the many arts markets onsite at iFest. Thankfully, the festival offers more than 50 restaurants with food and beverages from all around the world (including tropical delicacies from the Caribbean).
The Houston International Festival will take place this weekend and next (April 17-18 and 24-25), from noon until 10 p.m. on both Saturdays and noon until 8 p.m. on both Sundays. Download a complete schedule and festival map here.
Darrow works with the Houston International Festival staff and freely admits she is not exactly impartial. However, she points out she was a fan and dedicated festival-goer long before joining the iFest team.