Benoit VOWs to keep our voice heard

‘Lend Me a Tenor’ at Thibodaux Playhouse
October 19, 2011
Geaux Fish
October 19, 2011
‘Lend Me a Tenor’ at Thibodaux Playhouse
October 19, 2011
Geaux Fish
October 19, 2011

Local musician Tab Benoit loves the Tri-parish area.

He’s tired of seeing its land melt away under the undertow of coastal erosion.

He and his buddies will do what they do best this month to raise attention to our plight – play music.

The Voice of the Wetlands Festival will overtake Southdown Plantation’s grounds this month from Oct. 7-9.

The annual festival, now in its eighth year, offers a showcase of our area’s food and music in hopes of bringing attention to our state’s constant battle against land loss.

Oh yeah, and it’s free, too.

“We’re trying to bring people in from out of state and introduce them to our fight,” Benoit said. “Bring them in, get them educated and keep them entertained all at the same time – that’s what this festival is all about.”

Benoit is no stranger to Louisiana’s vast marshes and swamps having grown up in Houma.

He also understands the facts of our state’s erosion and recites them with ease.

“We’re still losing about an acre per hour,” Benoit says on instinct.

But unlike other people in positions to reach mass audiences, Benoit isn’t willing to sit back and rely on non-Louisiana entities to make decisions about Louisiana’s future.

“You can’t rely on the news and the government to do everything for you,” he said. “Look at us right now, obviously relying on them hasn’t worked for us yet. Why would it work in the future? We need to take charge.”

So that’s why sweet musical sounds will blast through Houma this month at this annual event.

The event started in 2003 when Benoit and a group of local musicians attempted to raise money on Louisiana’s behalf through music.

“We were trying to make a Voice of the Wetlands album,” he said. “We couldn’t find a record label that would allow us to say what we wanted to say and put it out there to the public. So we decided to do this ourselves.”

The first event took place at a bit of an awkward time – even though it all worked out well in the end.

It was in the middle of Tropical Storm Matthew.

For most festivals, that would be a bummer.

For Benoit and the boys, it was golden – a time to show his audience exactly what the state goes through in its darkest moments.

“That was one of the best ones we’ve ever had because it gave people a chance to see exactly what we were talking about,” the bluesman said. “The bayou was coming up downtown over the banks and the people who joined us from out of state were looking at it and going, ‘Wow, I see what you mean. You guys get three or four days of rain in a small tropical storm and there’s flooding going on.’ So it was really a good opportunity to open that door and to educate people about what we’re trying to talk about and what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Now in its eighth year, the festival keeps chumming sweet beats to crowds that choke Southdown to enjoy their favorite Cajun tunes.

Featured on this year’s lineup include Benoit, who will perform Friday on his own and Sunday with the Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars.

Also showcased at the event are entertainers such as Waylon Thibodeaux, Ben Labat and the Happy Devil, Voodoo Bayou, Southern Cross, Amanda Shaw and Dash Rip Rock, among others.

“The bands we have annually are bands that love this area and want to do what they can to help,” Benoit said. “Because it’s a free event, these guys are cutting their prices and are coming and playing for us for much less than they’ve play for in another event. That’s because it’s for us. Trying to help us. Every year, all of our bands are just great. That’s because it just feels good. Playing in front of those people at that festival site, it just feels good.”

With the music in the air, homemade Louisiana cuisine will be available to anyone wanting to fill his or her belly with some of the best food around.

South Louisiana artwork will also be featured, as well as a raffle and silent auction.

“It’s all done to promote our area and culture,” Benoit said.

So go out and fight for Louisiana this month at the Voice of the Wetlands Festival.

Benoit said the larger the turnout, the louder Louisiana’s voice will be going forward.

“Frankly, I don’t trust people from other organizations full of people not from this state and people from other parts of this state,” Benoit said. “I do not trust government and business and corporations being in charge of our backyard here. They’ve proven they can’t do a good job before; now it’s our turn to lead the way. … I do trust us. I do trust our people. We’re very resourceful and inventive. I want our people to put all of those things together. If we put all of those things together, as people who live in south Louisiana and people who love south Louisiana, we can fix anything.

“The price is obviously right … it’s free. It sure beats sitting at home and doing nothing. Come join us, listen to some great music and have a great time while raising awareness about an issue that impacts everyone’s lives.”

The Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars – (front row, from left) Dr.
John, Cyril Neville, Tab Benoit, Johnny Sansone (back row) Chief
Monk Boudreaux, Waylon Thibodeaux, George Porter Jr., CC Adcock and
Anders Osborne – are slated to perform at this month’s Voice of the
Wetlands Festival in Houma.