Experiences

There's lots to do at Rajun Cajun! The festival is free admission and all proceeds benefit the 50,000 local children served by Porter-Leath each year. If you're looking to have the ultimate Rajun Cajun experience, check out some of our opportunities below. Keep in mind that with the exception of the contests, these areas must be booked in advance as they always sell out due to limited quantities. 

Never been to Rajun Cajun before? Looking for something you might have missed? Watch this video that captures the essence of the event, and read more about all the fun!


SWAMP VIP TENT 

The most popular and exclusive experience at Rajun Cajun is the Swamp VIP tent. From noon until 6 pm that afternoon, attendees enjoy an unlimited crawfish buffet including other Cajun cuisine, desserts, beer, and beverages while relaxing under the shade of the big tent. Tickets are $125 each or $225 per couple. This experience always sells out. To be included on the mailing list, visit our Contact us page and send us your mailing address. To order tickets, please click here. For groups of 10+, please call 901-577-2500 x 1119.

Swamp tent attendees

GUMBO COOK-OFF

It's all about that roux! The Rajun Cajun Gumbo Cook-Off features 24 local and regional teams that compete for the coveted skillet trophy and over $1,000 in cash prizes. Teams must create truly authentic Louisiana gumbo that includes seafood cooked with various spices and vegetables and served similar to a soup/stew. With no two gumbos alike, our local celebrity judges are up the challenge to find best dish! Want to sign up your team to compete? Click here for the application.

Gumbo Cookoff winners

CRAWFISH CONTESTS 

Crawfish Eating

How fast can you eat a 3 pound bucket of crawfish? Find out in this crowd-favorite contest. The entry fee is a $20 donation to the Porter-Leath children. Sign up is limited to the first dozen contestants and is in advance. To sign up, visit the t-shirt sales tent the day of the festival.

crawfish eating contest

Crawfish bobbing

Contestants in this game try not to get in a "pinch" as they try to pull as many live crawfish out of a tub of water using only their mouths! Contestants must be 18 or older and must sign up in advance at the t-shirt sales tent. 

crawfish bobbing

Crawfish racing

Children love to compete in this game! Contestants and onlookers cheer and shout to help their live crawfish racers make across the finish line first. Walking backwards of course! To participate, go to the Beale Street Stage at 2:30 on the day of the festival.

crawfish racing

 

The Music

Each year, Porter-Leath's Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival is home to the best of local music, complete with top swamp soul all day long on the main stage. Set times are generally 11:30-12:30, 1:30-2:30, 3:30-4:30, and 5:30-6:30 for all stages.

Set times are subject to change. Lineup exceptions may apply due to weather, artist availablity or other unexpected events. 

Southland Park Gaming & Racing Main Stage
Marcella + Her Lovers
All Day

Born into one of the first Creole families to settle St. Landry Parish in culturally rich Louisiana, with a Dad who is an accomplished two time GRAMMY award winning artist, she grew up inspired by of some of the most influential artists in music. Hailing from Lafayette, Louisiana, Simien grew up onstage with her father.

It was normal for her to have Taj Mahal sing her happy birthday on her 17th or David Hidalgo be in the kitchen of her childhood home having late night gumbo with her dad, or be on tour with him when the band opened for Dave Matthews Band. At a young age she displayed natural talent for music and performance, but instead she chose her own path and expanded her artistic experience. In 2009 she moved to Memphis to attend and graduate from the prestigious Memphis College of Art where she studied drawing and art history. In no time she was back onstage, delighting audiences with a sound born from fusing elements of her Creole heritage with the angelic grind of Memphis soul.

Her visual art is as fearless and sensual as her performance and music. Musically though, she followed the lead of two of the most fearless female singers; Nina Simone and Amy Winehouse. She continues their tradition of pushing the boundaries of contemporary music as strong, outspoken women who led their own groups which is still not the standard, but Simien was not intimidated by this responsibility and she remains a determined and ambitious soul singer with a strong roots music sensibility. One detects in Simien’s music subtle yet devastating touches of the Memphis and Muscle Shoals sounds infused with the fingerprint of her Creole ancestors—that now laughing, now sighing Zydeco accordion and exhortations in shouted Creole French. Throughout, Simien’s voice, an instrument fierce and galloping with dignified pleading, floats above the music’s cradled melee like a night star, fondly reminding us of a mysterious past while at once exciting us with the romance of the uncertain future.

Artistically confident, composed and courageous well beyond her 26 years, Simien has been lauded by Boo Mitchell as “one of the most soulful artist I've heard since the glory days of Memphis soul music. Her sound and stage presence is a constant reminder that soul music is still alive and well.”  

Orion Federal Credit Union Beale St. Stage
Freeworld
All day

FreeWorld has been an independent, regionally touring, ever-evolving Memphis-based musical ensemble since 1987, and recently celebrated their 25th Anniversary in 2012. Drawing from influences as broad-based as Booker T. & the MG's, John Coltrane, Frank Zappa, The Grateful Dead, Steely Dan and The Meters, these brothers under one multicultural groove have remained a consistently entertaining and informed voice on the Memphis music scene since the group's inception. Featuring 82-year-old jazz saxophone legend Dr. Herman Green (who has performed &/or recorded with the likes of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, B.B. King, Lionel Hampton, Clark Terry, Phineas & Calvin Newborn, Bob Weir, Rob Wasserman, Stephen Perkins and a host of others during his 68 year professional music career), FreeWorld is literally 'new school meets old school', and has been variously described as "The best of Memphis, New Orleans, & San Francisco - all rolled into one fresh & excitingly unique musical experience!" 
 

Monogram Foods Riverside Stage

In projected order of appearance, performance times estimated

Jake Allen
Noon til 12:45

The ethereal sound of Jake Allen's music attaches to your heartbeat and reverberates through your veins with the warmth of a long-lost embrace.

He moves around the acoustic guitar like he's been holding it for a lifetime, gliding from end to end and producing sounds that you'd normally expect from a full band. Although most audiences are introduced to Jake Allen through the spectacle of his solo acoustic performances, the scope of Allen's artistry runs much deeper. 

At age five, Allen began exploring synthesizers and recording music in his father’s Northern Michigan studio. By fourteen, he had become proficient with a variety of instruments and he solidified his commitment to a life of producing and performing music. Allen has since gone on to produce several acclaimed solo records, playing every instrument himself, while tastefully complementing his smooth to soaring voice. In addition to drums, keyboards, harp and other various instruments, Jake often stresses his belief in using the studio itself as a key instrument in creating his massive productions and concept albums. His deep and detailed records lend themselves to the fleeting practice of sitting down and really listening to a record from start to finish.

By his late teens, Allen found himself being drawn to the sounds of finger-style guitar trailblazers like Michael Hedges and Andy McKee. He started to pin point his focus on acoustic guitar, crafting his own breed of six string wizardry. On top of a two-hands on the neck, percussive tapping style, Jake employed an array of effects and live looping to create an engaging solo performance. Through the art of looping, he discovered a way to create a virtual clone-like backing band. With this sufficient bag of tricks, Jake took his solo show to the road in 2009, touring twice a year ever since.

In addition to his solo endeavors, Allen has actively toured the U.S. with his full backing band bringing his lush studio productions to life on stage. These live efforts have garnered endorsements from musical gear companies like Takamine, Fender and Gretsch guitars. Jake can often be found online and in the flesh showing off new guitars and other products made by these reputable companies.

For the last year Jake has been vigorously touring North America with the Sony Masterworks recording artists, The Accidentals. In addition to opening their shows with his innovative solo acoustic performances, Allen has been guest performing in the band on guitar and keyboards. As they continue to tour extensively, Jake is preparing to release his highly anticipated new album “Deviant Motions” which features dynamic violin and cello performances by Sav Buist and Katie Larson of The Accidentals. This new album will be released in early 2018.

As Jake Allen continues to write, produce albums and perform, his mission statement remains the same. "I observe, report and affirm my life through the act of making music. In turn I wish that act will enrich the lives of others and inspire them to be their own definition of great."

Under the Radar
1 pm til 2 pm

Under The Radar made a lot of noise in a very short time. Having opened for Kansas, .38 Special, Loverboy, Saliva, Better Than Ezra and L.A. Guns by the time they were 13 is amazing in itself but their talent and stage presence are the real deal. Once you get past the fact that they're so young, you quickly realize that these boys can play and that they're going to be around for a long long time.

ShotGunBillys
2 pm til 3:15 pm

Just across from Memphis Tennessee and that mighty Mississippi River bridge, Arkansas based trio, The ShotGunBillys are bringing a determined, down home, look you square in the eye approach to today’s music scene. The SGB's combine Memphis rock, blues & country with Arkansas delta stomp music to create their own special brand of modern southern rock n country. The ShotGunBillys offer a high energy show with a firm friendly handshake that keeps fans feeling welcome and coming back for more. With way more years experience than they are willing to admit to, the SGB's have played music from coast to coast and border to border. These years of running the road, playing show after show, has allowed the SGB's to work alongside some of rock and country's greatest artists. The ShotGunBillys pride themselves on top notch musicianship, years of show after show, and true to life lessons, to produce unique music that is purposely unrefined, hard hitting, and above all, their own!

The Stax Alumni Band
3:30 pm til 4:30 pm

The Stax Music Academy Alumni Band is composed of academy graduates who are in college.
Black Oak Arkansas
4:45 pm til 5:30 pm

In the year 1963, some high school pals decided to get together to form a group because of their love of music. After 43 years, several dozen albums… three of which became gold, one of which became platinum, and one gold single from a song known as "Jim Dandy To The Rescue," which was told to them to record by none other than Elvis Presley himself (!), this group of friends still manages to stay together. (After talking to Elvis, Black Oak Arkansas was told the following week by their producer Tom Dowd and by their label president Ahmet Ertegun that these two industry giants were also about to ask BOA about recording that same tune! Ahmet himself only personally signed 5 groups to recording contracts in his long, long recording history… and Black Oak Arkansas had the honor of being number 5!) Many testimonials and awards have been presented to this band by everyone from Bill Graham, (who founded and ran Winterland Ballroom and both the Fillmore East and West), to Wolfman Jack from the Midnight Special; from First Lady Betty Ford to President Bill Clinton! With an original homespun musical flavor, Black Oak Arkansas has been presenting their music and their life to the worlds’ public now for almost half of a century, and with a still active touring and recording schedule… there is presently no end in sight! 

The Bar-Kays
5:45 pm til 7 pm

Fire, smoke, and vibrant costumes are just part of what’s in store for audiences these days at a typical stage performance by funk and soul pioneers the BAR-KAYS. Spontaneity and excitement have been a trademark of the Memphis-based group ever since its inception in the mid-1960s. Today, the BAR-KAYS have reloaded their high-energy act and are ready to guide whole new generations onto the dance floor with a reinvigorated lineup.

In 2017, after a worldwide search, the BAR-KAYS introduced Memphis singer Chris J. as their new lead singer, replacing longtime front man Larry Dodson, who recently retired. Familiar to audiences nationwide for his appearances on the Wild Out Wednesday competition on BET’s popular “106 and Park” and his recordings for Big Gates Records, including collaborations with Trina and Plies, Chris J. brings a whole new vibe and currency to the BAR-KAYS.

"Chris J is a consummate professional, and we wouldn't give him the keys to the car if he couldn't drive," said former lead singer Larry Dodson and founding bassist James Alexander of the man chosen to help front the eight-man funk machine.

Chris J. joins drummer Demario Perry, a veteran of groups like the Dazz Band, as the newest members of this venerable R&B institution. The group also includes Ezra “EZ Roc” Williams on keys, Archie Love and Robert Day on vocals, Angelo Earl on guitar, and Mark Bynum on vocals and keys.

"This opportunity is such a blessing from the OG's Larry Dodson and James Alexander to little old me from North Memphis. But I will definitely make the world proud," said Chris J. on landing the gig.

The new, reloaded BAR-KAYS is just the latest manifestation of a band that has reinvented itself several times over its 50-plus year career.

The BAR-KAYS started as a ragtag group of teenagers growing up in the shadow of Memphis’ Stax Records. In 1967, the teens signed on as Stax’s newest band. The same year their potent, dynamic sound carried them to the top of the charts with their party smash “Soul Finger.” Their star was on the rise as the BAR-KAYS soon found themselves backing label superstar Otis Redding on what would be his final worldwide tour. That tour ended in disaster on December 10, 1967 when Redding and four members of the band perished in a plane accident.

Surviving members James Alexander and Ben Cauley reformed the BAR-KAYS, recruiting Larry Dodson of the Stax group the Temprees. Soon the new Bar-kays were the premier house band at Stax, playing on million-sellers for artists such as Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Johnnie Taylor, Eddie Floyd, The Emotions, The Dramatics, Albert King, and, most notably, Isaac Hayes classics like Hot Buttered Soul, Black Moses, and the Grammy Award-winning album Shaft.

By the ’70s, the BAR-KAYS had reinvented themselves as one of the premier acts in a genre they helped event, funk. After the demise of Stax in the mid-’70s, the group signed with Mercury Records and recorded a string of hits that remain dance floor staples to this day: “Shake Your Rump to the Funk,” “Attitude,” “Move Your Boogie Body,” “Sexomatic,” “Anticipation,” “Freakshow on the Dance Floor,” “Hit and Run,” “She Talks to Me With Her Body,” “Too Hot to Stop,” and many others.

In the ’80s, Alexander stepped back from the BAR-KAYS to focus on his own promotions company, but the band continued to record and tour, adapting to the synth-heavy R&B sound of the period and working with artists like Sly Stone and Joe Walsh. In the ’90s, Alexander rejoined the band for a series of efforts that took them up the new millennium, including the 1991 album 48 Hours and Best of Barkays on Curb Records, which supplemented their classic hits with new material, including the single “Everybody Wants That Love.”

The BAR-KAYS continued their latest resurgence in the 21st century. They started their own label, as a showcase not just to put out their own music but to spotlight other artists in both R&B and gospel. In 2003, the first BAR-KAYS release on the label, the aptly-titled The Real Thing, was a regional hit behind singles ‘You’re My Joy” and “Glad You’re My Lady.” House Party, featuring the hits “Sho-Nuff” and “Superstar,” followed in 2007 and featured collaborations with fellow Stax alum Shirley Brown and Alexander’s son, noted Atlanta producer Jazze Pha.

The BAR-KAYS latest album is Grown Folks, their 29th studio album released in 2013 just ahead of the band’s year-long 50th anniversary celebration in 2014. Produced by Jazze Pha, the album finds the band surprisingly fresh and relevant behind the surprise radio smash title track and “Return of the Mack.” The record also features an all-star roster of guest performers, including George Clinton, Three 6 Mafia, and Eightball and MJG.

With their first half century under their belts, the BAR-KAYS remain one of the hardest working and most honored groups around. The band played President Barack Obama’s second inaugural and were also featured in a nationally-televised White House tribute to Memphis soul. Other TV appearances include “Sinbad’s Summer Jam” on HBO and an episode of TV One’s documentary series “Unsung.” They have been inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame and Beale Street Walk of Fame, have been featured in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and have been invited to perform for the troops in Iraq. Their music has been sampled by Will Smith, Cameo, Teddy Riley, and Coolio, among many others.