Better Than Ezra will headline balloon festival

Published 12:21 am Wednesday, August 12, 2009

NATCHEZ — The musical lineup for the 2009 Great Mississippi River Balloon Race is final, and it’s better — Better Than Ezra, that is.

The headliner from 2007 is back again due to popular demand, race Executive Director Laura Godfrey said.

“They were a huge draw for us,” she said. “We try to get one really big national act, and we are excited to have them.”

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The New Orleans-based band also spoke fondly of Natchez after their last performance, Godfrey said.

“They just loved our show, and just loved the reaction they got from the audience,” she said.

The band was formed in the late 1980s while its members were attending LSU. Their hit singles include, “Good,” “In the Blood,” “King of New Orleans” and “Our Last Night.”

The band’s latest album — “Paper Empire” — was released this year.

Longtime drummer Travis McNabb left in February. New Orleans-based drummer Michael Jerome, formerly of Pleasure Club, has replaced him.

Better Than Ezra will play at approximately 9:15 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17.

But Better Than Ezra won’t be the only good sound on the balloon race stage this year, Godfrey said.

Other Saturday performers include:

– The Vettes, 7:45 p.m., Rachel, Todd, Chad, Brian and Mitch are a band influenced by 1980s stars like A-ha and Duran Duran.

– Leon Russell, 6 p.m., a 50-year music veteran whose songs have been covered by the likes of Willie Nelson and Eric Clapton. He wrote the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and Jimmy Buffet’s “Back to the Island.” Billboard Magazine named him the top concert attraction for 1973.

– Hill Country Revue, 4 p.m., a band formed by Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars.

– Britt Anderson Band, 2 p.m., a blues-based band.

– Country Fried, noon, a New Orleans quintet who will play tunes of Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings fame.

Sunday, when many of the out-of-town balloon race visitors have headed home, is for the locals Godfrey said.

The race committee opted last year to create a “Country Sunday” lineup.

“Our first time was last year, and it was great,” Godfrey said. “The Miss-Lou is big into country, and we do it to bring locals out.”

Performers who will all be a little country include:

– Paula Nelson Band, 1 p.m., starring Willie Nelson’s daughter.

– KingBilly, 2:30 p.m., features a mix of rock, country and bluegrass.

– Rhett Atkins, 4 p.m., a Nashville country star known for songs including, “That Ain’t my Truck” and “She said Yes.”

Friday night’s entertainment will be provided by local band Easy Eddie and the PartyRockers from 8 to 10 p.m.

And in addition to the main stage, this year’s balloon race weekend will also feature a new addition for the children, Godfrey said.

The Music Camp Stage will be an interactive music stage where children can talk with and learn from the members of Red Hot Brass Band. The band is composed of 13 to 16 year old performers from the New Orleans area.

Balloons will fly, weather permitting Oct. 16, 17 and 18.