Monday, September 10, 2007

Louisiana music Lagniappe

Last weekend was Rhythm and Roots, which usually means the end of the Cajun/Zydeco festivals around here for the year, but this weekend we got a little lagniappe of Louisiana music at two local festivals. On Friday CJ Chenier & the Red Hot Louisiana band played at the opening night gala for the Pawtucket Arts festival. A $10 admission included food samples from a couple dozen local restaurants and there was alot of publicity in the local paper so of course the place was mobbed! The food was amazingly diverse, and really good. I tried some bbq chicken from from LJ's Barbecue, a Portuguese plate from Galito's and some clam cakes and chowder from Tolos restaurant, but there was so much more. We met up with lots of friends from R&R, who are all longtime CJ fans, but I think the band gained a lot of new fans too, judging by the crowded dance floor and the way Clifford the rubboard player was selling CD's and playing rubboard at the same time... at the end he had to recruit someone to stand in for him (on rubboard that is). They played a good long time and it was very hot and steamy under that tent so it felt quite a bit like Louisiana. I didn't take any pictures but there are some on the website of the Pawtucket Arts Festival, which continues through next weekend.

On Sunday the Narrows Festival of the Arts was a much mellower but funkier scene with a mix of local and Louisiana/ Texas acts, and all kinds of art for sale right outside the Narrows center, on the Fall River waterfront. When I arrived, Slaid Cleaves (of Maine and Texas) was just getting started. He did not have his full band along, just another guitarist and bass, and they did most of his folkier tunes. (Lydia, Brokedown etc.) There was a pretty good variety of food for sale - Portuguese, seafood, etc.. and the table-and-chair set up with a dance area in front made for a nice relaxed atmosphere. Upstairs, Duncan Walters was playing some rocking country music upstairs with his band. I had never heard him before so that was a nice surprise - always something new at the Narrows. The other band I saw upstairs was Louie Leeman and Cheap Sneakers - I had only seen him do his solo act before, so it was nice to see the full band, which ran the gamut from reggae to rock'n' roll, a cajuny original and a cover of Lucinda Williams' Can't let Go.

Henry Butler took the stage around 3:3o, looking suave in a posh red striped suit with a puffy white shirt (kind of like Beethoven). He started off the set with his trademark solo New Orleans style piano, before being joined on stage by Leo Nocentelli and the rhythm section.

(Leo and Henry made up half of the New Orleans Social Club, the highlight of the NJ Crawfish fest earlier this year.)

They were just picking up steam with the New Orleans grooves, when Leo broke a string, prompting a very long unplanned drum and bass solo in the middle of Cissy Strut. But then they got back into it, and pulled out all the New Orleans classics, like Fiyo on the Biyo, Pocky way, Tipitina, etc and I was having a Jazzfest moment. Piano heaven! It always seems to take a while for the Fall River crowd to get up out of their seats and start dancing, but when they do, it's "so hard to stop", as Buckwheat says.... So when Buckwheat Zydeco came out the audience was primed... (or maybe it was the Big Nazo Creatures of Fall River that started it...)

Anyway, everyone was ready to zydeco once Buckwheat started - "Hey Fellas! do you know what TIME it is?" - and the rubboard player kept us going.... After a while, Buckwheat called all the kids up on stage for a singalong to "Jeleron", which was sweet. Towards the end he even did a little funky B-3 organ number. Always a good time with Buckwheat, and thanks to the Narrows for putting on another great festival.

More of my pictures of the day's festivities can be seen here.

Narrows Festival 2007

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