Louisiana Trip: The Music, Part I

Back from the trip, a little burnt (literally--forgot the sunscreen on the swamp tour), maybe a little heavier, and definitely a lot happier. We did most of the things on the list, although we overslept for the zydeco breakfast and didn't make it out to Floyd's or the Palace. But it was still a great little vacation for much-needed recharging, refocusing, reconnecting, and re-evaluating.

Thursday night was a sidetrip to New Orleans for the Legends of Zydeco show at the Rock 'N' Bowl's new location a couple blocks down Carrollton. (Next to owner John Blancher's other place, Ye Olde College Inn.) I was a bit worried whether the new place could hold up to the vibe and memory of the funky old original Rock 'N' Bowl. But they did a good job. Great care was apparently taken to preserve as much of the original place's layout, decor, and feel. They took a lot of the old stuff with them, including pictures and posters, the Blessed Mother, even the neon bowling pin out front and the red-&-beige "Welcome" sign which has graced the background of so many beloved stage photos. A life-size cutout of Beau Jocque presides over the stage action. The sound seems better, and the lanes have computerized scoring. But all in all it feels mostly the same, only half again bigger, with more open space for dancing. It already feels somewhat lived-in even though it's only been there a matter of weeks. If I hadn't known the place's history, I would've thought this is where it's always been.

While surfing around for some more info on the Rock 'N' Bowl's move, I found this little article about the legendary Beau vs. Boo shows, which sadly I never got to see. That definitely goes on the "time machine" list.

Clinton S?
This may or may not be Clinton S.
All that said, the show itself was pretty good, if a bit disjointed and unrehearsed. Various sources listed the showtime at 7:00 or 8:30. It started way after 9. But as our friend and NOLA native Martin reminded us, any stated showtime in Louisiana really just means "at some point on that particular night." The opener was a real-deal, traditional Cajun wailer whose name I didn't catch, but I'm assuming he was the "Clinton S" on the bill since we knew who everyone else was.

Instead of separate sets, people loosely rotated throughout, with Lil' Buck Sinegal and Lee Allen Zeno backing most folks, and Rockin' Dopsie, Jr. on rubboard. Dopsie was celebrating his new CD release. He was of course his usual high-energy self. An ailing but cheery Buckwheat guested very briefly on B-3 organ before turning it over to the very capable hands of C. J. Chenier and Sunpie Barnes. I hadn't seen Sunpie before, but will again. He blends traditional zydeco with more of a world-beat sound.

We had to leave a little after 11 to catch our other show of the night: Lil' Band O' Gold's midnight gig at Chickie Wah Wah on Canal St. (OK, I know this blog is in danger of becoming "The Adventures of Lil' Band O' Gold and Lil' Buck Sinegal" since they've been in every post so far, but after they've run their course with the movie and new CD, they probably won't regroup. So I'm seeing them every chance I get.)

What a pleasant surprise to walk in there to masterful slide blues from John Mooney, a guy my slide teacher Harry Bodine kept raving about. He's right--this guy knows his stuff. It can be easy to get 'ear fatigue' with Delta slide, especially in a solo set like this, but he kept it fresh by switching around between acoustic and electric, and various tunings, with a bare minimum of effects, and a mic'ed footstomp for rhythm. A soulful, stripped-down set of old-school blues. Even more of a treat when he joined Lil' Band O' Gold to trade some solos a little later. I definitely want to catch him some time with his full band, Bluesiana.

Another great Dopsie shot.

Buckwheat at the B-3

Sunpie playin' from the heart

Tommy McLain and Richard Comeaux were absent from the LBOG lineup that night. (And there was no more room on the stage, anyway). So David Egan got a few more songs, including "Hallelujah, I'm a Dreamer," which I finally decided is my favorite of his. I understand it will also be on the forthcoming Promised Land soundtrack shortened to "I'm a Dreamer." It was so packed this is the only picture I could manage without heads and hands in the way or being jostled by overzealous dancers still jacked up from the day at Jazz Fest.

They were of course in their usual fine form, Buck especially so, with a much longer set than at the Continental. Including their own memorable take on the Elvis/Chuck Berry hit "Promised Land." And this time they did do "Seven Letters."

Next up: Louisiana Trip - The Music, Part II: Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival and La Louisianne studio visit

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