Thursday, May 16, 2013

Crawfish and Top-Notch Bands

Fifteen minutes since we arrived at the intersection two blocks from the entrance to Parc Hardy in Breaux Bridge.

Thirty minutes. One block away.

Forty-five minutes. Could be any second now.

Finally, we were directed into the large parking lot at the Crawfish Festival.

Friday night's crowd (we later learned) had been about 2,000 below average, and since the total attendance for the three-day festival was 35,000 (we later learned this total and that it had topped the past record of 29,000), we estimated today's crowd to be about 18,000.
We had deviated from our usual procedure of arriving among the earliest of attendees. It was past noon on a beautifully sunny day, and many of the festival-goers had already established their multi-colored "sun screens."
When we finally found space for our two chairs and umbrella, the view we had from our position was somewhat obscured. Fortunately, the auditory "view" was quite good.
Our chairs were about three chair rows from a walkway that carried a moving crowd from food booths to the the carnival booths and rides and back again for the entire afternoon.

This position provided a great opportunity for people-watching.

"The band is called Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. The guy in the middle holds a button-box that squeezes like an accordion, but shouts hallelujah like a big brass band. The fiddle cracks wise and warm, the guitar falls off the edge of the earth, and the rhythm section is purring rumble like a Coupe DeVille of shark-fin vintage. It all flows as a liquid-smooth groove, topped with three heartfelt voices harmonizing in 17th-century French from the steamy sub-tropics.
"From the day they started over twenty years ago, they have gone from strength to strength. Never before in Cajun music has a comparable wealth of skills been brought to the same table" (

The band has recorded over a dozen CDs, four of which have garnered Grammy nominations in the worldwide field of traditional folk music.
"Steve Riley (in the photos above and below), of Mamou, LA, is a widely-acknowledged master of the Cajun accordion and its singularly powerful sound."

Sam Broussard

A total of about 30 bands appeared over the three-day festival. While all had their own local following, we had only heard about a third of them in previous visits to Cajun Country. One new band for us was Geno Delafose and French Rockin' Boogie.
Geno (below) is a zydeco accordionist and singer. He is one of the younger generations of the genre who has created the sound known as the nouveau zydeco.
"Together with his band, French Rockin' Boogie, Delafose has blended the traditional sounds of zydeco with the excitement of modern dance music. "We have that old country feel," Delafose said during a late-'90s interview, "that soft swing and then we have that loud, bluesy, get-down thing going on, too. We try to mix it up, give everybody something they can dance to" (
Patrick Stelly
Demetric Thomas

And we topped off the evening with a performance of the Huval/Fuselier Cajun Band. We first heard these exceptional musicians last year at jam sessions in Scott, LA. Their skill and stage presence were comparable to musicians well beyond their years.

Luke Huval (accordion/vocals), age 14, Zachary Fuselier (fiddle/vocals), age 15, make up this authentic and exciting Cajun music duo. Both teens were educated in the French Immersion program in the Lafayette Parish school system, which means they understand every word of the classic and original Cajun songs they are singing. Already accomplished musicians, each of them of have received numerous awards for their musical talents. Their first CD, in collaboration with others, was nominated for 2012 "Best Cajun Album" by the New Orleans-based Offbeat Magazine.
Luke's father, Terry, joined them for their stellar performance.

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