Note: This is part of a series of posts from Andy Moore, who is in Lafayette, Louisiana, this weekend to attend the Festival International de Louisiane where he will find and book artists to perform at Madison festivals. He'll be filing updates through Sunday, April 26.
35,000. That was Friday night's crowd estimate at the Festival International de Louisiane here in Lafayette. I asked a cop in the men's room, that's how I know. The festival took full flight on Friday. All six stages cranking. The streets ran in rivers of partiers of all shapes and sizes. University of Louisiana-Lafayette frat boys with popped collars drank from Miller Lite tall boys and glanced sideways at girlfriends in pressed spring dresses. Old people spread out a Friday night picnic dinner with lawn chairs on the side of the street. Tired looking regulars perched on bar stools in front of seedy downtown bars watched the passing parade, laughing in unison, as if on cue, at one particular site or another.
What is with the Ecuadorian pan flute guys? One of their franchises was set up in a tent on Polk Street and even though some of the hottest Latin funk in the world was getting dished out by Texas' Grupo Fantasma on the Main Stage a few blocks away, the flute guys held a healthy crowd of fifty. More power to them but a little bit of wooden flute versions of Celine Dion covers goes a long way.
Crawfish po boys last night. I could eat them three times a day for the rest of my life. I'd still need Cheerios every now and then because I'm an admitted cereal killer. The bits of deep fried crawfish in our sandwiches popped when you chewed. That was a late night snack. $7.00 and the filling was swallowed up inside an entire loaf of chewy bread. David and I split ours and barely had room for shave ice. Earlier in the night we had shrimp creole, cajun pork slices, and banana cake for desert.
The Quebe Sisters show drew a huge audience of western swing fans. The youngest of the three fiddling sisters is eighteen. She told one of our group at breakfast this morning that no one in their immediate family played music. She also said that they were all home schooled which makes me wonder how that music education took hold. Out of the house, I guess. Their repertoire of Spade Cooley and other big and more obscure western swing artists is monolithic.
Dobet Gnahore and her afrobeat trio from the Ivory Coast were a mesmerizing treat for the eyes and ears. Dobet is known for her entrances and last night's was filled with drama. Off stage her voice called out, desparate, searching. The stage was dark. A circle of white light found her as the song picked up in tempo, still restrained emotionally, but ready to burst loose. Heavy theatrical eye make-up gives her the beauty of a tribal queen. Her costume a wildly patterned frock coat. The night breeze lifted the tails of the coat as she lept, literally, into the full meaning of the song in concert with her guitarist, bass player and drummer. Dobet thrilled the crowds last year at La Fete de Marquette. She'll perform in the Memorial Union Theater this Friday, May 1.
Bonerama was a kick. Three trombones, a nasty ass guitar, drums and a storm cloud of a Hammond organ. They had me all the way up to and including a New Orleans-style rendition of "Turn on Your Love Light." I walked away feeling cheated with their last song, though. A goofy cover of "Purple Haze."
This afternoon I'm looking forward to seeing our friends in Dengue Fever perform. They appeared at last year's La Fete. We'll also take in Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole who will appear at this year's La Fete with Lafayette's incredible Feufollet. This afternoon we're making up our minds about whether to offer Chic Gamine a slot in July's La Fete. They're an acappela group from Manitoba. We were impressed seeing them perform Thursday night at the local cajun honky, the Blue Moon. But they were sitting in with Feufollet and it's time to see their real show. It's challenging to imagine how a group will be recieved in Madison. It's not as easy as it might sound. Aside from guessing an audience's sensibility, time of day of the slot, actual day placement of a band, and which bands to arrange on either side of a given act are all important considerations. And are the artists reasonable? Nice? That matters, too.
Late last night we spotted the chef at the place where we ate dinner pouring a steaming mop bucket of water onto the alley. We approached him and told him how much we enjoyed his cooking. He crouched to press the mop with the squeeze handle and then straightened himself out. He looked at us a moment in silence, sizing us up it seemed. "You don't think that pork was over spiced?" he asked.
Our next door neighbors here at the Days Inn just arrived last night. We can't understand each other and we've yet to place them on the program. But before we got on the shuttle to head downtown last night we played some music together, an improvised mix of African, Appalachian, and Acadian.