Saturday, September 3, 2011

Zydeco at the Highway 99

By Robert Horn 
The Highway 99 is a blues club in Seattle that always gets nominated for, and often has won, the Washington Blues Society's Best of Blues Award for Best Blues Club. Recently there have been some great Zydeco bands playing there. Zydeco sometimes gets talked about as a sub-division of blues. While other times, people talk about it as a genre that is separate from blues but with some common cultural roots in New Orleans. The word Zydeco comes from the French phrase: "Les haricots ne sont pas salés", meaning "the snap beans aren't salty". This phrase is a colloquial expression that means 'times are hard.' It's therefore no wonder it found the blues.

The French, Native American, and African American populations in that area of Louisiana had religious influences that included Catholicism and Voodoo among other things. Other parts of the south had Protestantism and some ancient influence from Africa that Louisiana also shared. The musical influences on people in that area also had some additional twists. The Cajun population (with French roots) and the black population were segregated for a long time. The development of blues and then rock and roll, along with integration in the 1960’s, lead to some fun musical developments.

The early Zydeco bands and the current ones knew each other. Many had some of the same relatives. Many Zydeco bands, like Dicki Du and the Zydeco Krewe, have a lead singer who will introduce the band as “Little brother… Uncle…Cousin,…” and they are literally telling the truth about how they started the band. Oh, Dicki’s real name is Troy Carrier. Those who know a little about Zydeco may be familiar with that last name (the name Carrier is royalty in Zydeco). Troy Carrier played with his father's band and his father had played with Clifton Chenier. The Chenier name is another famous name in Zydeco.

The first time I saw Zydeco dancing it looked like a lot of fun and those who do it can testify about that. On Saturday July 16th, Jockomo performed at Hwy 99. They are a local Zydeco band that is a lot of fun. Songs like “Iko Iko”, and “Roberta” got people on the dance floor and they are good musicians. They do an occasional blues standard as well. They can be found on the web and Facebook so go check out their music. Currently they are playing a couple times a month in the Seattle area.

On Friday, July 22nd a great Louisiana Zydeco band performed at the 99. Dicki Du and the Zydeco Krewe used as much energy on stage and the dancers did on the dance floor. The spoons and washboard player “Peanut” is the energizer bunny and I got worn out watching him. They have a guitar player (the uncle of “Dicki”) who plays blues riffs on his Stratocaster as well as a Chicago bluesman when the song suggests it would be a good idea. This band played for hours and each set had more energy than the set before. If allowed to play till the next day the health department would warn of heart attacks but the survivors on the dance floor would be able to run marathons. Even if you sit and listen (hard for many to do) you get a good show when they perform. They throw in a little funk and blues with the Zydeco and when they do something like “Iko Iko” you may notice that they do it differently than anyone else does it. The friend I was with who knows Zydeco more than I do told me that Zydeco bands, like many other bands, do mix things up a little by doing something a little different on different nights too.

When they sang about crawfish, shrimp, jumbalaya, and gumbo we ordered some. NW seafood along with red beans, rice and Louisiana hot sauce seemed perfect for dinner. I hope Louisiana keeps producing great cultural gifts to the world, and glad some of it comes to this region.


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