Vivid colors of the Bayou on sale. (Al Auger)
What impressed me the most, I think, was how music brings people together and creates a rainbow of color dancing to this carefree music. Zydeco is the music of New Orleans played by the ethnic-mix Creole community of this fabled city, writes our travel and lifestyle editor Al Auger. – #Siliconeer @Siliconeer #Lifestyle #Creole #Zydeco #Festival #MarinCounty #AlAuger #Travel #California #SanRafael #FenixClub #LauraVanGalen #AndreThierry #GlenThompson #Gator
Laissez les bon temps rouler (Let the Good Times Roll)
United Festival was spending Saturday. It was one of those wonderful Indian Summer days in Marin County. Lindsay-blue skies blanketing soft, white clouds moving slowly, helped by a quiet breeze. Layers of sound abetting laid-back memories and aromas of New Orleans (see Siliconeer, April, 2016) surround me at Lagoon Park under the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright Civic Center Building. After three years appearing in Sausalito, the Creole ct. 1, at its new venue.
It was also a day of new friends and long-time-ago friends and an unforgettable Creole meal and lagniappes (see vendor sidebar). What impressed me the most, I think, was how music brings people together and creates a rainbow of color dancing to this carefree music. Zydeco is the music of New Orleans played by the ethnic-mix Creole community of this fabled city. Like its musical neighbor the blues, Zydeco is a story-telling music, a muscular syncopated joyous music that gets people up and dancing.
I remember the opening of a PBS documentary on the bayous south of New Orleans. It appeared to be an interior of a barn with a simple table for a bar and dancers crowding the floor. The over-voice explained, “It’s nine o’clock in the morning and the people have been dancing since early last night.” At Lagoon Park, the dance floor was crowded and doing the boogie without room for one more couple…and they danced all day. Zydeco’s genesis comes from the music of the Creoles of Louisiana, a mixed people of African, African-Caribbean, Native American and European descent. In the beginning, vocals were strictly in the traditionally Creole-French language.
Here we were, on a gorgeous summer day, feasting on foodstuff found nowhere else than the Big Easy, or a picnic lunch of a po’boy or fried chicken and Arbiter beer straight from the French Quarter. In the center of the vast venue, Laura Van Galen, owner of the Fenix Club, offered a five-course down-home New Orleans feast. The club in downtown San Rafael is a restaurant, lounge and a world of music offering live jazz, blues, sounds to fit everyone’s taste. The Fenix quickly became the spot for some of the top musicians available. This should come of no surprise as the musical director is Merl Saunders, Jr., son of the late celebrated keyboardist Merl Saunders, Sr.
Having lived in “Nawlin’s” and many visits that followed, the meal, prepared by the Fenix executive chef, Glen “Gator” Thompson, was equal to the legendary French Quarter restaurants such as Pere Antoine’s, Brennan’s, Court of Two Sisters and the myriad of fine eateries throughout that magical city (see menu and vendor sidebar).
The entertainment lineup included the Zydeco bands of Porter Williams, Step Rideau and the Zydeco Outlaws, Vibrason and headliner Andre Thierry. The Grammy-nominated Thierry is a Zydeco anomaly. Born in Richmond, Calif., his Zydeco DNA is from his Louisiana-born French-Creole parents. His accordion artistry and funky genius has been compared to Clifton Chenier, often call “The King of Zydeco.”
When the opening band, Porter Williams, hit the first note, it was truly Laissez les bon temps rouler. There is a seeming natural happiness of the small, button accordion as played by creators of the indigenous Big Easy sound. How could you not enjoy a rockin’ group named Step Rideau and the Zydeco Outlaws? Vibrason was a change of music featuring a vibrant gig of Salsa and Latin soul.
But, it was the music of Zydeco Magic everyone was waiting for. Zydeco Magic is the creation of world-renowned, Grammy-nominated Andre Thierry. Thierry’s command of the accordion, from the small button model to the larger piano keyboard model is extraordinary. The music of Zydeco Magic goes beyond the blends the musical traditions of the Bayou with reggae, blues, hip-hop and R&B. Besides touring the world with his music, Thierry is a co-founder of the festival, and a strong presence joining executive Director of Performing Stars of Marin Felicia Gaston, heading a program called Zydeco for kids.
As the last note wafted over the exhausted, but festive crowd, we all left with a light step and the Big Easy signature, Laissez les bon temps rouler, still reverberating in our ears.
FENIX: Crawfish É touffé e, Shrimp, Andouille, chicken gumbo, New Orleans-style BBQ Shrimp.
MS. PEARL: BBQ Pork Ribs, Chicken, Jambalaya, Red Beans w/Ham Hocks, Rice and Corn Bread.
SEYMAR CHICKEN & FISH FRY: Catfish, Red Snapper, Shrimp, Calamari, Veggie Tempura, Hush Puppies
LAGNIAPPES: Shrimp Po’Boy, Pork Debris, Red Beans & Rice, Gumbo, Fried Pickles.
CARIBBEAN SPICE (HAITIAN CREOLE): Jerk Chicken, Pork Sliders in Plantain, Seafood Boil Crab, Conch, Beignets.
SPIRIT OF JAZZ CAKES: Chocolate/Chocolate Chip Kahlua/Red Velvet/Banana Rum/Irish Crème Liqueur Cake.
MISE EN PLACE: Lobster Rolls, Grilled Jambalaya.
PERCY’S SWEET POTATO PIES: Original, Coffee Liqueur, Ginger Snaps, Praline.
MARIN SUNSHINE SOUTHERN DESSERTS: Variety of homemade cakes, pies, cookies.
YOLANDES SOUTHERN DESSERTS: Pralines, Butter Cookies.
FYI: Fenixlive.com, Andrethierry.com, Performingstars.org, creoleunitedfestival.com