I didn’t celebrate Mardi Gras or Carnival growing up, so I never remember when they are, and I think the date changes anyhow. Not sure how they figure that out. I usually count on the DJs at 90.5 KUT, the local public radio affiliate, to clue me in by playing Cajun, Zydeco and Samba music. It’s one of my favorite times of year for that reason. Some of the best music on earth.
Tonight I got to experience some of that music live at a free concert (I chipped in with a $5 tip) by an Austin-based group, Charles Thibodeaux and the Austin Cajun Aces. The concert was at Central Market, kind of an upscale grocery store on North Lamar Street which has a lot of great free concerts. It was a neat experience, even though it got a bit nippy on the screened-in dining area. It was a great atmosphere. Folks who really knew what they were doing got up and danced to the Cajun music. There wasn’t much room, but they danced where they could. “Anywhere you see floor, that means the floor wants you to dance right there,” said accordionist and band leader Thibodeaux. People danced with strangers, danced with little kids. It kind of reminds me of the family-oriented-yet-alcohol-tolerant German dancehall culture you see in places like Walburg, except people were drinking wine instead of beer.
Thibodeaux (who was real excited about the Saints winning the Super Bowl), is actually from Beaumont, it turns out. That’s in East Texas and a lot of Cajuns live there. He wound up in Austin and put together a hell of a band. Joining him are Steve Doerr – guitar and vocals, Peter Schwarz – fiddle, bass and vocals, and Richard White on drums. They’ve been together since 2004 and have toured all over the state. They recently put out their first album, Hommage ‘A Andrew Cormier, which is being sold on CD Baby. It has gone over pretty well, receiving “Best 1st CD” award from the Cajun French Music Association in Lafayette Louisiana in August 2009.
That one is definitely on my shopping list, based on what I heard tonight…
This will give you an idea what they’re like, although the lineup I saw tonight included a drummer: