Keeping the tradition alive in California: The Long Beach Bayou & Blues Festival
This weekend, Saturday June 22nd and, Sunday June 23rd, the Rainbow Lagoon Park in Long Beach transforms into a home away from home for Louisiana natives, as The Long Beach Bayou and Blues Festival celebrates its 27th year. The two-day Creole and Cajun celebration feature a non-stop dance floor (including dance instruction), a kids corner where they can enjoy the cultural traditions of the Bayou, a crawfish eating contest, some of the best Cajun and Creole cuisine you can find on the West Coast, and of course amazing roots music. The acts include GRAMMY-nominated Pine Leaf Boys, Brian Jack and the Zydeco Gamblers, Sunpie and the Louisiana Sunspots, Jo Jo Reed and the Happy Hill Zydeco Band, Big J McNeely, and Peter Tork and Shoe Suede Blues (yes that Peter Tork of the Monkees), child blues phenom Ray Goren, and blues musician Bernie Pearl. The event will also a feature a second-line traditional Jazz Band and a costume contest!
There is a long history of Louisiana natives moving to Los Angeles that started back in the 1940s and 1950s. This is from a great article from the LA Times back in 1996, called “Left Coast Creole”:
Roland Davidson vividly remembers the day in 1956 when he tooled into town after a four-day drive from New Orleans and found his Louisiana Creole culture waiting for him in South-Central Los Angeles.
He heard the familiar dropped Rs of New Orleans’ 7th Ward along East 61st Street. And a short drive away, on a strip of Jefferson Avenue between Arlington and Crenshaw Boulevard, he found restaurants that served authentic crab etouffee and gumbo Creole-style, barbershops where news from New Orleans was discussed as if the patrons had never left there, and shops where a working man could buy a fried fish or shrimp Po’ boy on a crispy French roll.
“Everybody we hung around with was from New Orleans . . . [including] people who I went to school with in New Orleans,” Davidson recently recalled. “It was just like we all moved up here and got together again.”
The rich history of Louisiana music and culture (and the south in general) has had a huge influence the music and culture of modern Los Angeles from soul and funk in the 60s and 70s to hip-hop in the 80s and 90s. To get a taste of it, head to Long Beach this weekend and maybe you’ll catch me on the dance floor! Okay, truth is, I’m more likely to be found wherever they are selling gumbo, po boys, and red beans and rice.
Below you’ll hear a sampling of the music you’ll hear this weekend. Do I love me some foot-stomping, hard-core zydeco. It is the same family of Cajun-accordion based folk country music, but it has a harder driving rhythm as it blends elements of R&B and Blues. It is unique in that it features the rubboard. The first time I heard a rubboard (it was also the first time I ever saw one), I was mesmerized:
Here is Brian Jack & The Zydeco Gamblers with “It’s All Right”. This is the real deal:
The Pine Leaf Boys are hometown heros in Lafayette, Louisiana. They show us why here they are with “Pine Grove Blues”:
Here is Ray Goren at this year’s Doheny Blues festival. Yeah, he’s ridiculously gifted.
Did you know Peter Tork from the Monkees was a blues artist? Neither did I! But he is and he’s performing this weekend so come see him!