Archive for September, 2010

First Friday Cajun Dance with the Midway Ramblers

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

OK, so it’s in Chicago! While I am trying to keep the Michigumbo blog focused on Cajun and zydeco dance and music events in the state of Michigan, occasionally it can stray outside of the Wolverine state. Chicago does have a fairly active CZ community, and the Midway Ramblers are part of that community. The Midway Ramblers usually have a “First Friday” Cajun dance every month (October through May) and so their dances are on October 1, November 5, and December 3 through the end of 2010.

Those dances are at the Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox (at Wilson), usually in the Schanachie Room on the 1st floor. Admission is $8 (12 years and younger free). The dances run from 8:00 to 11:00 pm (Central time, of course), and they take a break for some dance instruction around 9:00 pm. They even have a number to call for more info: 630-833-3515. BTW, there is free parking at the venue, and there is an Irish pub on the premises where you can even get something to eat before the dance.

Garry playing squeezebox with the Midway Ramblers

Garry playing squeezebox with the Midway Ramblers in 2003

One of these days I’m going to get back to a Midway Ramblers dance in Chicago!

The Midway Ramblers are fairly active. Check out their online schedule. Also check out Monica Vachlon’s “Monica’s List” about Chicago area CZ events.

Cajun jam at Alber’s Orchard

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Mark Palms of Creole du Nord likes to have a lot of Cajun jam sessions, and in the autumn he likes to have some of them at the Alber Orchard & Cider Mill out near Manchester, MI. The next jam is Sunday, September 26, noon to 3:00 pm. Unfortunately, Mark won’t be able to make it (nor will I), but y’all could have fun playing along (or even just listening). While you’re at it, Alber’s has some real fine cider, apples, and even donuts!

Alber’s is at 13011 Bethel Church Road, Manchester, MI. You can find them on Mapquest or any other online mapping service.

There are more Cajun jam sessions at Alber’s on October 3, 10, 24, & 31.

Cajun/zydeco music online

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Maybe you’re new to listening to Cajun and zydeco music; you don’t know what it is and want to find out. Or maybe you’re a long time fan and just want to listen to it online (since it’s rare you’ll ever hear any played on any broadcast radio stations local to you). Well, here are a couple of places to start listening.

KRVS Radio Acadie is a public broadcasting station at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, LA. They play a lot of different music besides CZ. You can check out their schedule for shows such as Bonjour Louisiane (Mon-Fri 5-7 am), Born on the Bayou (Sat 3-4 pm), Dimanche Matin, Dirty Rice (Wed 12-1 pm; Sat 8:30-10 pm), Lacouture Lagniappe (Tue 1-2 pm; Wed 3-4 am), Le Bal de Dimanche Apres-Midi (Sun 12-3 pm), Lousiana B Sides (Wed 1-2 am), Rendez-Vous des Cajuns (Sat 6-7:30 pm), Swamp Stomp (Sat 10-11 pm; Sun 3-4 pm), Zydeco Est Pas Sale (Sat 7 am-12 pm), and Zydeco Stomp (Sat 12-3pm). Remember that all these times are Central Time (not Eastern Time) so you may have to adjust your listening schedule! Also note that the schedule is subject to change at any time in the future.

Also, I checked the “Radio” selection under “Library” in iTunes, and then in the “Blues” section there’s a Stream called “Cajun Fest” with the Comment “Cajun, Zydeco & Bayou favorites.” Excellent! Crank it up! Better yet, find a partner and two-step and zydeco dance around your kitchen! Yes, they do play some commercials, but those are mercifully brief, and there’s no babbling DJ to listen to.

KBON 101.1 FM in Eunice, LA, is also online, but sadly now you have to join their KBON Club for $6/month (or $60/year) if you want to listen. :-( Quel dommage!

C.J. Chenier & the Red Hot Louisiana Band at Callahan’s in Auburn Hills

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Hé toi! C.J. Chenier & the Red Hot Louisiana Band play at Callahan’s Bar & Grill, 2105 South Blvd, Auburn Hills, MI, this Thursday, September 16.
Local band Monsieur Guillaume & His Zydeco Hepcats open for C.J. starting at 8:00 pm. For any nostalgia freaks out there, Callahan’s is in the building that was formerly Chuck’s on the Boulevard, a place where you could get some tasty Creole cooking. $10 at the door, although I heard a rumor they may have cut the price to $5. Call 248-858-9508 for more info.

How I came to play Cajun/zydeco music, Part I

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

I am of Polish ancestry. My maternal grandfather played Polish folk music on the violin, clarinet, and harmonica around his house, so I grew up hearing live music. Also, there were lots of Polish-style weddings to attend what with all of the relatives and friends of the family getting married, and there were always live polka bands at these weddings.

I started attending rock/blues concerts in my late teens, and two of my favorite bands were Savoy Brown and the J. Geils Band. I was talking with a co-worker, Sally, one day when I was 20, telling her how much fun it appeared to be to play music on stage as those bands, especially the Geils band. Then I told her how I wish I could play music. Well, I guess I said that to her too many times because she told me to “either get an instrument and learn to play, or else shut up about it!” I thought, “get an instrument and learn to play, that’s the ticket!” So I went and bought a Hohner Super Chromonica in the key of C, and Sally started teaching me to play harmonica during lunch at work.

I also went to a local Detroit music store, Taber Music (they’re no longer in business), and bought a spinet organ and started taking organ lessons. After a few years I took some piano lessons from a guy named Bruce at Anderson Music in Dearborn. Eventually I formed a local band with some friends (R.U. Ready?), and we played some hall parties and such. A couple of years later I played in another local rock-only band, Sailstone, but quit the music business in 1978.

I got married in 1980 and then divorced in 1992, and didn’t really play much music during all that time; just played a little piano at home. After the divorce, I really started playing music for myself as therapy, mostly harmonica, and some piano. I started jamming with contra dance musicians in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area, as well as dancing at a lot of local contra dances.

I met a gal at a contra dance in 1993, and we went to the Wheatland Music Organization‘s Traditional Arts Weekend over the Memorial Day weekend. There were nightly dances on Friday through Sunday that weekend, as well as various music and dance workshops all during the day on both Saturday and Sunday. A couple of the dance workshops were about Cajun dancing. Neither of us knew anything about Cajun dancing or what the music sounded like, but we were game to try new things, so we attended those Cajun dance workshops.

Perhaps it was the Cajun accordion playing of Gary Powell of the Bone Tones band that grabbed me, but I was immediately hooked. My partner and I learned to dance Cajun two-step, jitterbug, and waltz, and danced the night away on that Sunday to the Bone Tones.

The Bone Tones had two cassette tapes for sale, Cajun Dance Tonight (out of print) & Queue de Tortue, which I bought. One of the members of the Bone Tones, Matt Haney, also had two tapes for sale with him playing with Tracy Schwarz (Louisiana and You & The Tracy Schwarz Cajun Trio, both apparently out of print) which I also bought. So now I owned four tapes of Cajun music which I promptly started playing along with on the harmonica. I then went and bought a John & Geno Delafose zydeco tape, Pere et Garçon Zydeco,  just to get some zydeco for something a little different.

As the 1990s kept rolling along, I kept contra dancing and playing contra dance music on harmonica, as well as occasionally dancing to Cajun or zydeco bands at Wheatland or the Frog Island festival. I also bought a few more Cajun and zydeco recordings. I also bought as many Cajun sheet music books as I could find, including Ann Savoy’s Cajun Music – A Reflection of a People. Ann just so happens to be married to Marc Savoy. Marc builds Cajun diatonic accordions at their Savoy Music Center in Eunice, LA. Ann and Marc also play in the Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band along with Michael Doucet (of Beausoleil).

It so happens that the Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band would sometimes come to Ann Arbor to play at The Ark (mostly a folk-music club). In the summer of 1999, I approached Marc Savoy at one of their concerts at The Ark, and inquired about getting a Cajun accordion from him. When I found they cost more than $1,000, I had to think about it, and didn’t order one. Well, I thought about it more and more over the next year, and then when Marc came back to play The Ark in 2000 I ordered an accordion from him. It cost $1350, and although Marc said it would take six weeks to get it from him, it arrived in the mail after only four weeks. In fact, it arrived on August 30, the day I used to celebrate as my wedding anniversary but now celebrate as my accordion’s anniversary!

— to be continued —

Zydeco Hepcats at Mr. B’s

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Hey, you can listen to some zydeco & blues tonight (September 10) out at Mr. B’s in Troy, MI, as Monsieur Guillaume and His Zydeco Hepcats perform. They play from 10 pm to 1:30 am. I believe it is 21+ since they serve alcohol. Don’t know if there is a cover charge or not. Don’t know if the venue will allow dancing or not, either.

Mr. B’s is at 3946 Rochester Rd N in Troy, phone is 248-651-6534 if you need more info.

I had the pleasure of playing some rubboard with the Hepcats at their recent gig at the People’s Art Festival in Detroit, although sadly they have cropped me out of all their pictures on their website from that event. :-(  It’s like I never existed! :-)

Anyway, check out the Hepcats some time–they play some pretty good zydeco.

Dancing in the Streets – Report

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Well, some of us passed a good time at Dancing in Streets on Sunday. (Note: Down in Louisiana people would say they “passed a good time” instead of “had a good time” as folks would say up here in the north.) Creole du Nord played for an hour and 15 minutes, and a fair number of folks did some dancing in the streets.

Dancers dancing in the street

Dancers dancing in the street

Dancing in the streets is of course a tad more difficult than dancing in a proper dance hall since most streets have a crown (high spot down the middle, sloping down towards the curbs) for drainage, not to mention there are cracks and patches and other obstacles in the road. Yes, even the painted lines down the middle are slippery compared to the friction of asphalt. But it’s still fun to dance out in the open air to good music.

Creole du Nord

The Creole du Nord band

I have to confess this was first time I had actually heard Creole du Nord play for a dance, although I have jammed with them in the past, and they were excellent. Good, solid Cajun two-step beats, plus steady syncopated zydeco dance rhythms. Mark Palms was really getting into some zydeco accordion licks, too. I had thought that Creole du Nord mostly stuck to Cajun music, but it was a pleasant surprise to hear them play a number of zydeco tunes to mix it up.

Susan Filipiak provided some dance instruction for the Cajun and zydeco dancing, and it was doled out in small portions. She taught a basic two-step, then the band played a few tunes, then Susan taught a bit more about the dancing, then the band played, and so on. I thought that was good as sometimes when we try to teach new folks to dance we throw too much at them at once!

There was, of course, much more at Dancing in the Streets. The ballroom/swing dance area with the II-V-I Orchestra seemed particularly well attended, plus there were some folks at the contra dance area, and the Middle Eastern dance area drew a fair number of onlookers to a dance demo. I did get to see some old friends from my contra-dancing days, and who knows, I may try to do some contra-dancing again soon, although I’m sure my cranky knees would complain!

Dancing in the Streets

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

Every Labor Day weekend, the city of Ann Arbor closes the streets in downtown Ann Arbor for Dancing in the Streets, an event sponsored by AACTMAD (the Ann Arbor Council for Traditional Music and Dance). There are multiple stages with multiple bands playing various types of music for dancing, including ballroom, swing, English, contra dance, Scottish, Polynesian, Middle Eastern, and of course Cajun. The 2010 DitS is on Sunday, September 5.

This year’s Cajun music at DitS is provided courtesy of Creole du Nord, a band of Mark Palms who hails from the Manchester, MI, area. He is a fine local musician who also plays in a band with his wife Carol, the Raisin Pickers. The Palms also promote the Riverfolk Festival in Manchester each year. Anyway, Creole du Nord is playing from 5:15 to 6:30 pm this year, so grab your dancing shoes and get there! Don’t forget you’ll be dancing outdoors in the streets (which is why they call it “Dancing in the Streets”)!

Here’s the full 2010 DitS schedule. Oh, by the way, DitS is absolutely free!

Bonjour, tout le monde!

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

Bonjour, y’all, and welcome to the Michigumbo blog. It’s a blog about Louisiana style music, particularly Cajun & Zydeco, but also Swamp Pop, New Orleans, blues, etc., as played way up north in Michigan. Perhaps I’ll be able to incorporate a calendar into this blog so I can keep scheduled CZ events in and near Michigan more up to date!