Somewhere Over the Rainbow Lagoon

Long Beach Bayou & Mardi Gras Festival

Saturday June 26 - 11:30am - 9:00pm

Sunday June 27, 2010 - 11:30am-8:00pm

Rainbow Lagoon Park, Long Beach

By Joel Okida

LONG_BEACH_CAJUN_ZYDECO.jpgOkay, it's that time again. No, not the warmth of another season of Southern California summer weather, but the warmth of Southern California summer weather and the joy of outdoor festivals! The one that brings out the crowds to get their fill of all things Louisiana is the Long Beach Bayou Festival. Yes, it's hard to say I love you out loud, but it's even harder to say it when you've got a mouthful of jambalaya or crawfish étouffée! Well, love is complicated so concentrate on food and music when this special weekend comes around. And really, you'll express yourself "mo' bettah" when the music is right and the blues done left. At this festival you can jump into the Zydeco mix at the Bayou stage or let the likes of Artwork Jamal or Dennis Jones bleed the blues for you at the Club N'Orleans stage. That's right, if your woman says you make love like an earthquake- a lot of shakin' and rumblin', but it's over in 15 seconds then you've got to get a seat over at the Blues Stage to get some sympathy. If your man gave you a lawn mower for your birthday, then you should get your teary-eyed self on over to the Blues Stage (after you try out that mower on his iPhone, the remote, and his silk shirts, of course).

Well, don't weep around the festival for too long, because you know there are good times around every corner booth. This isn't a food article, but you know that the music of Louisiana is part of a whole way of life and when you aren't dancing or crying, you're eating. It's part of the plan. It takes a lot of energy to jump for joy or to cry yourself a river (or a bayou). A cup of gumbo goes a long way towards bringing you back to the big picture so take your fixings to either stage because you're going to need sustenance for your soul to move your body to the relentless groove.

It's going to be non-stop rhythm and rhymes when eight Cajun/Zydeco bands will lay down that meaty beat and that should be enough reason for everyone to be on the dance floor.

Bryant "T" Broussard has the genes for what he does. And what he does is play Zydeco music with his band, The Zydeco Steppers. The musical lineage includes his mother and noted accordion player, Mary Jane Ardoin, his great uncle, Bois Sec Ardoin, and the great Amédé Ardoin. Throw in Creole fiddle player, Carlton Frank and west coast legend, Queen Ida, and T- Broussard's destiny was written for him. Not only well-versed on the accordion, but adept at the drums, rub board, and bass guitar, the versatile Broussard can play the early La La Creole-style music or the newer wave of R&B flavored Zydeco. He'll play both days of the festival.

If you like your Zydeco flavored with the blues and a taste of country, the Bay area's pride rests on the shoulders of Mark St. Mary and his Louisiana Blues & Zydeco band. The Bay Area Blues Society awarded the group the "Best Zydeco Band" in 2007, and for sure they're properly considered every year. Gear up for some bluesy Zydeco, waltzes, two-steps, and line dances on Saturday.

The name, Geno Delafose, comes up a lot when people talk of Zydeco favorites and Creole cowboys. True to his western attire, Geno raises quarter horses and breeds cattle out on his ranch near Eunice, LA. But when he's not doing that, he's either squeezing out a two-step, a waltz, or even a golden oldie on one of his single-row or triple-row diatonic accordions, or pounding the piano accordion for a beat-heavy Zydeco tune. His band, French Rockin' Boogie describes the language first and then the atmosphere on a crowded dance floor. A must see and hear for the uninitiated. Squeeze in and shake it Sunday afternoon.

One of the new breed of Zydeco artists that also has family ties to past influential musicians, is Corey Ledet, a crowd favorite in Southwest LA, as well as around the world. One morning he could be playing for the regulars at Café des Amis in Breaux Bridge and the next day performing before 70,000 fans in Zydeco-starved Moscow. Ledet, nick-named Lil Pop, is a native of Houston, Texas, home to many Creoles who have migrated back and forth across the east Texas border and southwest Louisiana. Like many of the young musicians from this area, Corey plays both traditional style and the funkier nuevo-style of Zydeco music, and can play them on single-row, triple-row, and piano accordion and, uniquely, on the organ, too. Come Sunday, loosen up your lower extremity and get ready to give up yoga for Zydeco!

The Creole Belles aren't really Creole but might be belles at what they do. Comprised of four California- based women who have either gone South and learned from the source to play Cajun and Creole music or hooked up with Louisiana émigré who now live on the west coast. If you can drop names of noted musicians like McGee, Fontenot, Ardoin, Balfa, Savoy, and Doucet, as your teachers, then you get at least an honorable mention for getting the right people to tutor you. Getting the rawer, rural fais do-do sound is what these ladies do and you can get in a two step, a Cajun jitterbug, and a waltz while checking out some fine fiddling by Delilah Lee Lewis, Maureen Karpan's button-busting accordion, Karen Leigh's traditional Cajun rhythm guitar, and the double bass bottom of Karen Celia Heil. See the Creole Belle Cajun Dance Band on Saturday.

A one-of-a-kind "cornbread" voice is how someone accurately described the corn-husky vocals of the excitable Lisa Haley, fiddler and leader of the Zydekats. Haley honed her fiddling chops and Louisiana music vocabulary through associations with some of California's finest Creole musicians: Queen Ida, Danny Poulard, and perhaps most of all, from the late Los Angeles-based accordion player, Joe Simien. Since those early days, Haley has created her own sound that gets the crowd involved and her blue fiddle leads the charge through a melange of swamp pop, Cajun two steps, and soulful ballads. Showmanship is always at a high level and no one gets the audience energy up like Haley and her Zydekats. She'll ask, no, demand, that you partake in her musical trip across the Bayou Stage on Sunday.

San Diego's Bayou Brothers have studied the dynamics of crowd-pleasing Zydeco music and have become one of the favorites along the left coast. Singer/accordionist, John Chambers leads the Brothers through their repertoire of upbeat dance music and no one walks away without a sweaty shirt and a smile. You'll see the dancers rock and the partyers pop up when the Brothers turn it up. They will be one of the first to warm up the Bayou Stage on Saturday, not with a simmer but a sizzle.

Over at the Club N'Orleans Blues Stage, things get busy almost as soon as the gates open. Be prepared to either shake a tail feather or your moneymaker, whichever works best for you.

You will not be saying, "Say what?" after checking out the local quintet, The Sai Whatt Band. Funky, but never clunky, Sai Whatt is the musical answer, not the question. Led by vocalist, Dale Hightower, the group, who have worked the scene for over 35 years, will show why they took the Best R&B Band title at the L.A. Mic Awards, three out of the last four years.

Oreo Divas? The name does not have anything to do with cookie-selling Girl Scout den mothers, but take a picture of Julie Harris, Debra Sullivan, and Ave Fitzgerald, sandwiched up at the mics and you'll get the idea. It's a salute to Motown, and these dream girls might sing out the warning that, You Can't Hurry Love which is too late for most of us, but your overanxious nephew still needs to know. Witness them, bow unto Temptations and maybe you'll feel like a Vandella, a Pip, or like you've seen a Miracle!

Straight outta Long Beach, Blue Dice, led by guitarist/vocalist, Victor Paul, slices and dices, jukes and jives, and then deals a hot hand of blues n' funk. This nine-piece funk band will roll out one plucky number after another and it's never odd. With the brass blowing and drummer par excellence, Jerry Caglese, pounding the skins, the die is cast, you will get down with them! The Blue Dice are never fuzzy, but there is some wah-wah going on with Paul's guitar. Think way-above-average white band! Hey, even your ears might sweat!

Gregg Young has an impressive resume when you see names like Bo Diddley, Sly Stone, and Carlos Santana on his I-played-with list. Guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, and bandleader, Young, will lead his band through their workout with Andrea Palm, who can sing it soft, hard, and everything in between. There's a little or a lot of gospel in everything she does. Young and his Second Street Band will cover a wide musical spectrum- blues, jazz, R&B, reggae and rock n' roll. You can soak it all in on Saturday.

Dennis Jones' Pleasure and Pain got him the Real Blues Magazine's "Best Modern Blues" recording last year and showed a maturity in his vocals to match his already hot shot guitar wizardry. Jones will be up front and personal with his guitar and original songs, joining an already heavy dose of string-benders gracing the blues stage. Come Saturday, take a seat, testify, and take notes later, Jones will pick up where Jimi, B.B., Freddie, and Albert left off.

Jackson Mississippi's own Zac Harmon, has successfully zigged and zagged a career in the music business, but he finally zeroed in on the blues and r&b idioms as a guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, and bandleader. He's got a who's who credit list as a songwriter for the likes of Freddy Jackson, the O'Jays, and Evelyn "Champagne" King to name but a few. He'll be performing songs from his last CD, The Blues According to Zacariah and also having some "heated" musical exchanges with his band mates on Sunday.

She's back again with more examples of her diverse musical talent: singing, caressing, swinging and telling it like it was, is, and will be. "Sweet Baby J'ai" Michel is a singer who entertains no holds barred, period. With a background in classical music, she took off to explore everything else and certainly the Zydeco, jazz, pop, and even country music influences inform her performances as well as a healthy dose of theater. No wonder or fluke that Teddy Edwards, Ronald Mulgrew, Jane Getz and other highly braggable luminaries have been involved with this impassioned performer. She will deliver the goods on Sunday. It will be sweet, Baby! Laurie Morvan, strapped with her ‘56 Stratocaster (amongst other like instruments, I'm sure) embraces the style of iconic Texas blues guitarist, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and then takes off from there. Morvan's early childhood growing up on a street ironically called, Bittersweet Lane in North Lenox, IL, would portend her future in the music of the blues. A self-confessed guitar addict, Morvan plays and practices incessantly and her hard work has paid off. She is riding the crest of the wave generated by her last CD, Cures What Ails Ya, getting rave reviews for that and her live shows. Not bad for a "girl" who had to fight through the male-dominated electric axe turf. And how many other guitarists can boast a degree in Electrical Engineering and a Master's degree in Applied Mathematics? Yes, she's adds up to one badass who knows how to conduct the electricity in her guitar and light up her performances.

Also returning to the festival is Artwork Jamal, a performer well-schooled in all the facets of music production, be it recording, engineering, producing, songwriting, and of course showing his chops and singing. Hey, he's even a member of SAG! But what he will bring to the stage is his brand of "acid" blues, which seems to encompass the delta, Chicago, and modern blues along with a revival of Jimi's legacy, all rolled into one. Don't take a pill! Go to the Blues Stage on Sunday, instead, and pick up some Artwork.

Can it really be 41 years since Diana Ross introduced the young vocal group from Gary, Indiana: the Jackson 5? Tito, the guitar-playing brother of Marlon, Jackie, Jermaine, and Michael Jackson, has emerged as an arranger, producer, and solo performer. He will showcase his blues direction on Sunday, revealing the electric side of his otherwise cool and calm demeanor. He names Albert Collins and B.B. King as two of the influential players that have inspired him. With a line-up filled with guitar slingers, Jackson will sing the blues in good company and will help keep the spirits alive on Sunday.

It's all going down on Saturday and Sunday, June 26th and 27th. Don't forget to bring your mask, costume, parasol, or your favorite hanky, so you can join in with the New Orleans Traditional Jazz Band, both days. This year the Mardi Gras parade and second line is dedicated to the late David Avadon, a long time supporter of the festival and member of the dance community.

As for me, as Tito and his brothers once sang, I'll Be There- just look over your shoulder!

Joel Okida is a struggling artist, struggling writer, and struggling musician. It occurs to him that life is all about the struggle. Fortunately, he did not take up acting. However, he's not half-bad as a zydeco dancer and the ability to make a mean gumbo and lovely walnut tortes has gotten him by.