Friday, May 21, 2010

Baton Rouge, Louisiana from Austin and Back.

I returned a call to Merel Bregante and took him up on his offer to go to Baton Rouge. I felt like it was an interesting opportunity to hear music from and photograph blues artists and Cajun/Zydeco musicians for a change. Fest For All is a street fair style event with artists and live music sponsored by the Baton Rouge Arts Council and celebrates the people of Baton Rouge. Merel Bregante is a drummer and producer who has worked as a drummer with Loggins & Messina, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Pure Prairie League and many more. Merel has also produced the first three Reckless Kelly records and currently works with his wife, Austin singer and songwriter Sarah Pierce and owns Little Bear Records.
On this trip Merel was working as a stage manager and he often travels doing annual jobs in that field as well. The trip to Baton Rouge from Austin is interesting, you drive on the outskirts of Houston through little towns near Beaumont like Orange and then cross into Louisiana. Soon you are crossing the Sabine river and then crossing the Atchafalaya (which is the largest swamp in the U.S) basin bridge which is around 18 miles long and crosses over swamp land the entire time. Its really a beautiful sight to see but i would not want to be stranded out there with car trouble or get lost looking for help. Not long after that we drove over what is now known as the world most dangerous bridge located over Lake Charles. Its a rusted tangled and twisted hunk of metal that seriously could collapse and it has been rated a 2.4 on a scale of 10 as far as safety is concerned. We made it over just fine although we did have to sit in traffic on the bridge for a few minutes. Soon you arrive in Baton Rouge where we met up with some of Merel's friends for coffee. Later that night we met up with everyone who was working the festival and they shared stories over some fantastic home made crawfish stew. I got introduced to some very interesting people like Gary "Paw Paw" Dickerson who has worked for years as a stage manager with some of the biggest bands in the business like the Rolling Stones. The next day we went to the Galvan Street stage to prepare for the day. There really wasn't anything for me to do except tour the area and view the artwork on display and take in all the appetizing smells coming from the large variety of local food until the music started. There is a sort of "School of Rock" in Baton Rouge helping kids put groups together as musicians and they were first to take the stage with all their families supporting them and taking pictures. It was refreshing to know there are still programs like this available in some areas as many of them have fallen by the wayside due to the economy. Baton Rouge has had its share of catastrophe yet the people are strong and weather these set backs well and music will always be there as a solid structure to anchor too. People were understandably upset by the recent disaster in the Gulf but they refused to let the obvious threat dissipate the spirit of their festival.
The second act to take stage was comprised of three talented singers called Group 1 Crew. Sharing a message of positivity in their lyrics and stage presence they are signed to Warner Brothers records and female lead singer Blanca once auditioned for American Idol but now the group shares the honor of winning a Dove Award and have had their songs on television shows such as "One Tree Hill" and more. Local musician Jake Smith performed next singing his acoustic songs with a band member accompanying him on electric guitar. Jake is set to release his debut CD entitled "Everyone Comes From Somewhere" soon if it hasn't already been done so. With a style akin to John Mayer or maybe Jack Johnson his music is easy to take in. Rockabilly roots purists The Roebucks were on next.Hailing all the way from Baton Rouge and having played the festival before, i heard good things about these guys. The Roebucks are more my style compared to the other acts playing the festival although i do like Cajun & Zydeco i really liked them. They dig deep into the roots of rock & roll with covers by Ronnie Hawkins and Eddie Cochran and many more plus their own 50's and 60's inspired originals. Click here to view a video i found that someone took of them at the festival (this person has videos from each band i am writing about.) become a fan on Facebook with any of these groups. New Orleans resident by way of San Mateo California musician Eric Lindell was on next, Eric is a self professed skate punk raised on the music of bands like Blackflag and Fishbone, Eric now plays a smooth mix of blues, soul and funk. Eric made his television debut on Late Night With Conan O'Brien in 2008 and releases records on the Alligator label as well as his own label, Sparco Records. Eric had his latest album for sale at the festival and when i say album, this time i am talking about sweet ole vinyl and orange vinyl at that. It is self funded and self produced and titled "Between Motion and Rest" on Sparco Records.Lafayette resident Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience were next and also the days last act. Terrance has been making his style of traditionally correct and authentic Cajun Zydeco music for over twenty years but Terrance is also very versatile and along with his smooth soulful voice that can approach the likes of Aaron Neville, he is able to transcend boundaries by making music that falls under the genres of Reggae, R&B and blues. He and his wife and manager Cynthia helped establish a Grammy category for Cajun and Zydeco music and went on to win one in 2008. Terrance is a great entertainer and finds ways to interact with his audience and makes you want to dance even if you can't understand the lyrics as he is able to sing in Spanish, Cajun French as well as English Click here to view more photos from Saturday May first. Copyright Jeff Dykhuis 2010

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