Bristol Cajun & Zydeco Festival 2006

"We arrived at The Folk House, Bristol at lunchtime on the Saturday, following a breakneck speed drive from Canterbury on Saturday morning, after playing with Whiskey River at the Canterbury Festival on Friday night in anticipation of a weekend of great music and dancing, tasty food and meeting up with old friends and acquaintances.

Whiskey River with Aidan Sheehan (vocals, accordion and blues harp), Martin Blake, (vocals and guitar), Ted Bunting, (saxophone), Rick Buck (bull fiddle), and Pedro Brown (drums) with me guesting on frottoir, played a great mix of danceable sounds, from Rockin' Cajun and Zydeco to Jump Jive and Rock 'n Roll, including some great Chuck Berry covers: a memorable Little Queenie and You Never Can Tell. The dance floor was jumping the whole set with dancers of all styles. Whiskey River have played at nearly 40 festivals in the last two years, and tracks from their CD, Tales from The Swamp, have been played on UK radio as well as KBON, Louisiana, to enthusiastic reviews. (We listened to the CD three times in the car on the way back to London and their versions of Jimi Hendrix's Voodoo Chile and Dire Strait's Walk of Life are fantastic!).

After the lunchtime dance and a bowl of delicious chicken gumbo in the venue's café, we retired to our hotel to check in and a well earned snooze before returning to The Folk House for the evening dance, where Flying Home and Lil' Queenie (that's me!) played music for dancing in between the band sets.

That Saturday night gig was a complete sell-out and featured those Festival favourites Joe Le Taxi Zydeco Band. With the inimitable Rees Wesson on vocals and accordion, Dan Eldon on frottoir, Kev Torne on guitar, Jacqui Savage on electric bass and Andy Watson on drums, they played a stonking zydeco set to a packed dance floor, throwing in the odd waltz for good measure. A great dance party night!

After the venue closed for the night, along with lots of buzzing dancers we walked down to the Tantric Café in search of more music to round things off. The café was packed with people grooving to a trio playing cool jazz. After they had finished some Zydeco came on the sound system and there was just about enough room to swing a cat and for a spot of dancing at the same time. After a while we made our excuses and left for the hotel with our heads full of tunes and good times.

On Sunday we were treated to two gigs featuring the Godfather of UK Cajun and Zydeco, the legendary Mr Chris Hall. At lunchtime, The Bearcats, with Chris on vocals and accordion, Mitch Proctor on fiddle and vocals, Murray Brailsford on guitar and Sam Murray on drums, played a traditional Cajun set with great verve and gusto. The dance floor waltzed, two-stepped and jitterbugged to the Bearcats' first class musicianship.

In complete contrast, on Sunday night, we were treated to the explosive Zydecomotion, with Chris Hall on accordion and vocals, Mitch Proctor on guitar, Andy Mcallister on drums, Sam Murray on bass guitar, and the wild man of British Zydeco, Bryn 'Mad Dog' Davies on rubboard and vocals. And what a steamy set it was! This band really knows how to put the Blues back into Zydeco, while still keeping the dancers happy. Their long set flashed by in a twinkling and along with the two encores proved to be a fantastic finale to a great weekend of Cajun and Zydeco music.

A big thank you of course, to Satu, for organising the event, and also to Julian for the website, Amrik, Mary and Kay for the dance workshops, Nigel's Flying Home for the Djing and MCing, Robin for organising the raffle (proceeds to the Hurricane Katrina Fund), Dindon Sauvage, who played in the café bar, the staff of The Folk House for helping things tick along so efficiently, Richard the sound engineer and of course Zig a Zag, starring Phil Underwood, who I heard played a great set kicking off the Festival on Friday night. My only disappointment was that I wasn't there to see them!

Here's looking forward to next year!"

Carole Lateman (aka Lil' Queenie).

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