Hopefully you'll all have arrived safely and soundly in our fair bayou city of Lafayette by sundown on Friday, Oct 16.
For those of you with "Dream State" plates, who are already from around these parts, great to have y'all all on board for our inaugural Bayou Round Up! Having a lot of leauxcal cars turn up was exactly the point! And as y'all already know the drill of how we do it 'round y'ere at home, please help us host and point the farther-away travelers (and especially those damn know-it-all, tall Texans!) in the right and salubrious directions! And help catch our fellow car brethren and their guests up on some the cultural phenomenons that are part and parcel of taking in all the joie de vivre that this region of the country has to offer.
Lafayette is called The Hub City because it's surrounded by and is in the center of all the dozens and dozens of other little Cajun and Creole towns of the Acadiana region. Towns like Opelousas, Abbeville, Crowley, Ville Platte, St. Martinville, Breaux Bridge, Mamou, Church Point, and many more picturesque destination. .... Cajun is a shortening of Acadian, which refers to the French settlers who landed in the bayous and swamps of south central Louisiana in the late 1700s after being cruelly evicted and burned out of their homes and put onto boats in the middle of the night in Acadie, Nova Scotia, by order of a mean 'ol British king.
The Catholic Acadians landed on these muddy, mosquito-ridden shores, a shattered and scattered people. But immediately they started building a new life for themselves amongst the indigenous people, African American Creoles and others who were already trying to make something for themselves and subsisting in this hidden, inhospitable territory. In the swamps of the Atchafalaya and Mississippi River deltas, and on the adjacent western prairie, they all began to carve out lives for themselves. They had a tough time and had to work and live together to survive .... But when the work of the day was done, they all partied together – and hard, too! This European/African/Indigenous cultural cross-pollinating is what makes the recipes down here so unique and spicier tasting even today. And it's also what makes the music such an exotic and soulful blend of the blues and ancient European reels set to African beats. Cajun and Creole zydeco music is for dancing – a new-world combination of African tribal traditions mixed with some European formality. But regardless of all the ethnographic background, one MUST get out on the dance floor when "listening" to music in Acadiana ... the moves and rhythm will naturally come to you when the accordions and fiddles strike up. If you don't trust me (yet), then just hop on the leg of a local and have a spin! "Allons danser cher (Let's dance, sweetie)" is the club battle cry! You see all this multicultural mix personified in the café au lait-colored skin of the people down here and the thick French accents and big welcoming smiles. It's a little different, less bland, more colorful – and I dare say more civilized – than the rest of America, and even the rest of the South. I actually like to consider South Louisiana "south of the South" – or maybe "the northernmost port in the Caribbean!"
But back to The Hub City thing. On Friday night, after a long week's work, folks around here are ready to let loose and party! "Laisser les bons temps rouler! (Let the good times roll!)" They come flooding into Lafayette from all over Acadiana and the small towns in the countryside. That is what gives this place that country-come-to-town, rock'n'roll jamboree sorta atmosphere and energy. And they come down into the streets from all the office buildings in the city (everyone here knows to be sure to bring an extra pair of dancing shoes to work on Fridays to change into at 5 p.m.). On Friday evenings (in good weather seasons – and October is PRIME weather down here) the City of Lafayette throws a big FREE street dance in the center of downtown. We call it Downtown Alive! .... And on Friday, Oct. 16, knowing all you rodders will be gassed and revving to geaux, The Kontinentals have pulled some strings and are proud to help present Jimmie Vaughan & His Tilt-A-Whirl Band featuring Lou Ann Barton for your listening and DANCING pleasure! This will be a homecoming of sorts, as Jimmie has always been a Lafayette fave. Back in the '80s, his Thunderbirds ruled the legendary Grant Street Dancehall at the foot of downtown by the underpass. Their sets were always chock full of south Louisiana staples by Slim Harpo, Lazy Lester, Guitar Jr. and Cookie & The Cupcakes. Fans would pack the club to dance! Meanwhile, on those very same weekends, our very own zydeco king Clifton Chenier would likely be holding court at Antone's in Austin. There has always been a simpatico relationship between Lafayette and Austin (some long-term Austinites that I know even say that Lafayette reminds them of and feels like Austin did back in its golden era from the '50s through the early '80s). Now the Bayou Round Up is here to write the next chapter and prove that the good relations and good times endure!
Lafayette Mayor Durel and da chief o' po-lice have kindly and exclusively invited BRU registrants to park their cars all around Jimmie Vaughan's stage at Parc Sans Souci as well as up and down the 500 block of Jefferson Street and the 200 block of East Vermilion Street. Bagged meter parking will be reserved for our BRU cars. Having all the cars parked downtown is going to look exquisite. Especially as our quaint little cypress-tree-lined downtown has often been referred to as "the Cajun Back To The Future set!" It's all relatively safe and easy vibes downtown. Lafayette still has that small town feel and courtesy about it. There will be folks of all ages, complextions and creeds walking the streets, checking out the cars and going into the bars and restaurants downtown. But folks here are generally respectful and there is a healthy police presence downtown on the weekends to keep everyone safe and things flowing smoothly. In short, your cars are fine left parked downtown, while you venture around and check out what the evening has to offer.
Once parked downtown there is so much to sip, eat and hear close by! Friday, Oct. 16 is shaping up to be one for the ages, a real Lafayette dream night! Chances are that the weather will be perfect and there'll be a touch of cool in the night air. And after the Jimmie Vaughan show is done, there will be an official BRU cruise around downtown. But you may also want to stick and stay and enjoy some (or ALL!) of the great music and food that is just a few yards from Parc Sans Souci, where you'll likely be parked.
A favorite haunt on the Jefferson Street Strip is Antlers (555 Jefferson Street). Antlers has been around since the 1920s and used to be a notorious gambling hall and gin joint during prohibition. Now it serves the best poke chops, smothered chicken and jambalaya (amongst all sorts of other deliciousness) and tall pours done by lil' Cajun cuties. Antlers is also a legendary Lafayette music spot. Back in the day, it regularly hosted The Meters, Gatemouth Brown and all the hometown swamp pop and zydeco stars. On Friday, Oct. 16, Antlers will have Michael Juan Nunez and his band on stage. Michael Juan is a great swamp blues and rock'n'roll shouter-songwriter, frontman and slide guitar wizard. I highly recommend popping in to catch his rockin' combo. They sound like if the Stones and Zep were from coastal Vermillion Parish and had spent just a bit more time boning up on their Son House! And there's a smooth wooden dance floor and NO COVER at Antlers on Friday after Downtown Alive!
About eighty paces up Jefferson Street you'll find Jefferson Street Pub housed in the gorgeous old Guaranty Bank building (500 Jefferson). JSP also does tasty grub and craft cocktails and beers. The band booked for Friday, Oct. 16 is called Zydeco Radio. These kids are one of my favorite new bands around, anywhere! Billy Boy is up front squeezing his zydeco accordion and mixing up the old traditional sound with '70s blues-rock guitars, funky bass and some nice new originals. The dancefloor will be packed with a younger generation and the old guard alike, writhing and swaying to the next chapter in the fertile Lafayette music scene. Only a $5 cover.
Besides what I've already mentioned, up and down Jefferson Street and around downtown there are some terrific places to eat. There will also be wonderful street vendors and local fare festival caterers that will be on site at the Jimmie Vaughan show. We'll get deeper into Lafayette Eats! in another post, but while you're downtown, and before you hit the dance floor all night and belly up to too many bars, we want you to get some local delicacies into your tummy ....
Pamplona (631 Jefferson St.) does really fine Spanish tapas with a Louisiana twist (quail egg and boudin morcilla sausage) and has a premium wine selection. Don's Seafood (301 East Vermilion St.) is the old-school family home to Cajun seafood and stiff Old Fashioneds! Start with seafood gumbo or crawfish bisque at Louisiana's First Seafood Restaurant. Tsunami (412 Jefferson St.) offers really fresh, Grade-A sushi, Japanese cuisine and a nice bar scene. All done in a sleek-and-trendy-but-still-casual atmosphere. The French Press, just off Parc Sans Souci (214 E. Vermilion St.) features inventive and très savory seafood and meat fusions, but Chef Justin Girouard's creations are all still rooted in the Cajun grandmothers' cookbooks. Go towards the neon at the end of Jefferson where it meets Lee Avenue and there's a former Conoco, now dubbed The Filling Station. Outdoor dining for tasty Mexican, steaks and extremely sneaky margaritas. Try the off-menu lobster burger. All you gerhead cars guys should feel right at home amongst the retro decor and gas pumps.
I know it's already starting to get hard to figure out how to pack it all in ... But after catching Jimmie Vaughan in the Parc and a few other great acts down on Jefferson, having gotten a bite to eat and cruised downtown a while, WE'RE JUST GETTING STARTED! This dream night and the buzz from it all is just starting to kick in! Uh, CHOMP-CHOMP.... What?! Gator got your granny??!! Mr. "Poke Salad Annie" hissef, "The Swamp Fox" Tony Joe White is playing a barn dance just a few minutes drive away at Vermilionville (300 Fisher Road). There's plenty of paved parking onsite. His gig is 8-11 p.m., and Tony Joe always puts on an epic and lowdown show. And he'll put you right in the mood for rolling back into the thick of it downtown afterwards .... The smell of that cane burning in the fresh night air, overtaking your own exhaust .... Mama and the motel can wait, 'cause a period perfect, down home, Cajun and Zydeco fais-do-do is on at the palatial new roadhouse/honkytonk Warehouse 535 (535 Garfield St. - also plenty of onsite paved parking). The gig will be Tee Chaoui Social Club featuring Michael Doucet (of Beausoleil fame) AND Corey Lil' Pop Ledet and his Hot Pepper Zydeco band. Funky accordions and haunting bayou fiddles will fill the room, while the dancers spin. This is the perfect musical introduction to Lafayette ... Or maybe you should head just up the street to see the zydeblues guitar king and legendary Clifton Chenier sideman at The Blue Moon Saloon (215 E. Convent). The Blue Moon is an intimate, funky little back porch joint. But Lil' Buck Sinegal and his tight band will be rockin' da shack! "Buckaroo," as we call him around town, is a national treasure. On par with any of the great blues slingers ever known.
Really, if you know what's good for you and how to properly pass a good time, you'll try and drop in on every bit of this that I've recommended. It can be done! If you find yourself flaggin', then just jump in with me! I mean, it's not like we really have anything much to do the next day .... 'Cept sit around all Saturday in the glorious sunshine, lookin' at fabulous old cars, talkin' shop, listenin' to killer live Gulf Coast music and chowin' down on some more of the best eats and sips Acadiana has to offer .... And when the sun goes down at the show at Blackham Coliseum on Saturday .... We gonna do it aaaaaallllllllll over again, cher!
Stay tuned! Now everybody c'est "yeah!"