Monday, November 23, 2015

Louisiana: The Church of Zydeco

Performance center, Vermilionville, Lafayette, Louisiana.

Every Sunday afternoon, Vermilionville hosts the Bal du Dimanche ("Sunday Dance") from 1:00 to 4:00. Usually they alternate Cajun and Zydeco each week, with the occasional "swamp pop" or blues thrown in to the line-up.

I love both Cajun and Zydeco, mind you.

But. ... On every Zydeco Sunday, the same strange phenomenon occurs: I walk into the gift shop, show my membership card, get my paper bracelet, walk out of that building and into the courtyard, pass by La Cuisine de Maman's, and as I hear the Zydeco waft from the nondescript Performance Center in front of me, my mouth begins to form into a smile. It's an involuntary response, I tell you.

The nearer I get to the Performance Center, the louder the music gets as it flows through the cracks of the doors, and the wider my smile becomes. Heck, it makes me smile just writing about it.

A pale, pale sample of this phenomenon is in the video below:

On this particular Sunday in June, the Most High Reverend Mister Curley Taylor preached, along with his holy men, Zydeco Trouble.

Curley Taylor and Zydeco Trouble. Vermilionville, June 2015.

We celebrants confessed our sins and were blessed for another week. Or until later the same day for serious sinners, who congregated at Whiskey River. Or again that night, maybe at Randol's or O'Darby's or Feed n Seed.

Curley Taylor and Zydeco Trouble. Vermilionville, June 2015.

When a Zydeco band gets into a special groove, and the band members are in the music, and they lead us, the audience, up the road with them, and we add our energy to the band's energy, and the entire room thrums with a soaring, transcendent force, it evokes to me a trance dance that brings euphoria, of connection with humanity of today and humanity going back, back, back all the way to our very beginnings.

It's not just Zydeco music that does this, of course. Any music can do it. I remember a singular experience at the Lupus Chili Fest in 2013, in a garage. I described the feeling like this:
Sometimes when you listen to music, live especially, it pushes against you like an ocean wave or like a force of air, where you feel exhilarated and breathless at the same time, where your head actually falls back a little from the strength of the sound coming at you.  

This is what it felt like in the Lupus Garage when The Harvest Season played, as the band's flow rolled up and back in small waves, then pounded the shore in a rush against the beach.
If they had been calling to people at the back of the church to come to Jesus, why, I might have been tempted to do just that.


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