8.17am, Monday 29th October, Rue Pont Est, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, USA
Morning folks, and it’s a cold clear beautiful morning in Central LA – and that’s not Los Angeles! This is now definitely into Cajun country – lots of French street names, ‘parishes’ are your area boundaries, and the spice level has ramped up noticeably.
I got into Breaux Bridge, St Martins parish – between Lafayette and Baton Rouge – at around 6pm last night, and the owner of the Au Bayou Teche bed and breakfast – Mary Chauffe – whisked me off to join her and the ‘kissing cousins’ for dinner at the Crazy About Crawfish Cajun Cafe just around the corner. I went with ‘half and half’ – crawfish fried and crawfish étouffée (ett – too – Fay, or stew) – as my first experience with the little freshwater crayfish tails … plus all the local hot or green pepper sauces, made in house by the owner Deeanna Welch – who dropped in for a yarn. Now Mary’s cousins were in town for the South Louisiana Black Pot Music Festival and Cook Off – Mark is a fiddle player – and they said that there was an after party going on, about an hour down the road, out the back of the little town of Eunice … and they said I should go with them, because there would be everything from Western swing to zydeco music.
So … we went!
I ended up in a resurrected old dance hall propped amongst massive old trees in the middle of a trailer park out the back of the little town of Eunice – called the Lakeview Park and Beach. The ‘Beach’ bit is the swimming hole one side and the fishing hole on the other. And the dance hall is a high top barn fitted with old steel vane fans angled down onto the bent and bowed old ‘floating’ timber dance floor.
Mark was telling me that the Dancehall had been a local institution forever, but had been let go and closed down until a couple of years ago, when the new owners – a young couple – dressed the old girl back up and reopened her. These days, there’s live shows and dancing every Saturday night, with most people traveling and staying overnight. It’s great to see these old traditions endure, so the Black Pot Festival is now on my “to do” list down the track.
When we arrived, there was a massive cauldron of gumbo bubbling away by the door, a few bonfires to keep everyone warm on a very chilly, nearly full moon clear sky night. On stage was Miss Tess and the Talkbacks – based in Brooklyn NY and keeping Texas swing alive. I heard a very similar accent to mine, and watching the band was Donna Rae – lead singer of the Australian band Donna Rae and The Tamworth Playboys – based in Newcastle, New South Wales.
But that’s what they say around here – sooner or later, the world comes to Lakeview! Straight after the swing band, we got a full on dose of zydeco washboard and accordion … my first time with this sort of music … but I suspect definitely not the last! Then it turns out that the band is the quite well known Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole! If this is LA… then I think I really like it!
At some stage of the game this morning, I’ll be off to New Orleans – the long way, off the interstate – and for a few nights, parked in the French Quarter, so I’ll see you when I’m in The Big Easy.
Here’s my Breaux Bridge and Black Pot after party moment: