‘Only in Louisiana’ show raises funds to send artists to Los Angeles on Jan. 26
Performances by three of the 11 Louisiana acts nominated for Grammy awards this year made for a quintessential Louisiana Saturday night at the newly renovated Baton Rouge Magnet High School auditorium.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and the Louisiana Office of Tourism presented “Only in Louisiana,” a concert featuring New Orleans’ Hot 8 Brass Band, Acadiana’s Zachary Richard, and Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience.
Proceeds from the concert will help cover traveling expenses for Louisiana artists attending the Grammy Awards ceremony Jan. 26 in Los Angeles.
The musical variety heard during three brief sets — Richard’s poignant ballads and Cajun-, zydeco- and blues-sautéed rock; the Hot 8’s mighty gumbo of funk, hip-hop and traditional New Orleans jazz; and Simien’s zydeco goes pop — offered a sampling of how deep and wide Louisiana music is.
Also during Saturday’s variety show, “Celebration of Louisiana Music,” a new film destined for screenings at the Old U.S. Mint in New Orleans (home of the Louisiana Historical Center and the Louisiana State Museum’s New Orleans Jazz Club Collections), made its debut.
Dardenne and local music entrepreneur Johnny Palazzotto served as the evening’s hosts. Dardenne’s hosting duties included presenting Louisiana 2013 Music Ambassador trophies to singer-songwriter Jay Chevalier (“The Ballad of Earl K. Long,” “Billy Cannon”), Cajun band Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, zydeco artist Chubby Carrier, New Orleans’ Batiste Family, and “Only in Louisiana” performers Richard and Simien.
The ever-smiling Simien opened the musical portion of the night with an upbeat request.
“Get up and dance and forget about it!” he said following the New Orleans Saints’ loss to the Seattle Seahawks. “Y’all ready to do ’dat?”
Carnival season having begun last week, Simien took occasional breaks from singing and playing accordion to toss beads into the crowd.
More than many zydeco artists, Simien integrates pop, reggae and classic rock into his palette. When he takes a reggae path, he brings the style full circle. Jamaican reggae and ska musicians were shaped in no small part by the classic rhythm-and-blues of New Orleans.
Simien also put subtle zydeco spins on Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” and a medley of Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With” and the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
Richard, accompanied by pianist and accordionist David Torkanowsky, performed some selections from his Grammy-nominated album, “Le Fou.” He sang mostly in French, an exception being the bilingual “Sweet Sweet.” The song’s happy and heartfelt expression belongs to Richard alone, distinguishing him from such English-language peers as Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young.
A photograph of an oil-soaked northern gannet following the 2010 BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Richard said, inspired “Le Fou,” the title song of his Grammy contender. The bird’s French name, fou de Bassan, can be translated as crazy.
“He can’t be that crazy,” Richard countered. “Because he spends his summers in Quebec and his winters in Louisiana.”
After the minor-key heartbreak of “Le Fou,” a harmonica-playing Richard turned to upbeat celebration with the rock ’n’ roots of “Filé Gumbo.”
The celebrating continued with the Hot 8 Brass Band. The group opened with a gloriously brassy, swinging rendition of Professor Longhair’s “Mardi Gras in New Orleans” and bid adieu with a happy — despite the loss — “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
The Hot 8’s traditional brass-band instrumentation of horns and percussion sounded great in the high school’s auditorium. And the not-so-large but into-the-music crowd just couldn’t stay seated once the Hot 8 hit the stage. The whole joint got moving. No doubt L.A. and the Grammy Awards are in for the same.