During my adolescent years, my mother and stepfather embraced zydeco music. They took zydeco dance lessons; they dragged my brother and me to concerts across Chicagoland; they convinced us to spend every Fat Tuesday eating Cajun grub, watching crawfish races and dancing to Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas at a place called Crawdaddy Bayou in Wheeling, Ill. My mom—who often sports a Cha Chas T-shirt declaring, "I'm a zydeco hog"—and stepdad now live in Spokane, Wash., and they drive all the way to Portland whenever a zydeco band comes through town. So when I heard that zydeco legend Boozoo Chavis' grandsons were coming to Portland, I wondered if I'd enjoy zydeco on my own, without family pressure.
Saturday, April 21, I found out. Local nonprofit Cascade Zydeco hosted the Dog Hill Stompers, a Louisiana-based band composed of Chavis' grandsons, at Northeast Portland's Norse Hall. Upon arriving, I joined a large dance circle led by Janine and Roland Jemerson and managed to pick up the basic zydeco dance steps: slow, quick quick, slow, rock step, slow (kinda like swing). I was paired up with both first-timers and more experienced dancers and slowly learned to add accoutrements like lunges and spins. One fellow gave me a tip: If you lose your step, it's easy to jump back in on the rock step. A friendly woman partner encouraged me, saying, "If you're smiling, you're doing it right."
And I was smiling. I was smiling most of the night (and I only had two drinks). After the dance lesson, Boozoo's grandsons—who looked more like a hip-hop crew in their white sneaks and low-riding jeans—took the stage and led a sweaty, three-hour-long set of blues-tinged goodness that had cowboy-booted, middle-aged white ladies and slick-looking, young black men alike quick-stepping their hearts out. Then, one of the Stompers paused to say how much he wished he could hug his grandfather again. Standing red-faced and out of breath, I realized that musical family ties—however forced—can't be broken: I couldn't wait to show my mom and stepdad the moves I'd learned at our next zydeco outing.
Here Comes Your Fan is a new weekly column featuring pontifications on all things music-related from WW's trusty music editor. For more information on Cascade Zydeco events, visit cascade-zydeco.com.