first, the formalities: acadia was a region of canada colonized by the french. the acadian people were exiled at some point and migrated to other areas, including, most notably, new orleans, where the name acadian morphed into “cajun.” cajun music is the music of the (white) acadian people and is comprised of waltzes and more up-tempo two-steps played with an accordion, fiddle, bass, drum, and, of course, a vest frottoir—a steel washboard worn like an umpire’s chest protector and played with, at least where i just saw it, a pair of spoons!
so okay, where i just saw it is at tipitina’s, a new orleans music staple since the 70s, created for and dedicated to revered new orleans musician professor longhair. i went there dolo hoping that i would somehow get to learn the partner dancing that goes along with this style of music. inside was a fairly good sized dance floor covered with ashy, super old school linoleum tiling worn out in some places in a way that suggested i might be in luck. the clientele that trickled in and sat in the folding metal chairs that surrounded the floor on three sides, however, suggested that i might not. these were old people. i mean old for real. like ye olde. it looked like i had stumbled into a nursing home social. an all-white nursing home social. perhaps the 5:30pm start time should have tipped me off.
there was one brotha there, though, who had come in at the same time i did. at first i thought maybe he and i might huddle together, seeking safety in numbers, but then i saw that he knew all these old white people. folks greeted him by name and came up and hugged him and such. buh? luckily for me, megan and guadalupe showed up pretty early on and sat down next to me. turned out they were tourists from none other than my Favorite City in the World: san miguel de allende, mexico. neat!
so i sat and waited while the locally famous bruce daigrepont cajun band was busy sound-checking and giving me a little of my first exposure to people speaking cajun french. ooo-la-la! ‘bout time, chère. once the bows were rosined and the levels were good, the music began, and i quickly learned not to judge a book by its cover: those old white people could dance! they were just a’two-steppin’ and a’waltzin’ and a’twirlin’ all over that linoleum. and they weren’t hesitant to ask us newbs on the sidelines to join in. in fact, smitty had come over and addressed me and my girls-by-default before the music even started.
smitty, we ascertained, was the club social director, which we all appreciated because he made sure we had a good time. he stayed grabbing us up to teach us circle dances and every other kind of dance that went with the music. and he was good, yo. at one point, he grabbed me up for a really fast two-step. he threw everything he had at me and, as is the mark of a really great lead, i was right there in step with him for all of it. wherever my feet needed to be, they were there. it was awesome! later on, though, i was talking with one of the other two brothas that had shown up, and he laughed his ass off when i mentioned that we thought smitty worked there. “smitty paid his seven dollars to get in here just like you and me,” he cackled. hmph, i say!
so, in conclusion, bruce daigrepont’s “fais do do” (which i just now discovered is cajun for “dance party”) makes for a good time and an early night. so put on your twirly skirt, tie on a bandana, and get your ass to tipitina’s on sunday. the music is fantastic, and you’ll dance the night evening away, whoever and whatever you are. smitty will make damn sure of that!
next stop: zydeco. because, as i learned from the brothas at tipitina’s, it is not the same thing.