The Quad Cities' first summer festival - Gumbo Ya Ya: Mardi Gras in the District - has a moniker that's pretty self-explanatory.
From 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Friday, June 9, and from noon to 12:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 10, visitors to the District of Rock Island will get to sample the finest in Louisiana cuisine - alligator po-boys with Creole sauce, bourbon chicken, Cajun sausage, jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, and the obligatory (and delicious) red beans and rice.
Merchants will sell New Orleans-style clothing, accessories, jewelry, oils, incense, and - naturally - a whole lotta beads. Novelty performers will roam about; among them will be a caricature artist, a face painter, and a psychic reader. Children's activities will include crafts tents where the kids can make masks and necklaces. And, throughout the District, storefronts will be decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold. What more could you ask for?
Well, how about some music?
Nine bands will perform on the east and west stages in the District, and highlighting this year's lineup are two hometown bands we're fortunate to have performing with us all throughout the year: the Backwater Bayou Band and Johnny Goldmine & the Nuggets. The Backwater Bayou Band has jazzed Gumbo Ya Ya audiences for years - Cajun rockers with a Midwestern sensibility - and, on June 27, the group will also be the featured performer in the Starlight Revue concert series at Rock Island's Lincoln Park.
And the blues-infused Johnny Goldmine & the Nuggets, featuring Quad Citians John O'Meara Jr. and Jim Stroehle, enjoy a frequent Monday-night gig at Davenport's Redstone Room, in the appropriately titled Blue Monday with Johnny Goldmine & the Nuggets. (Check http://www.redstoneroom.com for dates.)
But seven other musical acts will pepper this year's festival, as well. Meet your players, starting with some Gumba Ya Ya rookies:
- Trumpeter Steve Howard and clarinetist Mike Sizer spent years performing jazz and living in New Orleans, but it wasn't until they wound up performing the same gig in Dallas, Texas - in the summer of 2002 - that the two actually met. They bonded over their shared dream of fronting a New Orleans jazz band of their own, and in composing a hypothetical wish list of musicians they'd want performing with them, agreed that trombonist Brad Herring and drummer Bobby Breaux were top picks. Kerby Stewart was decided upon as the bassist, Brian Piper as the pianist ... and in short order, the N'Awlins Gumbo Kings were born. Individually, the group's members have played with the likes of Ray Charles, Paul McCartney, Woody Herman, and Ellis Marsalis; as a collective, they've played sold-out houses, recorded two successful CDs, and were described by Saturday Night Live band member Lou "Blue Lou" Marini as "swinging, funky, happy, and funny, too."
- In January of 1978, musicians Ed Volker, Frank Bua, and Camille Baudoin were performing in a band. Dave Malone and Reggie Scanlan were performing in another band. "Ed invited us to come over to his house and jam," recalled Scanlan on (http://www.athensmusician.net/archive/2005-02-22_radiators.php). "Dave and I figured we'd have a few beers together and play a couple of blues tunes." A quarter-century later, the subsequently formed bayou funk band The Radiators - consisting of all five original musicians - continues to enthrall crowds with what they dubbed "Fish Head music," a unique, rhythmic mixture of rock, funk, and jazz for audiences to dance, swing, and groove to. So much for "a couple of blues tunes."
- Zydeco is a male-dominated genre, but don't tell that to the frontwoman of Dora & the Zydeco Badboyz. Born in Louisiana and raised in the zydeco hotbed of Houston, Texas, Dora and her Badboyz (one of whom - Me Me - is actually a Badgirl) blend the best of both locales, as evidenced by the group's latest CD, Finger Snappin' Two Steppin', and by their well-reviewed, coast-to-coast festival appearances. Dora is also the mother of a son and two daughters. Those kids must love "Bring Your Child to Work Day."
The N'Awlins Gumbo Kings, the Radiators, and Dora and the Zydeco Posse are all making their festival debuts, and some returning favorites will also be spicing up Gumbo Ya Ya 2006.
- Combining the elements of rhythm & blues, zydeco, jazz, and funk, the eight musicians who compose Hurricane Gumbo may be based in Chicago, but their sound is pure Louisiana. Eric "le Lip" AuCoin, Chris "Brez" Brennan, Matt Daly, Kenny "E" Errant, "Zydeco" Joe Sonnefeldt, Matt Wilfer, Hurricane Bill Thibodeaux, and - a terrific moniker - Jon "Sleepin' Jesus" Richter play both New Orleans favorites and originals with such titles as "Congo Square," "What Is Hip?", and one that seems to fit the group to a tee - "Too Much Fun."
- Donna Angelle began her professional career as a keyboardist with Bobby Price, went on to join the Louisiana band Cosmic Sky, established a group called Chapter IV, and right as her career was reaching a personal peak ... she was waylaid by a serious auto crash. But Angelle didn't let the accident impede her musical momentum - far from it. She formed a new band, Donna Angelle & the Zydeco Posse, and for the past 12 years the group has intoxicated fans with its blend of zydeco, hip-hop, and soulful, classic oldies. The Zydeco Diva - as she's known throughout the United States and Europe - is here to stay.
- At age nine, many of us were still singing along to numbers from Sesame Street and Schoolhouse Rock. Troy Carrier was playing zydeco music. Little surprise, then, that Carrier - after adopting the moniker Dikki Du - would go on to be one of the genre's most accomplished musicians, as Gumbo Ya Ya audiences will discover through the relentless grooves and melodic vocals of Dikki Du & the Zydeco Krewe. Dikki's fresh and funky Cajun stylings are complemented by the work of his "krewe": scrub-board player Neal Carrier (no relation to Troy), guitarist Raymond Randall, drummer Charles LeMark Jr., and bass player Paul Newman. That's right. Paul Newman.
- Dennis Stroughmatt is a featured speaker for the Missouri Humanities Council. He's a touring master artist on the Mid-America Arts Alliance. He earned a master's degree in history from Southern Illinois University. He earned a certificate in French Language & Culture from the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi. And just when you thought he couldn't get more intimidating, Dennis Stroughmatt & Creole Stomp arrive in the District, bringing the exciting and enduring traditions of the creole and Cajun sounds to festival crowds nationwide. On Saturday, Stroughmatt will also give an informative performance workshop on Illinois/Missouri Creole music in the Arts Alley at 2 p.m. Damned over-achievers.
Gumbo Ya Ya Band Schedule
Friday, June 9
5 p.m.: Backwater Bayou Band
7 p.m.: Dikki Du & the Zydeco Krewe
9 p.m.: Dennis Stroughmatt & Creole Stomp
11 p.m.: Dora & the Zydeco Badboyz
6:15 and 7:45 p.m.: Donna Angelle & the Zydeco Posse
9:30 and 11:15 p.m.: The Radiators
Saturday, June 10
12:15 and 2:15 p.m.: Johnny
Goldmine & the Nuggets
3:45 and 5:15 p.m.: Donna
Angelle & the Zydeco Posse
6:45 and 8:15 p.m.: Dennis
Stroughmatt & Creole Stomp
10 and 11:30 p.m.: Hurricane Gumbo
4:30 and 6 p.m.: Dikki Du & the Zydeco Krewe
7:45 and 9:30 p.m.: N'Awlins Gumbo Kings
11 p.m.: Dora & the Zydeco Badboyz