Fuel For Dancing
Zydeco! One of my favorite kinds of music. Pals Janie and Jack know that, so they invited us to meet them last Sunday afternoon out at Rancho Nicasio for an afternoon of Zydeco and Cajun music with two of the best bands I've ever heard.
Tom Rigney led off the afternoon of toe-tapping fun with his amazingly vigorous playing - he makes his violin howl, quite literally. No one could hold still while Tom is playing, and his backup band, Flambeau, is marvelous, too. Many in the audience began to dance as soon as he sounded the first notes on his fiddle, and even the seated people were moving to the music.
We could hardly believe he was the "warm up" act - he's a star in his own right.
However, when BeauSoleil tuned up, we could almost believe it.
BeauSoleil, while much less showy, is the real Cajun deal, with sounds and rhythms unlike any others. The leader of BeauSoleil, Michael Doucet, has earned two Grammys and several cultural awards for collecting the authentic music of the bayou and preserving it for future generations. His music is filled with the sad soul of the Cajuns and the Acadian experience, mixed with the joyous music of love and life. His last number, one I suspect that he wrote himself, was so haunting and touching that it almost brought tears.
If either of these groups comes within hailing distance, you really should go. I'm not usually a groupie but I admit that I asked for autographs on their CDs.
All afternoon at Rancho Nicasio, they serve food and drinks. The menu is limited but it's all cooked outdoors and it's all pretty good. I chose the Cajun Shrimp option, a special that day to enhance the Zydeco theme. The rice was more like "dirty rice" than "red beans and rice," as advertised; the cole slaw was the mayonaisy kind that I have to admit I do like, Philistine that I am; the cornbread was dense and sweet; and the shrimp on a skewer with Cajun spices was tender and tasty. I had my first gin and tonic of the summer as we sat in the sun under big hats and enjoyed a perfectly lovely day.
One of my favorite parts about Rancho Nicasio is the variety of people there - all ages of bikers and bicyclists, blue collars and bluebloods, aging hippies and entitled youngsters are out there dancing up a storm. One couple had all the moves, but hardly moved at all in their precise little middle-aged dance while another couple seemed to need the whole dance floor for their swinging, energetic style. Kids danced with parents, friends danced together, and some folks even danced all by themselves without seeming the least bit lonely. Even My Beloved and I took a turn on the floor, a creaking deck that squeaks in time to the beat.
It's a friendly spot. There are chairs but lots of people bring blankets and sit on the grass. Umbrellas are closed when the show begins and only a few die-hards insisted on dancing in front of the bands, blocking peoples' view of the players - and even they finally went to the dance floor as requested. Strangers on adjacent blankets swap stories and everyone moves their feet politely as others pick their way through the crowd. We have been to Rancho Nicasio several times and always enjoy the open air fun, but especially when there is a Zydeco band on stage.