Queen Ida and the Bon Temps Zydeco Band Saturday, Aug. 5, at The Festival at Sandpoint
“Queen” Ida Guillory brought her Bon Temps Zydeco Band to Sandpoint Saturday night and ran through a peremptory two-set show that was more rock than zydeco, more blues than Cajun.
Queen Ida didn’t pull any punches: “Our music started as FrenchCanadian folk music,” she said, “and we’ve added elements of blues, country-Western and Caribbean.”
And don’t forget the rock ‘n’ roll, Ida; the preponderance of the music made Saturday night was good, oldfashioned rock ‘n’ roll, heavy on the back beat and sung with a FrenchCanadian accent.
Chuck Berry rock with a Cajun lilt.
Queen Ida hails from San Francisco - she grew up in Texas and Louisiana - and the Bon Temps Zydeco Band bore more similarity to a road-seasoned Bay Area rock band than a zydeco outfit, in demeanor as well as orientation. Ida has cast aside the traditional Cajun fiddles for guitar and saxophone - she and saxophonist Bernard Anderson often played lines in unison, much as the old two-fiddle lineup would have had it - and the thudding bass of T. Morris emphasized the back beat.
She and her son, Myrick, whose stage name is Freeze, stick with button accordion and rubboard.
Zydeco is meant to be a jumble - it began life as a hybrid and will continue to evolve - but Queen Ida and her band took the music just about as far from the original fiddlebased two-step and waltz music as possible and still call it Cajun.
It doesn’t matter what you want to call it, though, for the crowd soaked it up. The Sandpoint Festival’s heavy sanction against dancing prevented the front rows from getting up to boogie, but off to stage right a hearty portion of the crowd was up and dancing by the fifth song.
Only rarely were they required to come up with the fancy zydeco twostep, and not a waltz was played all evening; most folks got along just fine with the standard, hands-off rock ‘n’ roll two-step, thank you.
Queen Ida, who is at the heart of all this action, is a compact, huskyvoiced singer and button-accordion player somewhere in her mid-60s. Though she has slowed a bit in the past few years, she still dances a mean step or two and Saturday she wailed a few hot solos on the button accordion, no easy task.
Credit her vigor to the “zyderobics” she promoted: “It’s good for the body and good for the soul!”
Dressed in a flamboyant, brilliantly hued dress and wearing a shiny headband, Queen Ida played songs from nearly all of her nine LPs, including the sly boogie “Hey Negress” and her remake of Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya” plus the traditional “La Bas Two Step” and the autobiographical “C’est Moi.”
From her new CD, “Mardi Gras” she played the Bo Diddleyinfluenced “Where Are You Now,” the calypso-based title track and the R&B; workout, “Mr. Fine,” which featured the vocals (and clowning) of her gregarious sax player Bernard Anderson.
Queen Ida took two short breaks during her two-set show to let her son, Freeze, take over. His sets were more driving, more syncopated than hers, with machine-gun drums and rapid-fire accordion riffs.
With songs like “Gator Man,” his tribute to Chuck Berry and fiddler Doug Kershaw, Freeze moves zydeco even closer to the mainstream, though the “Freeze Two Step” hued somewhat closer to tradition.
Queen Ida’s music is bright and fun, but lacks the instrumental finesse that’s the hallmark of the best zydeco. Good fun, but forgettable in the end.
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