The drama at the opening day Saturday of the third annual Los Angeles Cajun and Zydeco Festival should have been the face-off between two of zydeco's new-generation contenders.
In one corner was C. J. Chenier, who in 1987 was bequeathed the accordion and the Red Hot Louisiana Band of his late father, the king of zydeco, Clifton Chenier. In the other corner was Nathan Williams, another favorite son from Lafayette, La., making his first West Coast appearance.
The non-contest that ensued pointed up the folly of searching for dramatics at what is staged primarily as a gigantic back-yard barbecue, an event where the spirit of the dancing and the spiciness of the home-cooked jambalaya matter most.
At the end of the show at the Olympic Velodrome at Cal State Dominguez Hills, it was neither Chenier nor Williams and his Zydeco Cha-Chas band (both of whom turned in danceable but unremarkable sets), but the ever-dependable Beausoleil that emerged as pick of the litter.
Those interested in crowning a new king of zydeco will have to keep looking--or keep waiting, while Williams and Chenier undergo a little more seasoning.
As for the couple of thousand Cajun-zydeco music fans who attended, most seemed completely content to soak up the sun and suds, offer their own pagan dance ritual around a watermelon and dance their soles away.