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POP : A Ball Is Assured at Cajun Fest

June 01, 1995|RANDY LEWIS | Randy Lewis is assistant editor of the Calendar section for The Times Orange County Edition

The annual Southern California Cajun & Zydeco Festival this weekend in Long Beach takes a giant step into new territory with the addition of blues pianist and singer Marcia Ball.

It's the first time since the festival began in 1986 that its producers have strayed from Cajun and zydeco performers. But anyone who has ever seen Ball's unfettered performances at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival or elsewhere knows that the booking of this Texas-born, Louisiana-reared musician isn't really much of a gamble.

Ball's music is a product of the same musically rich territory of southwestern Louisiana where Cajun and zydeco originated, though her influences also stretch into Texas. She follows the tradition of such New Orleans piano stalwarts as Professor Longhair, James Booker and, when he's playing it straight, Dr. John.

Almost a decade into producing the Southland festival, Franklin Zawacki decided it was time to expand.

"I think we've located most of the pure Cajun-zydeco fanatics in the state through nine years of hard work," Zawacki said. "Now I feel it's important to welcome aboard some new enthusiasts and get people listening to an even wider spectrum of Louisiana music."

Still, come Saturday and Sunday there will be plenty of the music that gives the festival its name. Also on the bill both days are Beau Jocque & the Zydeco Hi-Rollers, Geno Delafose & French Rockin' Boogie and Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys. Opening Saturday's fest is the Southland-based Brand-New Old-Time Cajun Band. Sunday's opener is another Louisiana act--Sheryl Cormier & Cajun Sounds.

It's the first fest appearance for Beau Jocque, one of hottest newcomers in zydeco. Born Andrus Espre, his stage moniker translates roughly as "Big Man," befitting his imposing 6-foot-7, 270-pound frame. Beau Jocque only started playing accordion in 1987 after being left partially paralyzed by an industrial accident. His chesty growl and inventive accordion work make him a lively addition to the world of zydeco.

This year also marks the first festival appearance for Geno Delafose under his own name, though he appeared several times before he took over the band started by his father, singer-accordionist-songwriter John Delafose, who died last year.

Cajun accordionist-fiddler Riley, whose band gives Beausoleil a run for its money as the top Cajun band around, is the closest thing the Southern California fest has to a fixture. This marks the fourth straight year Riley and his sprightly, versatile band have appeared.

Riley also plays a dance following Saturday's performances, beginning at 9 p.m. in the Convention Center Ballroom adjacent to Rainbow Lagoon Park where the festival takes place. It's a separate $10 ticket.

And as in the past, there will be numerous booths offering Cajun and Creole food, barbecue and other regional specialties, plus free workshops to teach Cajun and zydeco two-steps and waltzes.

* What: The ninth annual Southern California Cajun & Zydeco Festival.

* When: Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

* Where: Rainbow Lagoon, Shoreline Drive and Linden Avenue, Long Beach.

* Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway north or Riverside-Artesia (91) Freeway west to the Long Beach (710) Freeway and head south. Take the Shoreline Drive exit, follow Shoreline until it reaches Linden Avenue, then turn left on Linden.

* Wherewithal: $20 general admission per day, $15 for students and senior citizens, $5 for ages 10 to 16, free for children under 10.

* Where to call: (310) 427-3713 or (714) 638-1492.

Cajun & Zydeco Festival Program

The schedule for both days of the ninth annual Southern California Cajun & Zydeco Festival is identical except for opening acts.

* Noon Saturday: Brand-New Old-Time Cajun Band.

* Noon Sunday: Sheryl Cormier & Cajun Sounds.

Daily

* 1 p.m.: Geno Delafose & French Rockin' Boogie.

* 2:15: Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys.

* 3:45: Marcia Ball.

* 5:15: Beau Jocque & the Zydeco Hi-Rollers.

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