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Louisiana Flavors

The Cajun Creole Music Festival packs the sounds and tastes of the Bayou State into Simi Valley.


Simi Valley, temporarily a parish of the Bayou State?

Yes, and things are well beyond the why-ask-why phase, since this Memorial Day Weekend will be the 10th anniversary of the Cajun Creole Music Festival.

Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys will headline the dance-friendly wingding Saturday, and fiddler extraordinaire Doug Kershaw will be the party ender on Sunday.

Also on the bill, among others, are Lisa Haley, a raging redheaded fiddle player, and those local rockin' Realtors in Acadiana, who will seek to incite an outbreak of widespread dancing. The event begins each day at 11 a.m. with an appropriate dance lesson for the music beginning at noon.

In addition to this elaborate soundtrack, there will be plenty of arts and crafts booths and munchies. Louisiana food will be on sale, including jambalaya, seafood gumbo, red beans and rice and alligator-on-a-stick. The less adventurous can eat American food.

Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys, named for a small town in Louisiana, may represent the past, present and future of Cajun music. Their latest is "Bayou Ruler," the seventh album in their 10-year career. Fiddler David Greely discussed the latest about his favorite band during a recent phoner.

Question: How's "Bayou Ruler" doing? Are you guys rich rock stars yet?

Answer: It's our seventh album, and it's doing great. I really don't know numbers-wise, but I can tell by the reactions from audiences who pack the dance floor. I used to spend a lot of time in the archives at USL [University of Southwestern Louisiana] . . . looking for lost and forgotten Cajun songs. We started out as dedicated traditionalists--that's what we were all about.

Q: So what was the big change?

A: Well, we started writing our own songs. At first they sounded like old Cajun songs, but once you start writing, everything you ever heard as a kid comes out. Also, we started writing in English, which was a big step for us. New Orleans was one of the places where rock 'n' roll was created, and then there was swamp rock, which is rock 'n' roll by Cajuns. Cajuns have always been careful to take as little as possible from other cultures, but we figured "What the hell, let's go for it!" But what we do is still Louisiana music, and the audiences seem to appreciate the changes we've made.

Q: Why is there so much good music in Louisiana?

A: I think it's the cultural mixture. Some people have said that New Orleans is the northern tip of the West Indies. On the radio you can pick up everything from New Orleans R & B to Caribbean rhythms. Also, I think that the Catholic religion allowed the slaves to play their drums much more than the Protestants ever did, and Louisiana is a Catholic state. Therefore, I think we have a little bit more of whatever shakes your hips down here. We're more hip-shaking than head-banging.

Q: Do you guys do a million gigs a year like those old blues guys?

A: Oh, no. We do about 150 to 175 gigs a year and we try to use a military lifestyle. We try to keep things under control because we want the biggest and best experience of the day to be the show and not "Where's the van?"

Q: Are there Playboy fans in California?

A: Oh, yes. California is great. There's a lot of Creoles in California, especially around the Bay Area, where a lot of them came during World War II to work in the shipyards. We've met people out there that are Creoles, which are French-speaking blacks, who were born and raised in California. We also have a lot of fans in [Washington] D.C. and the Northeast.

Q: How did you end up being the fiddle player?

A: I went to see a Black Sabbath concert, and the band that opened for them had an electric fiddle player. After that show, I went and bought a fiddle--I went 180 degrees from Black Sabbath to folk music. I don't even remember Black Sabbath at that show.

Q: What's the best and worst thing about your job?

A: People come up to you and tell you "You're great!" That always blows my mind. How many jobs are there where people come up to you and tell you that you're great? The worst thing is probably the lack of structure and the lack of sleep on the road. You're just out there.

Q: How 'bout those Saints?

A: I have no idea.


Simi Valley Cajun Creole Music Festival with JT & the Zydeco Zippers, Bonne Musique Zydeco Band, Crawdaddyo, California Cajun Orchestra, Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys on Saturday; Andre Thierry & Zydeco Magic, Acadiana, Lisa Haley & the Zydecats and Doug Kershaw on Sunday at Tapo Canyon and Los Angeles Avenue; $10 general, free under 12 if accompanied by an adult; 520-4894.


Martini Nation & the Jaded Broads is a small, movable musical republic composed of a pair of sisters, Wendy and Gabrielle Childs, and the guy in between, Ware Christiann. The Westlake-based trio will bring its slightly raunchy, bluesy and jazzy Las Vegas-style revue to the Victoria Pub in Ventura for two free weekend shows.

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