Sunday, February 19, 2012
Allons Dancer et Manger Part II (Come eat and dance)
Join us Sunday Feb 19th, 11am – 1pm for some GREAT music by Horace Trahan & The Ossun Express! (NO admission fee) Concert will be held in the parking lot at Meche’s Donuts in New Iberia. 403 East St. Peter It’s our “End of King Cake Season” Mardi Gras Celebration!
A street dance at 11 AM? At a donut shop parking lot in New Iberia? And Horace Trahan and The Ossun Express playing? This I’ve got to see.
The first King Cake “Allons Dancer et Manger” (Let’s go eat and dance) with Horace Trahan and The Ossun Express was so much fun that owners Debbi and John Smith put this little Mardi Gras street party on their calendar this year. Music and dancing, red beans and rice, grits and gravy…around here you don’t have one without the other.
Now we have to add donuts and dancing.
Dances can begin any time between 8:00 AM and 10:00 PM. Some come to listen, some to dance. And a roof isn’t a requirement. Plenty of dances are held in asphalt parking lots and city parks and local streets.
As advertised, there’s Horace and his band on a stage erected in front of Meche’s Donuts. A small happy crowd of friends, neighbors, and a handful of dancers from all over the country who are in nearby Lafayette for the zillions of Cajun and Zydeco dances going on during Mardi Gras fill the small parking lot off the street running right through New Iberia.
Horace is a fine musician and songwriter. His gritty lyrics to songs like "Keep Walking," "Same Knife Cut The Sheep Cut The Goat," and "You'll Never Make It If You Don't Try" are written by a man who's walked down some rough roads. Earnest and talented, perhaps even shy, Horace often seems reserved on stage. Not today. He’s totally relaxed, extemporaneously adding verses to several songs and singing his ‘message’ songs with more amped up passion than I’ve ever heard. (Listen to samples of “You’ll Never Make It If You Don’t Try” and “When Love Takes Over” and “La Reunion” on and you’ll get the idea.)
Horace is feelin’ the love and he’s sending it right back.
And why not? His lovely wife Chantelle is heaving armloads of Mardi Gras beads into the crowd, his guitar player Paul “Cook” Morvant, Jr.’s mom and his family is standing in front of the bandstand, and stellar saxophone/flute player Doug Garb is a home town boy.
Always in the groove, Jean Prejean from down the road apiece in Lafayette is laying down the bass lines. Young Shane Bernard is crisply making percussion and his dad Rodney Bernard from Carencro is deftly rattling on the frattoir (rub board). Oh, and Rodney Bernard is Horace’s father-in-law!
“Chef Sweeney,” an outgoing Meche’s employee (“He’s our mascot,” laughs an employee) dances through the crowd in an outlandishly fabulous Mardi Gras costume, complete with Mardi Gras umbrella, hamming it up and posing gleefully for photos.
Owners Debbi and John Smith have created a Mardi Gras King Cake on a table so huge you could probably land a small plane on it. Their staff will cut it up and pass out big chunks during Horace’s first break. At the other end of the store, customers are lined up at the counter picking up their favorite home-made-that-morning donuts. Meche's is a destination for families after church on Sunday morning. After tasting the King Cake today, I see why they come every other day of the week, too.
The crowd is the usual Louisiana mix of folks enjoying the music from the comfort of the folding camp chairs they’ve brought along, dancers who never sit down and will dance in asphalt parking lots, grassy fields, or streets, and bystanders who’ve come to see what the hell is going on.
As always down here, people are ready to have a friendly chat. Like the former Navy man I talk with who spent some time in New England during his tours and has returned home to Lafayette to care for his dad. We laugh about New England reserve and southwest Louisiana warmth. When you pass someone on the street here, expect a “Good Morning, how you doing today?” Not exactly a hallmark interaction in Boston, where passersby rarely glance at each other, let alone greet one another. Down here, whether you’re at a dance, diner, or festival, people are engaging, helpful, and always ready to strike up a conversation.
Once we arrive, we don’t leave till the shindig is over. As they say here, this a way “to pass a good time.”
I’ve been to plenty of street dances, but one that takes place at a donut shop takes the cake…and since it’s Mardi Gras week, let’s make that a King Cake.
Chantelle Trahan and pt whoop it up with Chef Sweeney.
The band plays on..Horace, Jean Prejean, Rodney Bernard
Chantelle and Chef Sweeney lead the party by example - and of course there's a donut eating contest!
Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.
PT and Liz
‘I don’t take any medicine, even an aspirin,’ she says, jutting her jaw forward to make the point.
"She wears me out," says her 46 year old grand-daughter. Liz is barely 5 feet tall and must have been some fire cracker in her day. Actually, her fuse is still lit!
POST SCRIPT 1
Horace always finishes his show with an a cappella version of “Lean On Me." The audience sings the chorus, often linked arm in arm. “We’re in tears sometimes by the time we finish that song,” Cook Morvant’s mom says as Horace finishes the set. When Horace says, "Where ever y'all go this morning be careful, be safe, thank you." it’s not a litany. It's the gospel according to Horace Trahan, a man who’s been through hard times and found the road back.
POST SCRIPT 2
Louisiana hospitality: Rodney Bernard, flashes a wide smile when I re-introduce myself after the show. I first met him New Year's Day 2011 at Slim’s Yi Ki Ki Lounge in Opelousas during the Carrier Family Fund Raiser, “Keeping Roy’s Dream Alive.” I’d written about Horace earlier in the year, sent my story to his daughter, Horace’s wife Chantelle, and wanted to say hello to her dad.
Mr. Bernard took the time to time to talk with me that day, told me about growing up on his grandfather’s farm in Carenco and how his grandfather, who played accordion, started him playing with spoons on the washboard when he was a kid. I was amazed that he’d take the time to talk with a total stranger, a visitor from Boston, and that he’d extended an invitation to call him up another time I visited Lafayette. Where else does this happen?
“Have you met my other daughter?” he says today and introduces me to Sheila, who introduces me to Peter Nelson, her husband, who introduces me to his father!
People ask me why I keep returning to Louisiana. Simply put, the people of the prairies of this state have a claim on my heart.