Katy Richard and Chris Hinchliffe’s House Party
December 30, 2017
Whoa, Baby, this was the great grandmother of all house parties, a lalapalooza!
As a generic term, a host invites friends over for convivial evening of food, hospitality, and socializing and everyone goes home. Then there are house parties around Lafayette, LA.
First there’s the matter of the guest list. Once the word is out, invitees tend to tell their friends, who tend to come along too. In other parts of the world, this might cause dyspepsia to the hosts. Maybe it’s a southern thing but here it's not only tolerated but taken for granted.
Houses have interior dimensions. There seems to be a law of proportionality that states that there will be enough room for everyone. And once inside will know how much space to take up. When my hosts asked if I could come with them, Katie Richard asked, "Is he skinny?" No matter what the answer, I would have been welcome. So there’s corollary number one. Everyone will manage to fit inside.
Hosts prepare food. Guests always bring food. Not stuff they bought at the store on the way to the party but dishes they’ve spent time preparing, bring utensils to consume them, and find a place to situate it on tables piled with entrees, appetizers, gumbo, soups, and desserts. People talk, eat, drink, and eat…for hours. Corollary number two: There will always be enough food.
An unimaginable pile of plates, glasses, cups, and serving bowls accumulates in the kitchen. Not to worry. Women (and a few good men) take it upon themselves to stand at the kitchen sink and wash them out for reuse. Corollary number three: guests pitch in to manage the gigantic flow of food.
This part of the world is like a petrie dish for music: Cajun, Creole, country, Americana, with sides of blues and rock n roll. Guests will bring a guitar, accordion, fiddle, stand up bass, the occasional flute and harmonica. Corollary number four: Music will break out after food has been consumed.
The musicians may not know each other or ever played together. No matter. The language of music appears to be some kind of universally understood Esperanto . They mumble things like E flat or C major and tap out the time with their feet and once they get going it sounds like they’ve been practicing in the cellar for a week. So there’s corollary number five. The music will be spontaneously fabulous.
People around here, unlike my hometown of Boston, will dance at the drop of a hat. If there’s a tiny spot between the chairs and tables, a couple will ease on up and fill it with their best dance moves. Corollary number six: there will be dancing.
Tonight’s event at Katy and Chris’s house is filled with guests from far and wide. musicians from Ottawa visiting Lafayette for New Year festivities, play side by side with men and women who play in local bands.
The evening is launched with a Cajun jam led by accordionist Ray Abshire . Ray's cousin Nathan Abshire played with the Dewey Balfa Band that single-handedly brought Cajun music from a regional to a nationally recognized genre. Close your eyes and listen to Ray's plaintiff. resonant voice and you're listening to a culture distilled by music.
Cajun music and dance, ballads, waltzes, two steps, have been a staple of southwest Louisiana since the mid 1700s. Anyone who’s brought an instrument joins in, from beginner strummer to advanced players.
Hang on, boys and girls. The next two hours are a mellifluous jamboree.
The Ottawa duo of Michael Ball and Jody Benjamin (Ball and Chain), pile on to a Louisiana Hayride with hosts Chris and Katy, guests Phil Kaelin (of the Has Beans), Gina Forsyth, Major Handy, and other pros. This is our own Lafayette floor show but no one is having more fun than the musicians. Forget candy stores. This is Big Rock Candy Mountain for them.
There’s a ton of music happening all over Lafayette tonight. It’s a safe bet that no one is having more fun than we are.
Axiomatic around here, music happens, dancing breaks out.
On this cold and damp night, a few guests socialized outside around the fire pit. Beverages and appetizers were close at hand.
Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.