Thursday, October 8, 1998
This looks like one of those weeks where the whole county got stuck in the Way Back Machine and got musically zapped back in time. You want roots music, we got roots music.
Swing dancing may be capturing all the headlines right now, but organized, structured dancing has always had a large, if somewhat underground group of ardent supporters. All you have to do is show up at the Foggy Moon Dance on Saturday to see the proof of their passion.
The FMD is an annual dance presented by the the Santa Cruz/Monterey Country Dancers at the YMCA in Monterey, and people show up in the hundreds to dance their way into the wee hours. This year''s guest band is The Rhythm Rollers, a Seattle trio (fiddler Cathie Whitesides, accordionist/pianist Laurie Andres, guitarist/mandolinist Paul Kotapish) that''s well known in the contra dance/mountain-music community. Contra dance, by the way, has nothing to do with South American freedom fighters--and that may be the only thing I can say for certain about contra dancing.
Personally, I''m blessed with three left feet, none of which knows the meaning of coordinated action--which means I usually avoid the dance floor like snails avoid salt. So, anything I say about any kind of dance is totally theoretical. But the way I understand contra dance, it''s a sort of blend between line dance and square dance, and it predates both of them. It''s the not-so-missing link between the formal line dances of the Old Country and square dancing, where smaller clusters of people replaced the long lines (which means it''s part of the general moral disintegration in this country that gave rise to country music, then rock ''n'' roll, and led to a president having inappropriate relations with an intern in a hallway). Or something.
Anyway, if you have a matched pair of feet and enjoy using them on the dance floor, this is one of the big parties of the year. In addition to the dance, there''s going to be a bake sale and a silent auction.
And, if you''re not a dancer, but like the music, The Rhythm Rollers are doing a house concert featuring their blend of traditional American and European musics on Sunday. For obvious reasons, the location of the concert is not being advertised.
Foggy Moon Dance, Saturday, 7pm. YMCA, 600 Camino El Estero, Monterey. $8. 373-7559, 655-3779. Rhythm Rollers House Concert, Sunday afternoon. $10. Call for time and location, 375-5848.
Looking for dance with a little more spice? Check out the Tango Show and Milonga in Pacific Grove on Saturday. Flor de Tango, an Argentinian tango performance and dance, will provide the music for the evening. Kat and Carlos will not only perform, they will teach attendees to tango, Argentinian style.
Flor de Tango, Saturday, 7pm. Chautauqua Hall, 16th Street and Central Avenue, Pacific Grove. $14/advance; $18/door. 372-4062.
Backto the shores of Jolly Old England.
Jane Threlfall and Carl Hogsden offer a concert of contemporized traditional English ballads on Sunday.
The duo''s 1995 CD Who? offers a lot of insight into their approach to the music. The album is filled with traditional ballads that have been given more contemporary arrangements, and, in some cases, have had their lyrics altered to include modern themes or bits and pieces of related poetry from different sources.
If you''re an old Steel Eye Span fan (or really any kind of Celtic-rock aficionado), you''ll want to go see Threlfall and Hogsden. The music is lively enough that it keeps you listening without feeling like you''re hearing a music history lesson in progress; at the same time it reeks of soulful tradition.
Jane Threlfall and Carl Hogsden, Sunday, 7pm. The Media Room, $10/advance; $12/door. 373-7379.
Andtalk about tradition...1You can''t get much more traditional (at least in the US of A) than Monday''s offering of Balfa Toujours at The Media room.
Once upon a time, Dewey Balfa and his brothers were the hottest thing going in Cajun music. At a time before the rest of the country knew jack about swamp music, Balfa and his brothers took the music out of Louisiana and around the country and the world, spreading at least some appreciation for traditional Cajun-style music. They managed to capture audiences that ranged from taverns to the Smithsonian Institute; they were one of those rare bands that managed to keep the old sounds so alive, so fresh, that modern audiences could listen to them. The Balfa brothers are damn-near legends in Louisiana.
Dewey died in the early ''90s, but his legacy lives in his daughter Christine Balfa. When she was 12 years old, she began touring with her dad, after her mother died.
Today, Christine leads the band Balfa Toujours (literally translated as "Balfa forever") and carries on the tradition of making traditional Cajun music come alive for audiences around the world.
The band''s appearance on Monday offers local audiences a rare opportunity to hear real Cajun-style music performed by people who know what it''s all about and where its soul comes from. The last time I heard anything like Balfa''s music was eight years (or so) ago at a Cajun cultural festival at Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. I can''t remember the last time a real traditional Cajun band came through town--every now and then we get a taste, with someone like Terrance Simien or the Bluerunners, who blow through town all hopped up on speed-playing and electricity. I do love a lot of the contemporary renditions of the music, but it''s very seldom we get the sweet, soulful acoustic sound that transcends the language barrier (all the songs are sung in Acadian French).
This is definitely a show worth seeing. Don''t miss it.
Balfa Toujours, Monday, 7:30pm. The Media Room, $15/advance; $17/door. 372-5641.
And, in the spirit of lagniappe, here''s a little extra.
One of the hottest blues musicians on the circuit today, Keb'' Mo'' is performing in Santa Cruz on Saturday. Not only is he a really charismatic performer, he''s managed to make enough of a splash to cross over into more mainstream pop, without giving up a strong traditional sound that can summon the ghost of Robert Johnson.
Opening the show is a fairly new band, Tiny Town, that includes two members of the recently disbanded Subdudes.
Should be a good show.
Keb'' Mo'' and Tiny Town, Saturday, 9pm. Palookaville, Santa Cruz. $19/advance, $21/door, 454-0600.