Review: Buckwheat Zydeco @ Turner Hall (2/12)

buckwheatz
Photo by CJ Foeckler/Pabst Theater
Words by Amy Elliott

Alligator shoes, pleated dress pants, a button-down suit vest, a glistening mother-of-pearl accordion – Buckwheat Zydeco, America’s most distinctive purveyor of Louisiana creole music, let his band ring in three full songs before inviting him on stage for his regal entrance, like some sort of Bayou George Clinton.

A packed crowd at Turner Hall – at first glance, a staid if tipsy NPR set – welcomed the Cajun king with wildly open arms. Buckwheat was snake-charmer, zydeco evangelist – when he two-stepped to the edge of the stage, swooning women reached up to try to touch his accordion. His enthusiastic band played it straight while Buckwheat shouted call-and-responses –

“Hey, Fellas!”

(Yeah?)

“Give Buck!”

(Give Buck!)

“That old G!”

(That old G!)

“UH-OH!”

Even when he “brought it down” for a ballad like “Walkin’ in New Orleans,” he never achieved the pensive, affectionate tempo of, say, Fats Domino – he kept it swinging, and he kept his feverish, holler-inducing banter (“Show me whatcha workin’ with!” “What TIME is it!”) at a pitch.

In the grip of winter’s darkest hand, this was a spicy, steamy night of accordion hypnotism, blaring trumpets and searing guitars in southern revival style. This, I kept thinking, was America’s most unexpected party band. I’d never thought I’d see a crowd go wild for a washboard solo, but there it was. We were grinning, and Buckwheat Zydeco, watching the magic happen for one uncountable night in a career of countless nights like this, grinned back at us, and waited until we couldn’t stand it any more to deliver what we wanted.

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