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C.J. Chenier turns Larkinville into a New Orleans dance party

It was a hot, muggy evening in Buffalo and the early-bird arrivals at Larkinville on Wednesday night were grabbing seats and Mardi Gras beads in preparation for the musical festivities. As folks are apt to say in Louisiana (or Buffalo) when they’re about to party: Laissez le bon temps rouler or “Let the good times roll."

That was also the basic theme for the evening's "The Big Easy in Buffalo Night at Larkinville" when accordion wiz C.J. Chenier brought his Red Hot Louisiana Band to Buffalo and stirred up what had to be one of the - if not the - liveliest dance parties in town.

From the first notes of “Zydeco Cha Cha,” a great swath of the audience migrated toward the front of the stage to shake, shimmy and waltz depending on the rhythm magic set by the band. Cellphones were whipped out to document the moments.

And really, there were moments.

The kinetic energy onstage, including a rubboard (or frottoir) player who never stood still and a tambourine/percussion dude who never stopped mugging, was infectious. So, too, was the basic pulse of the band, be it the thump generated by the core rhythm section of bass and drums, the honking and screaming sax player, or the guitarist whose rock and blues tinged soloing was impressive as all-get-out.

"Young Buck" keeps the rhythm on the washboard and the energy up on stage during a performance by C.J. Chenier and The Red Hot Louisiana Band at Larkinville. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

There were plenty of standards played and the breadth of their arrangements revealed Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya,” Bob Marley’s “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” and Rockin’ Sidney’s “(Don’t Mess With) My Toot Toot” as canons of the zydeco repertoire.

Everything worked because the authoritative stance and powerful singing and playing of bandleader Chenier provided the perfect guidepost on the way to a happy place.

At one point Chenier even led the band (except for the drummer and guitarist) out onto the dance floor, weaving their way through the populace and attracting some of the folks into forming an impromptu conga line behind them.

Every top of the concert bill needs something or someone to set the stage for what is to come and this particular role fell to a young Western New York based brass heavy sextet Kidd Kyle and the Big Deal.

Kidd Kyle and The Big Deal warmed up the crowd at Larkinville before a set by C.J. Chenier and The Red Hot Louisiana Band. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

The band is heavily influenced by the New Orleans band tradition and there were echoes of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the Preservation Hall Brass Band to name a few. Kidd Kyle and company covered “Down By the Riverside” and “St. James Infirmary,” nodded in the general direction of “Jock-A-Mo,” tipped their hat to Fats Domino (“I’m Walkin’”) and slipped in a neat take on Dr. John riff (“Right Place, Wrong Time”).


The Big Easy in Buffalo

With C.J. Chenier And The Red Hot Louisiana Band, part of “Live At Larkin” on July 10 at Larkinville.

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