Archive - Jan 2005

Weehoo Beaujolaise and his Cajun All-Star Jamboree

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Memo to Zydeco Lovers: YOU ARE DUMB.

I should probably explain, because this is one of those "nuance" things that got John Kerry in so much trouble. I don't mean to be specifically insulting to specific people just because they specifically happen to like a specific kind of music. It's just that the first line has to be kind of short and punchy, and the second paragraph is where I put the rambling digression. You see, despite what is, to all outward appearances, an incredibly well-planned and thought-out daily column of rampaging hate, not everything I hate carries all that planning and thinking right at the front end.

Sure, most of the time, my hate is the end product of a Rube Goldberg mental factory, complete with wacky cartoon music and a boot on a stick rotating around to kick a rubber ass every five seconds, but sometimes, I realize I hate something, and I don't know why. So I have to backtrack, and work out how I must have intuitively come to some conclusion of dislike without following all the steps. And so it was last week, when I found myself inadvertently exposed to a bit of zydeco.

Zydeco. Cajun music. Lots of accordion. From Louisiana, land of Mardi Gras and Austin Gullette. I was exposed to it, as I have long been exposed to mildly unpleasant things, because I woke up to the radio. I used to wake up to the 80's station in town, because as regular readers of this column know, Twin Cities radio sucks like Stephen Hawking's Roomba. But we got a new station recently, and so I've been waking up to an "eclectic" public radio station. During the day, when I don't listen to the radio, they are a VERY tall midget in the local radio scene, going out of their way to appeal to us alternafarts in our 30's..

But at six in the corpsefucking morning, it's some show migrated from elsewhere in the Public Radio world. Blues, jazz, an entire Berkeley's worth of folk, and world music. All presided over by a couple of golf-announcer, public-radio sensitive-guy short-haired-hippie DJ's. And they played some zydeco, and my brain shrank from it like an Anne Rice fan from sunlight.

It's not even that zydeco's particularly bad, either. It's kinda catchy, in a yeehaw sort of way. I just think it's the most extreme case of the whole "world music" thing. There are, in this world, probably no more than a thousand or so people who can come by an appreciation of zydeco honestly. Who either grew up around it, happened to stumble across it in the bayou, or whatever. Everyone else who listens to zydeco automatically garners the stench of the poseur.

Part of it's the guaranteed-to-end-the-alphabet name, part of it's that it's the archetypical music genre where you can go into your big-box record store, stand in the rap aisle, and ask the nearest drone "Excuse me, but where do you keep your zydeco? No, it's not a band, it's a style of music. Zydeco. Sigh. All right then, where is your World Music? That's all you carry, in such a big store? Perhaps I'll have to brave the stench of hemp and incense once more down at the Psychadelic Spindle."

Many people who listen to zydeco secretly, in their heart of hearts, want to listen to country, but can't bear its damage to their cred. Even alt-country has too much of the stench of common twang to it. So instead, they listen to super-ultra-niche country, so niche it has its own goofy name. It allows them to pretend that the line between Toby Keith and Boozoo Chavis is the Berlin Wall, instead of a bit of crowd control tape hanging loosely from a tree.

Oh, and any band that incorporates "zydeco influences" into their music should have their instruments loaded into a car crusher, just to be safe. The last thing the music world needs is its own Emeril. Not that I'm a huge proponent of the Emeril Backlash, which is in itself a bandwagon the size of the Macy's Parade, but the man doesn't make it easy to not hate him on general principle. Bands need to understand that just because you can lay hands on an accordion does not mean you have to use it.

Listening to zydeco is like masturbation, really. A lot of people do it, a lot of people enjoy it, and that's fine. But none of us want to hear about it. None of us want you to share your zydeco secrets. And if you must go out and buy stuff to help you listen to zydeco, we'd all appreciate it if you did it over the Internet like the rest of the pervs.