Zydeco-a-Go-Go band members who will be performing at Pastorius Park (from left) Bob Holden, Tim Perks, Bobby Michaels, Gary Brooks and Pete Eshelman (not shown, Pam Eshelman)

by Carole Verona

Laissez les bon temps rouler” is a Cajun expression meaning “Let the good times roll.” And the good times will definitely roll when Zydeco-a-Go-Go brings its spicy blend of Louisiana’s zydeco and Cajun music to Pastorius Park. The free concert takes place on Wednesday, June 27, at 7:30 p.m.

“It’s such an honor to play Pastorius Park this year,” said Pete Eshelman, who founded the band in 1992. “When they called and asked us to play, they said, ‘This is our 70th anniversary and you’re one of our favorite groups to have played here.’ It was really nice to hear that.”

Pastorius Park is located at the corner of Millman Street and Hartwell Lane. If it rains, the show will move to Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, 8000 Cherokee Street. The concerts are supported by the Chestnut Hill Community Association and Chestnut Hill Hospital. Zydeco-a-Go-Go’s performance is sponsored by Market at the Fareway. The band will be welcomed by WXPN.

According to the Folklife in Louisiana website, Cajun music is the music of the white Cajuns of south Louisiana, while zydeco is the music of the black Creoles of the same region. Although each culture preserves its own identity, there is a lot of sharing and overlap between the two, especially when it comes to instrumentation. An accordion and rubboard or frattoir are used in both.

Zydeco-a-Go-Go features the classic zydeco sound of accordion and frattoir (rubboard) augmented by saxophone, electric guitar, electric bass and drums. The band mixes in a Cajun two-step style with Creole zydeco and classic New Orleans rhythm and blues. They sing in English, Spanish, Cajun and Creole French, set to a beat guaranteed to keep people dancing all night long.

For those who have never heard Zydeco-a-Go-Go, Eshelman explained, “We’re more of a zydeco band. We have a drummer, bass player and rubboard. We put the word Cajun in our description because we do play some Cajun waltzes. You’ll find today that zydeco musicians play soul classics and some rhythm and blues, music that people like to dance to.

“It’s Louisiana dance music and it has a catchy, upbeat rhythm,” he said. “It makes people feel good and want to get up and dance. People are smiling, dancing and enjoying themselves. And if you are sitting, you’re not sitting still.”

In addition to Eshelman, who sings and plays the accordion, the musicians who will perform at Pastorius Park include his wife Pam Eshelman, rubboard; Bob Holden, drums; Gary Brooks, electric bass guitar; Bobby Michaels, tenor sax; and Tim Perks, electric guitar. Randy Lippincott, a regular with the band, won’t be appearing in Pastorius Park because he will be performing in Puerto Rico during the last week in June as part of a series of international island assistance events.

“The music we love and are putting out there is the old school zydeco music brought to the mainstream by Clifton Chenier, ‘Boozoo’ Chavis, Geno Delafose and Beau Jocque, “Eshelman said. “We mix other things in there but that’s our main body of work.”

During their 26 years of performing in the region, Zydeco-a-Go-Go has attracted a loyal following, especially from Allons Danser, a local zydeco/Cajun dance group whose members show up whenever and wherever the band is appearing.

“They follow us around. It’s great to have them; they get the ball rolling,” he said.  They reach out and get others involved to get up and dance. Also, it makes it easier for other people, who see them and say ‘Hey, they’re dancing!’ It helps and it’s always fun to have them in the audience. They’re really nice people.”

To what does Eshelman attribute the longevity of the band?

“I attribute it to the music itself,” he said. “We love the music! And to the audience. Ever since we started, there has been an enthusiastic, interactive and growing audience. They know us, and we know their names. We’ve become friends over the years. They come out to our shows and they carry us along. We keep going. It’s been a great ride and we’re still riding.

“We do a lot of gigs but love the summer concerts. They bring people together. In this day and age of cell phones, air conditioning and computers, a lot of people are getting up and dancing. The summer concerts and festivals get people out. You get to see your neighbors and friends and maybe meet some new people.”

More information about Zydeco-a-Go-Go can be found at zydecoagogo.com. Stay tuned to the Chestnut Hill Local for previews of each upcoming band or go to chestnuthill.org for more information about the Pastorius Park Summer Concert Series.

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