Funk and zydeco music, gumbo, king cake, face painting, beads, and plenty of bon temps!
No, the above sentence does not describe a night on Bourbon Street, but rather an event that occurred right here in Atlanta on Friday night; probably the closest Georgia can come to an actual Louisiana Mardi Gras celebration!
Every year, bass player and lead singer Charlie Wooton and his band, Zydefunk, gather at Atlanta’s renowned Northside Tavern for the annual King Cake Party on the Friday before Mardi Gras. Hailing from the heart of Cajun Country in Lafayette, Louisiana, Wooton grew up surrounded by the diverse sounds of zydeco and funk as well as the jazz and classical music that he studied. Zydefunk draws upon the rich influences Wooton played and listened to throughout his life and career. Click this link to learn more about Charlie Wooton.
Zydefunk play a mixture of Louisiana zydeco music (itself a blend of blues, rhythm and blues, Creole style, and Native American influences), along with groove-heavy funk music driven by Wooton’s bass. You can hear an example of Zydefunk’s zydeco side in the following videos. Wooton leads at the center of the stage in the purple shirt, flanked by guitarist Daniel Groover, Kevin Thomas on keys, Mike Phillips on drums, and percussionist Rafael Pereira. Phillips and Pereira also perform with Atlanta-based artist Janelle Monáe. Mardi Gras King Erik Jaimes also played guitar, when not throwing beads to the dancing crowd in his crown and robe:
In the next video, watch Erik Jaimes, outgoing Mardi Gras king, throw beads into the crowd:
Along with being a feast for the ears and all-around fun, the event also provided a feast for the taste buds in the form of real Cajun gumbo!! It was absolutely delicious and very flavorful, cooked and served by a team of Lafayette, LA originals who knew Charlie from childhood. As the evening progressed and we all enjoyed our gumbo, it was time for King Cake!
King cake is a Louisiana Mardi Gras tradition, consisting of a ring-shaped cake decorate with frosting and sprinkles in traditional Mardi Gras colors green, purple, and gold. King cake is named after the biblical Three Kings, and hidden within the cake is the plastic or rubber figure of a baby hidden within the cake, representative of the Baby Jesus. At Zydefunk’s king cake party, whoever finds the baby in the king cake becomes the Mardi Gras king or queen!
On the left is yours truly with gumbo cook extraordinaire Eddie Landry, and on the right is Leah with the famous King Cake!
Between the food and the music, everyone in attendance seemed to be enjoying the moment.
Later in the evening, Atlanta flutist Kathie Holmes joined the band, and played an amazingly funky flute:
After the crowd enjoyed their king cake, and the baby was found, the new Mardi Gras queen and king were crowned! No, I was not queen this time, but I did eat my share of the cake!
If you weren’t able to make it to the 2017 Zydefunk King Cake Party, I hope this post gave you a taste! To learn more about the band, visit the Zydefunk Facebook Page. To find out about Charlie Wooton’s other projects, check out his other band Zabadodat (which also includes Daniel Groover and Rafael Pereira as well as singer Laura Reed).
Thank you for reading and laissez les bon temps rouler!