Although he was born and raised in Port Arthur, TX and raised on his father's Louisiana music, CJ Chenier has strong connections to Chicago. He recorded 3 albums for Chicago-based Alligator Records and he is a frequent performer at Fitzgerald's Night Club in the Chicago suburb of Berwyn.
It was in Berwyn that I saw CJ last night. The tickets were a birthday gift and one of the best I've received in a long time. Chenier played for hours, bringing the high energy I had come to know from his recordings, but had never seen in concert.
He was accompanied by drums, bass, an excellent guitarist, and someone playing the vest frottoir - a tin washboard that hangs from the chest, that was invented by CJ's legendary father Clifton and his uncle Cleveland.
The frottoir added some texture to the music; but it added more to the visuals of the concert, given its wearer's high energy dancing and playing.
CJ, of course, sang and played his signature accordion. His music kept the packed club bouncing all night. The high point came when he and 3 members of his band unplugged and wound their way through the crowd for an extended jam.
He continues the Zydeco tradition of his father's band (Clifton passed away in 1987), but CJ adds a funky sound all his own. The result kept the audience energized throughout the show.
If you are reading this and wondering what to get me on my birthday next year, check the local concert calendar around March 1. Be warned: It will have to be pretty darn good to top this one.