ZydecoZity 2003 - impressions of the festival by Nigel Worthington

It was late at night when I arrived at Oosterhoute - a pretty little town about 5 miles from the festival site.  Asking in a kebab café where Hotel Zonneke was the owner said it was easier to give me a lift there than to explain - which he kindly did.  The journey from Schipol Airport to Oosterhoute is fairly simple.  It's about 40 minutes train journey from the airport to Utrecht (changing at Duivendrecht) and then a 1 hour jouney on Interliner Bus 400 (which runs at least once per hour).

Hotel Zonneke cost me € 45 per night with ensuite - it's a café-bar with rooms.  From the outside it looks dead and several locals said "Is it pretty quite there?".  Actually they kept going most of the night and on Friday there was a Congo being danced through the bar by a wedding party.  The other hotel in Oosterhoute is the Golden Tulip - more conventional with better rooms at € 65 per night.  Travel to/from the festival is best done by the special mini buses which run throughout the day costing € 3 - an efficient service provided you call from your hotel to say a lift is needed.  

The festival consists of 3 indoor areas.  The main stage and large dance floor with food and other stalls around the edge is in a huge big top tent.  Sound and lighting was excellent.  I arrived on the Friday in time to see Gavin Lewery's new band Z-Funk which I liked a lot.  Only a few were dancing but there was space to do so and I wasted no time.  Gavin has always impressed me since he had Zydeco Active.  The music ended at 12.30.

On Saturday I went to the festival in time for a Zydeco workshop with Gary Hayman.  During the rest of the afternoon we had Zydeco Alligators and Cajuns Denbo.  Considering the number of smokers I did not find the atmosphere too smokey and all the areas were quite airy.  I paid € 35 for a weekend pass.  Apart from the big top there was an outdoor area with a bar - some covered high tables, but no seating, and two more indoor areas - House of Blues and Eddie's Tyre Service.  These were wooden cabin type places with seating around tables and often live music.  The decor especially in Eddie's was amazing with the type of attention to detail more typically found on a film set.  It was hard to believe that all the structures and paraphernalia is specially built each year for the festival that is actually sited in a park.

I left the festival for part of Saturday afternoon.  The bus picked me up exactly as arranged and I was back in time for River Zydeco.  The last time I heard this band was in Saulieu 02 and I thought they were hard to dance to then.  This time around I really like them and found their music very danceable.  Following this Sean Vidrine played with part of the Z-Funk group and soon built up an incredible atmosphere with his vibrant accordion playing, singing and personality.  By this time people were standing close to the stage and there was no real dancing area.  The beer was flowing and everyone was definitely enjoying the music.

When Chris Ardoin & Double Clutchin' came on for the closing set there was no holding back.  Whereas regulars had said earlier that the festival and camping was less crowded than previous years this did not apply to the Saturday night..  It soon became almost impossible to dance and few wanted to do more than gig around anyway - so I went with the flow.  It meant I could really appreciate just how good this group was and the thought that, come November, I would be dancing on deck to them in the warm Caribbean breeze was very pleasant indeed.  If there is one year to go on the Zydeco Cruise it has to be this one.

On Sunday the festival started at 12.30 pm with Jock, Gavin and Vera playing in Eddie's.  They are a lovely trio and there was space for a couple or so to dance in this unusual setting.  

Food and drink is bought using a token system.  A small beer is 1 munt which costs € 1.70.  A tub of jambalaya cost 2.5 munt and was quite tasty.  It's best to bring your own water since it costs about the same as beer!

After Zydeco Alligators and Doc Zydeco (from France) I went to Eddie's for my lunch/dinner at 5pm.  This was a 3 course waiter served Cajun meal.  A crawfish salad starter was well prepared and presented.  Chicken Jambalaya included red fish and alligator meat and was well spiced and delicious. For desert I had mud pie.  Though not cheap at € 20 (using a second token system) it was really excellent and certainly the best food I have eaten in a festival venue.  I recharged my water at the campsite and was set-up for Chris Ardoin (No 2) when he started at 6pm.  

This final 2 hour set was the highlight of the festival for me.  This time there was space to dance and was Chris Ardoin was equally superb this time around.  After that set the festival continued until 11 pm in the House of Blues, but I preferred to sit outdoors on the bank, drink beer, listen to the music that spilled out and enjoy the warm evening.  Would I go again?  Definitely! It has to be Europe's premier Zydeco festival.

[Note: the 3rd music venue - Eddie's Tyre Service - is no longer used in the festival]

ZydecoZity 2003 programme