iFest needed a breezy, not-too-hot, sunny Sunday to get back on track after Saturday's torrential festival-cancelling rains. The festival got great weather; as I drove down Allen Parkway toward downtown, it looked like everybody in Houston had decided it was time to get outdoors. Arriving at the Tranquility Park entrance to the festival, I was even more convinced. If you work in the media, you tend to think you know a lot of people. Well, it only took me ten minutes of pinballing my way through the marketing area and up the byways to the World Stage to get the feeling you don't know anybody in this town. I got off to a mellow start to this mellow day with Quebec's Chic Gamine (pronounced cheek gameen). Think a capella group... with percussion. With four female vocalists, Chic Gamine is all about subtle layering and reliance on style, with one woman usually taking the lead vocal and the others supporting in a style that was often reminiscent of doo-wop groups or smart old-time pop groups like the Andrews Sisters - if Aretha Franklin had been in the Andrews Sisters.
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We trekked over to the Mucky Duck's pub set up on the City Hall steps and found ourselves in front of what I would eventually discover was some of the day's most interesting music: Members of the Irish modernists Beoga sitting in with fiddler Kevin Burke and guitarist Cal Scott. Irish music at its best is a frantic, searing thing, and this was as frantic and searing as anything I saw all day.
Finishing our Guinness, we ate some kabobs and waited for Beoga's main performance to begin. Unfortunately, Big Sam's Funky Nation was blasting away on the Louisiana Stage and within minutes it became apparent that Beoga's pretty tunes were being hampered by Big Sam's aural interference, so we gave up on Beoga and moseyed over and caught the end of Sam's set. The band was really cooking, propelled by monster drummer Chocolate Milk. By now the beer and sun were starting to take a toll on my brain and feet, but we hung in to see Lafayette vets Michael Doucet avec Beausoleil, and it was well worth the wait. Doucet is a living Cajun music resource as well as a virtuoso, and he plays with the best players in South Louisiana. Beausoleil had people up on their feet shaking their butts.