Mama Rosin Explodes the Myth That the Swiss Got No Grit

[22 November 2013]

By David Gendelman

Mama Rosin may be the best rock ’n’ roll band you’ve never heard of. In part, that’s because until June, the band had never released a record in North America. It’s also because Mama Rosin often isn’t even considered rock ’n’ roll. One look at the covers of the band’s albums explains the story.

The band’s second album, Brule Lentement, released in 2009, features a silk-screened red chili against an all-white background, the band’s black-scripted name printed just beneath it—a tribute to, and mirror image of, the Velvet Underground’s first album with Andy Warhol’s iconic banana cover.

A vinyl ten-inch released last year, titled the Sao Paulo Session is an homage to the ‘80s post-punk band the Gun Club’s Miami record. Its cover echoes Miami’s, with Mama Rosin’s, rather than the Gun Club’s, three band members standing in front of a palm tree and beneath a bleached green-blue sky. The back cover of the Sao Paulo Session replaces the Christian cross hanging mysteriously on the original with the percussion instrument the triangle. The title of Mama Rosin’s latest record, Bye Bye Bayou, references a song of the same name by New York’s punk-rock legend Alan Vega, of the band Suicide.

The Velvet Underground experimented with rock ’n’ roll amplification, the Gun Club with punk interpretations of the blues, and Alan Vega with demented rockabilly. Like those bands, Mama Rosin, who are from Geneva, Switzerland, take an old form of music and bend it in ways that have rarely been done before. With the references to red chilis, triangles, and bayous, it may come as no surprise that Mama Rosin’s styles of choice are Cajun and zydeco music, genres that for much of the last five decades have existed outside of Louisiana as little more than historical documents, continually facing the threat of eternal obscurity.

“There is so much going on on this planet that your head almost explodes. With the love for Cajun music and the mess in your head… [Mama Rosin] plays music like that, exactly like that.”

But Mama Rosin is breathing new life into these styles, by making music that spells out its lineage even as it sells out barrooms, clubs, and concert halls around the world. With its fresh take, Mama Rosin has become a lifeline for the two genres—and this, strangely and perhaps inevitably, from a group an ocean and a continent away from the music’s origins in southwest Louisiana.

It’s not easy to describe exactly what Mama Rosin sounds like. Anyone who tries often ends up seemingly at a loss for words, particularly those who aren’t. A quick tour of past reviews turns up descriptions that read, “explosive fusion of trashy transatlantic zydeco and garage rockabilly ‘n’ roll” or “the consanguineous Creole derived Zydeco folk of the swamp, and drunken, loony voodoo blues… with a twist of wired country gospel.”

“Everybody thinks differently about what we are,” the band’s 30-year-old accordion player and singer, Cyril Yeterian, said. “We’ve been put in all categories that exist.”  “We are in the miscellaneous vinyl back,” said Robin Girod, 32, Mama Rosin’s guitarist and singer.  “From really authentic traditional Cajun to klezmer to jungle klezmer,” Yeterian said. “There’s been everything.” “Black voodoo music we have seen in Germany,” added Girod.

Mama Rosin’s website describes the band as “Louisiana swamp grooves meet New York’s CBGB white heat/white noise.” What all of these frustrated attempts at categorization make clear is that no other band sounds quite like Mama Rosin.

“We consider ourselves a rock band, not a Cajun band,” Yeterian said. “The goal of Mama Rosin has always been, let’s borrow this traditional music from Louisiana—Cajun, zydeco, blues, et cetera—and let’s mix it with this raw punk energy. Mama Rosin has always had this lineup of accordion and guitar. We tried it the garage way.”

“But in the garage scene, the hardcore garage fan never considers us as a band really garage, because we are banjo, accordion,” Girod said. “We don’t have [simply] guitar, bass, and drums,” Yeterian said. 

In addition to the accordion, Yeterian plays fiddle, guitar, and triangle. Girod also plays the banjo. Drummer Xavier Bray also plays the harmonica. Each one of them plays the frottoir, a giant, metal washboard that straps over your shoulders.

Since 2008, Mama Rosin has released four records under its own name and taken part in several collaborations. Most recently, and only one year after its last record was produced by indie blues-punk superstar Jon Spencer, leader of the band the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Mama Rosin sent garage bands around the world into a spell of dizzying envy by recording an album with Mick Collins, who as leader of the Dirtbombs and the Gories is one of the crowning figures of contemporary garage rock. The collaboration, a zydeco project titled Broadway Lafayette, will be released next year.

“That’s not an easy music if you’re not raised with it,” said Collins, who grew up in Detroit but spent summers in Louisiana. “It’s not an easy music to duplicate. And not only were these guys not raised with it. They weren’t even raised anywhere near the culture. To hear them in the studio and crank up and start playing, it was amazing. I said to myself, ‘Wow, these guys are actually a zydeco band.’ There’s no barrier between them and zydeco.”

Collins isn’t the only musician to have taken notice of Mama Rosin. The band has been asked to collaborate or tour with some of the biggest acts in England (the contemporary folk band Bellowhead), Germany (the pop band Wir sind Helden), and Finland (the rock band 22-Pistepirkko). This past spring, the Cajun world came calling, too.

I first met Mama Rosin in April in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, a few days before the band played two shows at the Festival International de Louisiane , an annual Francophone celebration of southwest Lousiana’s homegrown culture that takes place in Lafayette, the heart of Cajun country. In the festival’s 15 years, Mama Rosin is only the second band that comes from outside the area and plays Cajun or zydeco music to be invited to take part. (The French Cajun band Vermenton Plage was the first, about ten years earlier.)

In addition to the festival appearances, Mama Rosin booked three more shows in the area to make for its first ever tour in the United States. It would take the band from Breaux Bridge to Austin, Texas, and then back to Louisiana, to Lafayette, for three more performances including the festival ones. The week would be a test to see how Mama Rosin’s own take on the genre fared on the genre’s home turf. It would be a test of the band’s authenticity, of its credibility—no small matter for a band whose reputation hinges on that.

Mama Rosin looks as much like a rock ’n’ roll band as they sound. Girod has a wild mane of brown curls and thick sideburns, and he wears fashionable skinny jeans with, alternately, black Converse sneakers and brown leather boots. He’s also rock-star handsome, as every band wants its front man to be.

Yeterian also wears the skinny jeans, and when he sings, his dark wavy hair hangs in front of his face, blinding him. He has the frontman’s musician look, too, though his run sensitive. As Steve Riley, the most well-known accordionist playing Cajun music today, said, “He’s the prettiest accordion player I’ve ever seen.”

Bray is as slim as the other two, but at 40 he’s a decade older and has a hairline to prove it. For gigs he often dresses more old-fashioned than Girod and Yeterian, in slacks and a vest. He’s rarely seen without a hand-rolled cigarette. He is the quietest of the three, with the least command of English, but his expression comes alive once he gets behind the drum set.

Breaux Bridge’s Café des Amis was a fitting place for the band’s tour to begin. On that particular night, out-of-use fiddles and melodeons, the squeeze-box accordions most often used in Cajun music, covered the room’s exposed-brick walls alongside an art show of wide-ranging Christian crosses. But most appropriately, and much like the Cajun music fan base in general, Café des Amis’s packed house consisted largely of sexagenarians. Among them was the venue’s owner, Dickie Breaux, whom one local referred to as “the godfather” of Lafayette Parish.

It’s no coincidence that the town we were in shared the godfather’s surname, or that the first lady of Cajun music was the early-20th-century musician Cleoma Breaux. It’s common for towns in southwest Louisiana to have the same name as the people you meet there, and for those names to have a historical significance related to Cajun music.

The next day, on my way to meet the band at the Eunice, Louisiana, home of Joel Savoy, the head of Cajun music’s premier label, Valcour Records, and the son of one of the most famous accordion makers in the world, Marc Savoy, I had to drive for miles through long stretches of flatland dotted with rice and crawfish farms and through a town named Savoy.

When I spoke to him, Savoy referred to the region as “this culture that exists completely independent of America in America.” I couldn’t argue. With the prevalence of spoken Cajun French, the dynamic variety of crawfish-dinner preparations, and the heightened atmosphere of Saturday morning alcohol-infused dance parties, there remains a strong sense of a world removed from the rest of the United States.

Cajun music first broke through nationally at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival, when Louisiana natives Gladius Thibodeaux, Vinus LeJeune, and Dewey Balfa played on the same stage as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. As Savoy, who won last year’s Best Regional Roots Rock Record Grammy for his work on the Band Courtbouillon’s self-titled album, said, “Until the sixties, Cajun music existed exclusively here, behind this Iron Curtain. Nobody had ever heard of it outside of Louisiana.”

The music had a mini explosion in the decade or two that followed. The archival record label Arhoolie began to release recordings by Cajun artists that would become the music’s definitive albums, filmmaker Les Blank directed a documentary about the genre, and Cajun music festivals began to sprout worldwide. Bands such as Beausoleil achieved crossover appeal, as did zydeco artists such as Zachary Richard and Buckwheat Zydeco, all of whom still perform today. Though there have been attempts to update the forms for a contemporary audience since then, the success has been limited. Whereas zydeco music has grown to incorporate R&B and hip-hop, often with bracingly painful results, Cajun music has remained stagnant. Now when a Cajun band tours the world, its audience is made up largely of that first generation of fans.

“Cajun music today consists of a traditional repertoire with a few handfuls of originals by various people that have kind of become standards,” said Savoy, 33, who along with his parents and brother tours as the Savoy Family Band, the Cajun equivalent of country music’s Carter Family. “For the most part it’s the same songs all the time, done in very similar fashion. It’s like old time music.”

It wasn’t always this way. Cajun music is traced back to the mid-18th century when the British, during a particularly volatile moment in its history, banished French-speaking Acadians from their home in Nova Scotia for refusing to take an oath to the king. Drawn to the French settlements of Louisiana, the Acadians—the word “Cajun” is derived from Acadian—migrated south, to an area alternately ruled by the French and the Spanish and that would soon be bought by the United States.

Around that time, the Haitian revolution led to an influx of a number of Haitians, who mixed in with the already sizeable black, or Creole, population. Cajun music developed out of the combination of all these different cultures living side by side.

“Cajun music has always been a bastard,” Savoy said. “The way it very started was a product of African and country people picking up this weird instrument [the accordion] and trying to figure out something to do on it, mingling with people who had Acadian ancestry that played fiddles and God knows what else. Eventually from Texas things like the steel guitar came through. In order for the musicians to make a living in the dance halls, they had to play what was popular. If people all wanted to go out and hear Hank Williams songs, the Cajun musicians would play a Hank Williams song in French because the people spoke French. It’s always been kind of a mutt.”

Mama Rosin’s Spicy, Sonic Stew

Mama Rosin is well aware of that history, and they played off of it that night at Café des Amis. One of the songs the band played was the upbeat dance tune “The Pine Leaf Two-Step”, by the contemporary local Cajun band the Pine Leaf Boys. Mama Rosin had recorded the song on its Brule Lentement album, but changed the lyrics and roughed up the rhythm and the beat. The song was still unmistakably Cajun, but it sounded just as much like rock ’n’ roll.

It was as though Mama Rosin had been one of those local bands Savoy was talking about who had to play Hank Williams songs in the forties and rework them for its audience—except when Mama Rosin first recorded its version of “The Pine Leaf Two-Step”, called “Le Pistolet”, there was no audience clamoring to hear the song; hardly anyone outside of southwest Louisiana even knew of its existence. It was as though Mama Rosin was fictionalizing a culture and a community. As it turns out, they were creating a foundation for a future culture and community, for an entire audience.

“The Pine Leaf Two-Step” isn’t the only Cajun song Mama Rosin has reworked. On Bye Bye Bayou, the band turned the folk classic “Sittin’ on Top of the World”, which had been covered by southwest Louisiana’s Hackberry Ramblers in 1934, into a tumbling blues. On Brule Lentement, it took on Rufus Jaganeaux’s early-‘70s Louisiana swamp pop hit “Opelousas Sostan”.

Two years later Mama Rosin released a 7-inch single of “Porte en Arriere”, “a totally fucked up, very punky” version, as Girod described it, of one of Louisiana’s most famous songs. But most notably, on its first album, Tu as Perdu Ton Chemin, in 2008, it transformed an old Cajun standard called “Mama Rosin” into an epic narrative, changing the lyrics and renaming the song
“The Story of Mama Rosin”.

“The original has two accordions, a pedal steel, a rock ’n’ roll guitar, and a double bass,” Girod said. “It’s not a two-step or a waltz. It’s something else. It’s a bit of a rumba. It’s a crossover of a Cajun and a Caribbean record.” “It shows how Cajun music can be mixed with other influences,” Yeterian added. “It fits really well for us.”

Indeed, if nothing else, Mama Rosin’s canon of work is awash with a variety of stylistic influences. In the winter of 2011, the band simultaneously released three singles, all of which maintained Mama Rosin’s trademark sound while experimenting with other forms: South American cumbia, Jamaican mento, and American soul. The band’s latest record, Bye Bye Bayou—Director’s Cut, which came out in June on Canada’s Bonsound label and adds three new songs to 2011’s “Bye Bye Bayou” (while removing two others), shows the influence of Brazilian psychedelia (“Seco e Molhado”), Jonathan Richman’s Modern Lovers (“Down from the South”), and African tribal rhythms (“Jungle Book”).

“Do you know the first album of Dr. John, Gris Gris?” Yeterian asked when I brought up the African influences evident in Mama Rosin’s sound. “It’s one of our all-time favorite records. For us it’s the perfect mix of the early psychedelic era of the sixties and the very roots music of this Cajun and New Orleans jazz style. [People] always say, when we’re explaining Cajun music,

“‘Oh, it’s kind of country music.’ And we say, ‘No way. It’s not country at all.’ Cajun, yes, it’s white. But zydeco is black. And all this comes also from Africa, all this South, all around the Gulf of Mexico. It’s the same history about music. It’s the mixture between white people and black rhythm and Indians and melodies, et cetera. We couldn’t fall into this big pot of music without considering the voodoo African tribal side of it, and we love it.”

“They are a sort of retro band,” Jon Spencer said of Mama Rosin. “They’re playing in a way a kind of traditional music. But they’re smart enough guys to be aware that the thing that does make them different—and what makes any band special—is what they can do that nobody else can do. They draw heavily upon this music, which is foreign to them, but they create something that is true to themselves with it. They have their own voice.”

Girod’s own voice has the rasp of the Clash’s Joe Strummer, but he sprinkles his punk earnestness with the phrasings of Clifton Chenier, the great zydeco originator in the ‘50s who shouted “Et tuoi” with the same unbridled passion Iggy Pop first did “Come on.” Yeterian sings in the same high pitch of the singers found on Cajun music’s early recordings, made in the ‘20s and ’30s. He finds inspiration for his accordion playing there, too.

“Cyril’s got his accordion amplified, and he’s got it distorted, which is really cool,” said Riley, who has his own band, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, and is also a part of the Grammy-winning group, the Band Courtbouillon. “The accordion used to sound that way on those old recordings because they’re old analog, overdriven recordings. He goes for that tone and that amplified sound.”

In this sense, Mama Rosin is different from other contemporary Cajun bands, which seem intent on trying to replicate the genre’s classics note for note, chord for chord. These bands are arguably too close to the music to radically alter it. They still live among the first generation of traditionalists who continue the struggle to keep that sound alive; everyday they drive by the green metal signs that are cemented into the sidewalks of so many southwest Louisiana main streets, declaring the towns’ names and serving as a reminder of the genre’s progenitors and the respect those names are due.

Joel Savoy’s father, Marc Savoy, for example, is the leading local Cajun music historian, commonly referred to as “the single person most responsible for the survival of French Cajun music.” Joel’s brother is a member of the Band Courtbouillon, and also leads the Pine Leaf Boys, currently one of Cajun music’s most successful bands. To break new ground in a genre, the band Sonic Youth, who did so with punk rock in the ’80s, sang that you had to “kill your idols”. That act gets a lot more complicated when those idols are blood relatives.

This might explain why local Cajun bands try to make music that sounds the way it had if you had been sitting on a shaded porch in Lafayette in 1930 without ever having heard of the Velvet Underground, the Gun Club, or Alan Vega. Mama Rosin, on the other hand, appear more interested in distilling the music as they initially experienced it, on a spinning piece of vinyl with all of the scratches and pops and hiss and distortion that comes from the original, flawed recordings, with all of the false starts and wrong notes and raw spontaneity found there.

“The story is we were big, big Cajun and zydeco fanatics, but fanatics of the old stuff, the records from the fifties [and before],” Girod said. “And we met the young sons from the Savoy family in France. And they were so happy, because when they come to play Cajun music in [Europe], it’s only old people [who go to see them]…. So they invited us to spend Mardi Gras with them in Eunice, close to Lafayette, in 2007…. When we were back in Switzerland, we just realized, we can play Cajun music around the table in roots style as friends.

“But if we want to make something different with that, we won’t do the same as they do down there, because it’s a bit sterile, it’s a bit cliché, and it’s always the same things. The accordion player only plays with the high notes and never uses the bass, and you can do a lot of good stuff with the bass. At that time we found Mama Rosin, really. We decided we want to be inspired by that music, because we know it well, probably better than all the people in Europe, but we want to go far away. That was the goal.”

Switzerland may be most famous for its refusal to muddy its waters during World War II by choosing a side. That stance helped create a stereotype that has been hard to shake and has taken on other forms in a culture well known for its wealthy banks and well dressed bankers, for its five-figure-priced wrist watches, and for the former number one tennis player in the world, Roger Federer, who is so perfectly coiffed on the court that he regularly features the fashionista Anna Wintour among his entourage at matches.

“The Swiss have this reputation for being clinical and overly scrubbed without any actual grit of their own,” said Matt Verta-Ray, who recorded Mama Rosin’s Bye Bye Bayou album and is a part of the Broadway Lafayette project. Verta-Ray, who grew up in Canada, also has his own experimental rockabilly band, Heavy Trash, with Jon Spencer. “I think there’s a thirst among people like Canadians and Swiss to relive, to understand what’s gritty about somebody from [the American South].

“If you grew up in Clarksdale, Mississippi, with blues all around you, there’d be no contrast between what you grew up listening to and what came out of your fingers. But if you’re in Saskatchewan or Nova Scotia or Geneva there’s something missing. You feel a need to have some connection with something real and earthy.” If that’s true, then Mama Rosin is not alone in their country. Switzerland also happens to be home to one of the world’s most famous underground record labels, Reverend Beat-Man’s house of trash blues, Voodoo Rhythm Records.

Beat-Man, as he is known to his friends, is a scratchy-voiced, balding, middle-aged music geek. He’s also a force of nature with a well source of unlimited energy. He fronts his own garage band, the Monsters, and when he’s not on tour with them, he’s often on tour by himself, as a one-man band, simultaneously playing guitar and drums in the trash-blues style his label is known for.

“You can find a Voodoo Rhythm Records t-shirt in every town that we play,” Girod said during our first interview in Breaux Bridge. Fifteen minutes later, a couple from Quebec entered the restaurant with the husband wearing exactly that. “What did I tell you?” Girod said, laughing. “It’s true. It’s crazy.”

Voodoo Rhythm Records is based in Bern, Mama Rosin in Geneva, but the two cities are less than a two-hour’s drive apart. Shortly after Girod and Yeterian’s 2007 trip to Louisiana (Bray joined the band in 2009), Mama Rosin came to the attention of Reverend Beat-Man. “They were in their twenties. They looked like a gang of hip-hop kids, but they had an accordion and a triangle and they were playing punk,” Beat-Man said. “It was just like at a flea market, when you aren’t actually searching for something, but there it is—the treasure you’ve been looking for, for so long.”

“All the Mama Rosin story started by being signed by this label,” Yeterian said. “The Beat-Man said, ‘Hey guys, I want to release something from you.’ We thought, We have to go to the electricity.”

Mama Rosin released its first two records on Beat-Man’s Voodoo Rhythm label. “It’s not 1930 anymore,” Beat-Man said of Mama Rosin’s sound. “It’s the [21st century] where everything is changing. There is so much going on on this planet that your head almost explodes. With the love for Cajun music and the mess in your head… [Mama Rosin] plays music like that, exactly like that.”

As it turns out, Voodoo Rhythm Records is not the only well respected underground record label in Switzerland. In 2009, Girod and Yeterian started their own, Moi J’Connais. The name comes from the Cajun expression meaning, “Yeah, I know,” as in, “Don’t try to fool me.” You can hear the phrase on almost any of the great, old Cajun and zydeco records. One of Moi J’Connais’s first releases was a collection titled Hypnotic Cajun & Obscure Zydeco .

It includes lesser known tracks from some of the great names of the genres: Lawrence Walker & the Wandering Aces, Clifton Chenier, Boozoo Chavis. Moi J’Connais has also released a collection of Italian folk songs, an album by the exotica musician Eden Ahbez, and most recently the early recordings of the underappreciated female Boston garage duo Mr. Airplane Man. Other releases have crossed over into calypso, Mississippi country blues, and ‘60s psychedelic rock. Last year, Moi J’Connais was named the country’s best record label by a Swiss culture organization. Girod and Yeterian used the prize money to open a storefront in Geneva called Bongo Joe. It opens later this month.

“We wanted to show our influences not only through our own music, but also with this label,” Yeterian said. “We started with this little compilation of songs we like. And now we are growing.”

The Swiss government has also shown great support for the band, having sent Mama Rosin as representatives of the country’s artistic offerings to China (“The people in the audience were screaming,” Yeterian said. “We felt like the Beatles”) and Poland in the last two years.

“Switzerland is very small, and the government tries to help Swiss underground music,” Beat-Man said. “My band the Monsters played at CBGB’s years back, and the Swiss embassy showed up to party with us. The same in Argentina, they showed up and they were more drunk than we were. Switzerland has a bad name in the world because of the banks and Nazi gold, but it’s different in Switzerland. The people can talk with the president, and the underground talks with the upperground.”

Still, there are disadvantages that come with being from Switzerland. “When a band comes from abroad, like the US, to Europe, people get excited about this,” Yeterian said. “If a Swiss band comes to the US, it’s not the case.”

That might explain why only ten people showed up to Mama Rosin’s show in Austin—eight if you don’t count the two members of the opening band.

The shows in Lafayette were far more successful. The night after the concert in Texas, Mama Rosin shared a bill at a club called Artmosphere with Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. Despite Mama Rosin not going on until well after midnight, the house remained packed for the band’s entire set, split evenly between couples dancing two-steps and others dancing, as Yeterian called it, “rock ’n’ roll”.

The show included a cover of Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Run through the Jungle”, which happens also to be on the Gun Club’s Miami album. Near the end, Mama Rosin played “Wivenhoe”, off of Bye Bye Bayou, a song about the band’s fans in a small town in southeast England and the bond Mama Rosin has formed with them.

“Wivenhoe” has a guitar solo for which Girod uses a pedal he refers to as “the story of love and hate.” The pedal has only one sound, complete distortion, and Girod’s never quite sure how loud it will be. At Artmosphere, it sounded louder than the Velvet Underground ever had. To close, Mama Rosin broke into an extended version of the zydeco standard, “Bon Temps Rouler”. The room shook from all the dancing. Even Riley stayed for the whole show, something he hadn’t done for another band in years.

“I’ve never seen a band interpret the music that way,” he later said. “I mean, just so raw. It was real, it was catchy, it was hooky. I’ve been playing Cajun music a long time. It’s not too often someone comes around that has such a fresh new take on the whole thing.” He added, “I wouldn’t mind touring with those guys. I wouldn’t mind my band opening up for them. I think it’d be great for Cajun music. I think it would turn a lot of young people onto it. They’re young, They’ve got that young energy. They’ve got a look about them.”

Riley’s response was echoed by the thousands of people who caught Mama Rosin over the next two days at the festival. Both a local paper and the public radio program The World did a story on them. Savoy, who booked the band’s first show of the tour, at Café des Amis, but who hadn’t seen them live until then, was equally impressed. “I’ve never put out a band that’s not from Louisiana on Valcour,” he said, but “we’re talking about doing something next October.”

“[Cajun music] has to continue to evolve and change to fit. Otherwise, it’s never going to appeal to any new group,” he said. “It has to be able to attract new audiences. If the audience dies, then the music’s going to die. And the guys from Mama Rosin are the best example of this that I’ve ever heard. They just happen to be from outside Louisiana, but they’re doing things with Cajun music that I think can inspire a whole new generation of people to find out about it, go back and listen to where it comes from, and then keep it alive and keep it breathing.”

After the couple from Quebec had arrived at Café des Amis on that first night and told Mama Rosin that they had rearranged their vacation in the American South to make room for the Mama Rosin show, Yeterian jokingly said to me, “We are stars, you know?” Then, more seriously, he added, “No, we are discovering it. It’s cool. We really feel it in our heart. The tour is already a success when you discover that people came from Quebec to see you.” 

Perhaps the best evidence of the tour’s success came on a late Sunday afternoon after the band’s last performance at the festival and of the tour. Mama Rosin couldn’t take more than ten steps through the grounds without being stopped and complemented by the festival attendees. The three of them were in a hurry to get to a bayou boat ride that had been arranged for them. They would be guided through the swamps of Lafayette by a marijuana-smoking, Jack Daniel’s and Budweiser swilling, toothless, unintelligible, long-gray-bearded boat guide; it seemed like the biggest gesture of embrace the local community could have offered.

I noted this to Yeterian, and he said, “I’ll know we’ve made it when we come back next year and hear someone cover one of our songs.”

David Gendelman is the deputy research editor at Vanity Fair.

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