France Semester concert inspires dancing in aisles

(From left to right) Cedric Watson, fiddle; Wilson Savoy, accordion; Drew Simon, drums; Blake Miller, bass guitar; Jon Bertrand, guitar, played Tuesday night in Taylor Auditorium.

(From left to right) Cedric Watson, fiddle; Wilson Savoy, accordion; Drew Simon, drums; Blake Miller, bass guitar; Jon Bertrand, guitar, played Tuesday night in Taylor Auditorium.

Rebecca Watts

Five musicians from Louisiana, the Pine Leaf Boys, presented a new sound to Missouri Southern listeners Sept. 19.

Taylor Performing Arts Center auditorium welcomed Wilson Savoy, accordion; Cedric Watson, fiddle; Drew Simon, drums; Jon Bertrand, guitar; and Blake Miller, bass guitar. Cajun rhythms inspired dancing in the aisles, clapping with the beat and concluded with a standing ovation.

“I really enjoyed the show,” said Robbie Smith, senior speech communication major. “I’ll pretty much listen to anyone who can play their instruments really well like these guys can. It’s very similar to bluegrass music which is why I like it.”

People attending the concert said the style of music was different yet enjoyable.

“I like it. It was entertaining,” said Matt Sooter, senior at College Heights High School. “The style of music is very different, in a good way.”

Sooter’s friend, Aaron Hunt, senior at Carthage Senior High School, also was fond of the performance.

“It was good, and different than anything else I’ve ever heard,” he said.

Dr. Jim Simpson, superintendent of Joplin public schools, who has played fiddle since his freshman year of college, said he liked the show. He also appreciated the new ethnic style presented to Southern’s audience, as well as the incorporated history of Creole music and admired musicians between songs.

“They play allot of good old type Cajun that’s very true to their heritage,” he said. “I’m glad Missouri Southern brought this band to Joplin. The band portrays a diverse culture.”

Some attendees of the concert were impressed even though they arrived in the middle of the performance.

“This place was rocking,” said Alexa Inscore, junior at Joplin High School. “It was very cool.”

Andrea Steere, sophomore at Joplin high school, agreed the auditorium was into the groove, especially when one band member stood on top of the speakers.

“They were hoopin’ and hollerin’,” she said.

When the guitar and boa strings broke lose during the show, because the performers were playing so hard, the show went on. Some attendees took to the aisles to dance. Two dancers were DeeDee and Tessa Wells, daughters of Dr. Ree Wells, professor of sociology. Wells is from Baton Rouge, La., and encourages Cajun music in her home.

“[The girls] dance in the living room, in the studio and anywhere else they can,” Wells said.

The turnout and overall rating of the concert exceeded its expectations. Dr. Chad Stebbins, director of the Institute of International Studies, said this has been the most successful event so far in the France Semester. Audience members were found surprised with their true pleasure of the performance.

“I didn’t expect that,” said Korey Schaefer, freshman marketing major. “I thought it’d be OK, but then we went down there and they rocked.”

Even the band was impressed with the attendance of approximately 600 people, and expressed gratitude for the audience’s appreciation of the music.

“We even received a standing ovation, that really pumped me up,” Wilson said.

The Pine Leaf Boys shared some stories between songs of their adventures in bars and dance halls, and expressed the inside look of the Creol lifestyle. Wilson said no Cajuns can read sheet music, they only learn it by hearing it.

The five musicians have traveled the east coast twice, and some of them have been overseas. They said they were nervous playing in an auditorium where the audience could not be seen.

“If we see people up and dancing, drinking and having fun we don’t get nervous,” said Savory. “But when it’s dark and nobody dances, people stare at you, you try to break the ice and tell a joke and it backfires, then you get more nervous. We just get up there and play like we’re out on our porch.”

The whole sha-bang started in North Carolina at the University of Laffette, when the boys were busted by the cops for “disturbing the peace,” when all they were doing was playing music. The media got a hold of the story and the band flourished from the free publicity, but according to Wilson, there’s more incentive behind the band.

“We love playing together,” he said. “Our favorite part is traveling to see new places and seeing all of the beautiful weather and beautiful people.”

Not all of the traveling musician life is glamorous though. The Pine Leaf Boys said they missed events back home from concert travels, such as weddings and birthdays.

“If someone gets hurt or sick we can’t just go home,” said Wilson.

Two of the musicians carry college hours on top of traveling with the band. Simons is a junior, marketing major at the University of North Carolina, and Miller is a sophomore with a mass communication major.

According to the performers, the experience of traveling across the country with good friends, and sharing their music, makes the hardships worthwhile.

“You gotta be proud of where you’re from,” Watson said.

Some people said they would have enjoyed the performance more if they could have understood the lyrics. Some songs told stories which compelled the band to explin to the audience that “it might be a good thing listeners don’t speak the language.” However, the band said after the program there was no such thing as a language barrier.

“They either like it or they don’t like it,” Watson said. “If they don’t we can’t help them.”

Mary Ann Toft, radiology clerk at McCune Brooks Hospital in Carthage, said the Pine Leaf Boys made her happy, and Will and Lisa Perkins of Joplin said they had to dance.