Alameda comes out squeezing this weekend as accordions take over for the four-day Zydeco Americana — featuring wild Louisiana dance music, workshops, a big chow-down, and a zydeco safari float in Alameda’s Fourth of July parade. The event is an offshoot of Louisiana Sue Ramon’s regular Eagles Hall Cajun and zydeco dances that have been staged in Alameda since the mid-’90s. The extravaganza features popular bands as well as sundry other events Friday through Sunday at Eagles Hall, 2305 Alameda Ave., followed by Monday’s parade. You don’t need to know the difference between Cajun and zydeco music (these days most bands mix the styles that share the accordion, waltzes, and two-steps), just a willingness to have fun and even get silly. What else would you call joining in the Washboard Marching Band that will follow a flatbed truck filled with zydeco dancers as they parade through Alameda? All the Zydeco Americana events except the parade take place at Eagles Hall, with Louisiana accordionist-singer Chris Ardoin and his Nu Step band kicking it off in a dance on Friday at 9 p.m., followed on Saturday by Richmond’s amazing young accordion star Andre Thierry and Zydeco Magic.
The unusual fun really starts on Sunday at 3 p.m. First, it’s Washboard University led by “Professor” Harold Guillory. The workshop teaches the basics and fine points of strapping a rub board onto your chest and playing it with spoons, forks, nails, or other rubbing devices. Zydeco Bandstand follows at 4:30 p.m., with the audience listening to and rating the latest CDs, before chowing down at a potluck dinner featuring Baton Rouge chef Kent Donnely’s big pot of jambalaya. Musical dessert is served by Chris Ardoin’s Nu Step. But all that is just a prelude to the city’s Fourth of July Parade (meet at 10 a.m. to participate), with a Zydeco Americana flatbed truck and washboard band, leading to South Shore Shopping Center where Andre Thierry’s Zydeco Magic performs for free from 1 to 4 p.m. For those not exhausted by four days and nights of dancing, the fireworks will be anticlimactic. Info: LouisianaSue.com or 916-962-6415. — Larry Kelp
Syn Some More
“The East Bay has an amazing, unique, creative, women’s community,” says poet Jeanne Lupton, who adds that after attending various other female-centric open mics, she and fellow poet Donna Lane decided to take the plunge and host their own. Hence, Synergy, Lupton and Lane’s new open mic night at womyn’s community center Change Makers. This Friday’s debut performance will feature Lane reading excerpts from her new book Where I Live and music from flutist Eva Schlesinger. All women are welcome to attend, observe, and participate: “Synergy is all-inclusive,” Lupton says, adding that if there is enough interest, the event might become a monthly happening. For more info or to sign up, call 510-632-7548. $3-$7. — Eric K. Arnold
On the Waterfront
This summer, there actually is something to do in Martinez. The 2005 John Muir Summer Festival kicks off this Friday and runs until August 7 in the John Muir Amphitheater at Martinez’ Waterfront Park. The fun starts with “Celebrate Independence,” which features the seventy-member Diablo Symphony Orchestra performing the Sacagawea Symphonic Suite (a musical based on Lewis and Clark’s Shoshone guide), as well as Our Flag Was Still There, a tribute to American patriotism, accompanied by a large-screen video projection. Performances are Friday through Sunday at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15-$35, and US military veterans receive free admission. 925-798-1300 for more information. — Eric K. Arnold
Imagine a more adult, staged version of The Incredibles, and you have Thunderbabe, Altarena Playhouse’s new production. The title character is a former superheroine who retires from crime-fighting to become a soccer mom. But when her archnemesis reappears on the scene, she is forced to squeeze back into her spandex suit — and confront issues of age, identity, and gender. Director Ann Kuchins calls Thunderbabe the “ultimate desperate housewife,” yet promises a mix of humor and more serious issues. Opening night is Friday, and the play runs until July 17. For tickets or more information, visit Altarena.org or call 510-523-1553. — Eric K. Arnold