Lisa Haley is an Idyllwild favorite. File photo

As summer warms and August begins, the Idyllwild Summer Concert Series (ISCS) heats up. Lisa Haley, local favorite and Grammy nominee, and the Zydecats return to Idyllwild. This is not the second or third time they have performed. They have performed 14 concerts as part of the ISCS, as well as several times during the Jazz in the Pines festivals.

“I love Idyllwild,” Haley said.

This year, she brings her foot-stompin’, fiddle playing, Cajun music to the Butterfield Amphitheater at 7 p.m., Aug. 1. When attending a Haley and Zydekats concert, one often contracts “zydecosis,” Haley informed the Town Crier.

Zydecosis is a form of hyperactivity, involving the involuntary tapping of one’s foot, a pulsating body and finger snapping and, finally, a tremendous urge to dance — like never before. At a concert, zydecosis can be contagious.

Haley bought her first blue violin just after high school as a birthday gift. It was electric and helped her be heard playing in a rock and roll band. She almost stripped the blue paint off of it, but didn’t. She became known as the “girl with the blue violin.” 

Her parents expected, perhaps hoped, Haley would become a classical musician. “They ate beans to help pay for me to go to ISOMATA [Idyllwild Arts summer program],” she said. For four summers she studied and played the viola.

While living in San Francisco, she learned that Queen Ida, a zydeco band leader, was preparing for a tour of Europe and needed a fiddler. Haley auditioned and the rest is history.

“I just fell in love with that music,” she said. It wasn’t until after her European tour with Queen Ida that her parents told her that she was actually a fourth generation fiddler. 

She had heard Cajun music most of her life, but it was only in the garage. Her mother was trying to help stay on the classical music course, but her father played it in the garage working on the car.

Lisa and the Zydecats formed in 1995. Since then, their music has filled eight albums and the band received a Grammy nomination in 2008 for “King Cake.”

The music is original with portions of Louisiana bayou, French Celtic, rhythm and blues and some traditional jazz. 

The Zydecos’ influences were primarily Clifton Chenier, a Grammy winner, Rockin’ Sydney, a long-time zydeco musician, and Queen Ida, an accordion player. Joe Simien, also an accordionist, was an instrumental mentor, so much so, Haley and the Zydecats did an album in honor of “The Music of Joe Simien.” She assimilated R&B listening to Bonnie Raitt. Keb’ Mo’, another Grammy winner, provided the blues influence.

While she is known for her violin playing, Haley will also pick up and play, when necessary, the mandolin, Cajun accordion, guitar, jawharp, and the reliable washboard. 

The other Zydecats are David Fraser, keyboard, accordion and harmonica, Andy Anders, vocals and bass, and Cam Tyler, the percussion unit and vocals.

Timbrewood, with Terry Jo Stratton and Jeff Hixon, will open for Lisa Haley and Zydecats next week. Timbrewood will begin the evening at 6:15 p.m. at the Butterfield Amphitheater. Haley and Zydekats start at 7 p.m.

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