Two weekends ago in New Orleans’ Armstrong Park, the Grammy-nominated Bonsoir, Catin made its debut at the Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival. The nearly all-female Lafayette band adds swamp pop, zydeco and rock ’n’ roll to its Cajun foundation.
“We love all kinds of music,” said Kristi Guillory, the group’s co-founder, singer and accordion player. “Whenever I write a new song, it’s got its own thing, but it’s still danceable, by the grace of God.”
Bonsoir, Catin will play its next hometown gig Saturday at Artmosphere.
Guillory and Bonsoir, Catin were thrilled about playing the Cajun-Zydeco Festival. Performance opportunities in New Orleans for Cajun and zydeco bands are somewhat rare. Bonsoir, Catin’s festival show was one of its infrequent appearances there.
In the 1990s, when Guillory was a teenager, she played a weekly engagement in New Orleans at Mulate’s Restaurant. She gave the job up to attend the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Francophone studies and a master’s degree in folklore studies.
“I love playing for the New Orleans people,” Guillory said. “It’s a fun dance crowd. It was good to reconnect with some of those folks.”
Bonsoir, Catin’s show at the Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival — one of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation’s free festivals — followed the group’s handful of appearances at Jazz Fest. The band returned there this year for a set at the Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage.
“It was fantastic,” Guillory said. “I love the whole vibe of that stage. It’s just a great party.”
Some previous Bonsoir, Catin Jazz Fest performances took place at the Lagniappe Stage, a smaller venue that has much less space for dancing than the Fais Do-Do Stage.
“When we play here in Louisiana, everybody’s dancing,” Guillory said. “What the dance floor is doing is just as important as what we do on stage. It’s one big thing.”
Bonsoir, Catin formed spontaneously 10 years ago. The group’s current membership includes co-founding members Guillory, singer-guitarist Christine Balfa (daughter of the famous Cajun musician Dewey Balfa) and singer, fiddler and violin maker Anya Burgess.
“We all really needed to play music,” Guillory recalled. “It was kind of magical the way it happened. We found each other at the right time.”
Because members of Bonsoir, Catin had families with young children, the band never did much touring. That hasn’t changed, but the group did find time to record three albums, including its Grammy-nominated 2014 release, “Light the Stars.”
The Grammy nomination shocked Guillory.
“When you don’t release a lot of records and you don’t tour a lot, you fall off the radar,” she said. “We didn’t have a press agent. We didn’t tour to support the album.”
Bonsoir, Catin recorded “Light the Stars” at Joel Savoy’s Studio SavoyFaire in Eunice. Guillory co-produced and Savoy served as co-producer and engineer. His record company, Valcour, released the album.
“Joel is not the kind of guy who sits at the controls and doesn’t take an active part in what’s happening,” Guillory said. “He’s such a creative engineer.”
All six members of Bonsoir, Catin flew to Los Angeles in February to attend the Grammy Awards. Three Cajun music acts — Bonsoir, Catin, The Magnolia Sisters and Jo-El Sonnier — received nominations for best regional roots music album.
“The whole weekend was like a buzz,” Guillory said. “All of us, the Cajun bands, got to hang out together. We were palling around with The Magnolia Sisters, and then we’d see Joel Savoy. I had to get a 16-passenger stretch limo to take two bands and their dates to the ceremony. It was a fun Louisiana party.”
Bonsoir, Catin felt no jealousy when Sonnier won the Grammy.
“We were really pumped for Jo-El,” Guillory said. “He’s been doing it for so long that and he made a great record. His speech was so touching.”