For decades, the place to go for live music, drinks, dancing and hijinks year-round was the underground space of 16 Bay View St. in Camden. The Bay View Street Garage, also the name of the entire brick block that once housed Peter Ott’s, Bayview Street Cinema and many other businesses (including the Camden Herald), became Gilbert’s Publick House in 1998; the space also housed a bar called The Bag and, briefly, a Margarita's Mexican Restaurant.

Gilbert’s closed in 2010 and, when the building re-opens this fall as a four-story hotel, the former pub will begin a new life as meeting room space. Those who wish to have one last night of dancing among those storied walls will get the chance during Camden Winterfest’s annual block party dance Saturday, Feb. 6. Local band Just Teachers will play beginning 7 p.m. Admission for the dance will be $5 at the door; there will be a cash bar.

Camden Winterfest 2016

The dance is part of Winterfest’s concluding weekend, which includes the 26th annual U.S. National Toboggan Championships at the Snow Bowl. The 14th annual Camden Winterfest is already under way, thanks to this year’s neighborhood snow sculpture contest, and has taken Maine’s Mardi Gras as its theme. The first weekend’s events include community ice-carving Saturday afternoon, Jan. 30, in the Camden Amphitheatre and public library grounds; the Maine State Snow Sculpting Championships on the Village Green, which culminate Sunday, Jan. 31, with a noon awards ceremony; and more. See the complete schedule of events posted below and online at

Included in coming days are several film screenings and a professional puppet show (see links below); and the annual Winterfest concert at the Camden Opera House.

Chenier brings on the good times

Mardi Gras actually falls on Feb. 9, but the carnival season is upon us, offering a celebratory heat to counter the seasonal temps. “Laissez les bons temps rouler — let the good times roll!” is the theory; and zydeco, originally house party music that combined traditional Creole, African-American and Cajun music, is the practice.

Coming to the Midcoast Thursday night, Feb. 4, to demonstrate the compelling power of Mardi Gras music is C.J Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band he inherited from his father, Clifton Chenier, the King of Zydeco himself. The 7 p.m. concert will begin with the local rockers Dolphin Strikers; after intermission, the night will go into full zydeco mode.

C.J. Chenier (born Clayton Joseph Thompson) grew up during the 1960s in the housing projects of Port Arthur, Texas, so his musical influences comprised a different kind of gumbo that included funk, soul, jazz and Motown. This savory stew, served up via piano, tenor sax and flute, got a new/old recipe when Chenier, a music student at Texas Southern University, began performing with his famous father. His on-the-road education led to C.J.’s mastering the accordion and the ability to front a world-class band.

When Clifton Chenier died in 1987, C.J. inherited his father’s accordion, as well as the Red Hot Louisiana Band, and took on the challenge of honoring both his legacy and his own musical passions. Chenier also performs and records with a wide roster of music makers, including Paul Simon, who asked him to play accordion on “Rhythm of the Saints,” follow-up album to the groundbreaking “Graceland,” and join him on tour. Chenier’s 2011 album “Can’t Sit Down” was nominated for a Grammy; in 2014, he was a main-stage performer at the North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland.

Chenier describes zydeco as "happy feet music," upbeat dance tunes that include blues, boogie, waltz, some funk and the original zydeco two-step played on accordion, washboard and drums.

Tickets for the C.J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band concert are $18 in advance and will be $22 at the door. They are available online at or by calling the box office at 470-7066. Tickets also are available at the Camden Town Office weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and at HAV II and Manny and Karyl’s in Camden; The Green Store in Belfast; and The Grasshopper Shop in Rockland.