Every species of dancer was sighted at the Louisiana Swamp Romp on Sunday. Wolf Trap's annual music fest celebrating beer, beads and all things bayou is a welcoming habitat for everyone from debonair two-steppers and foot-stomping enthusiasts to overeager twirlers and stumbling, bumbling, drunk-off-their-axis hoofers.
But the lineup for the show on this steamy afternoon guaranteed that the dancing would be plentiful no matter the skill level. It takes Calvinist reserve to stay seated during music performed by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Cajun music star Steve Riley, zydeco whiz Geno Delafose and bluesman Jon Cleary.
Born in England but a Louisianan by temperament, keyboardist and guitarist Cleary was first up with a sultry set of New Orleans blues and funk that was a tad too loud but inspired the first of the day's many gyrations. By the time the towering Delafose and his band, French Rockin' Boogie, arrived onstage, the crowd was sufficiently warmed up and took up his entreaties to join the fun. The band's lively, staccato zydeco beat helped incite frolicking on the high-voltage "Bernadette" and a reworked version of Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World."
Riley and his band, the Mamou Playboys, were underwhelming in the first half of their set. Perhaps the heat was getting to them. Riley even suggested that Wolf Trap remove the seats and replace them with a swimming pool next year. Not a bad idea -- certainly a better one than inviting everyone to sing along on the chorus to a song no one knows. Talk about dead air. But the band picked up steam with "Bon Reve" and "Oh Mom," which salvaged a mediocre set.
In its fifth decade, the ever-changing and now multi-generational Preservation Hall Jazz Band wrapped up the festival with the day's most energetic and interesting performance. Any misconceptions that the group exists simply as an item for tourists to the Big Easy to check off their to-do lists were quickly dispelled. An instrumental version of the spiritual "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" was moving and sublime. So too was "Shake That Thing," but in a totally different way. Only the officially dance-impaired sat that one out.
-- Joe Heim