Special/Signature Issues » 2014 Folk Festival

Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers



Style: Zydeco

Friday: 9 p.m., Dominion Dance Pavilion.
Saturday: 5:15 p.m., Dominion Dance Pavilion.
Sunday: 2:30 p.m., Dominion Dance Pavilion

Dwayne Dopsie's massive stature says linebacker more than Louisiana music man and makes a full-sized accordion look like a kid's toy squeeze box. It's a wonder there's anything left after a fiery set in which he hammers on the instrument flanked by nasty funk grooves, washboard rips and vocals as sweet as fresh pralines.

The 35-year-old has a difficult time putting his love of zydeco music into words. There's a pause at the end of the line when I ask about his first musical memory.

"It was played all throughout my house. It was everywhere," says the Lafayette native, the youngest of eight children. His father, Rockin' Dopsie, is a zydeco legend who recorded with the likes of Paul Simon and Bob Dylan before his death in 1993 of heart failure.

"My father was my everything. My inspiration, best friend and the person I would always look up to," he says. "In my eyes, the sun rose and set by his words."

By the time the youngest Dopsie started his band at age 19, his father had died. "He never had the chance to see us," he says, "but I'm pretty sure he's looking down and proud though."

There's no doubt the senior Dopsie would be thrilled. You've never seen someone play a button accordion like Dwayne Dopsie. While his first instrument was a washboard, he quickly gravitated toward the accordion at age 7. "It was my calling, it's in my genes," he says.

Today, Dopsie acknowledges that he and his band are rarely home in New Orleans because of touring commitments. They're also in the process of recording a new album that he describes as "the heart and soul of zydeco" with a steamy side of blues baked in, which he feels keeps things fresh — something that's important when dealing with more traditional genres.

"While a lot of the beats and rhythms are the same," he says, "having that extra push of love for it and your energy keep it feeling new." Crowds have been known to climb over barricades in an attempt to join the guys on stage, something the frontman calls "pretty intense."

"I don't want you to say my show was just OK. I want to give you that wow factor and make sure you go home happy," Dopsie says. "Three days of this is gonna just kill 'em," he adds, laughing.

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