Thanks to the government shutdown, Glen Echo Park has closed, and Saturday’s annual Dancing by the Bayou Festival of zydeco and Cajun music has relocated to Blob’s Park, a privately owned polka establishment in Jessup, Md. The celebration of Gulf Coast song and dance will feature the same schedule—Step Rideau and the Zydeco Outlaws, Rusty Metoyer and Zydeco Krush, and Jesse Lege and Bayou Brew each performing an afternoon and evening set. The Wild Anacostias will also do a short evening set.
Step Rideau and his band hail from Houston, Texas. In addition to this weekend’s festival, they’ll also perform tonight at the Greenbelt American Legion Post 136. Accordionist Rideau spoke with Washington City Paper by phone.
Born and raised in the small town of Lebeau, La., Rideau moved to Houston in the 1980s to do construction, but soon turned to music. After regularly attending zydeco gigs in Houston, which has a large Creole population, Rideau became inspired by accordionist Boozoo Chavis. After first messing around with a toy squeezebox, he says he purchased a used, damaged one at a pawn shop. “With the little skill that I had as a jack-of-all trades, I patched it together,” Rideau says. After about six months of practice and studying other accordionists, “the next thing you know I was playing music and got a professional accordion,” he says.
Over eight albums (plus a ninth one that’s on the way), Rideau and his band have blended soulful vocals with old-school fingerwork, rubboard, drums, and speedy guitar riffs. While he has occasionally added a rapper or an R&B vocalist, Rideau prefers classic zydeco with call-and-response vocals from his bandmates. “It’s passed down in my genes,” he says. “My grandfather was a guitarist and a drummer who played rocking blues, and a sister sang in the church choir.” As for his lyrics, Rideau says that “with zydeco the beat is so busy, so high energy, it’s hard to get a full story, so sometimes it works better with short phrases.” That explains tunes with titles like “Lebeau Two-Step” and “Outlaw Dip.”
Don’t expect too many slow jams from Rideau. He’ll occasionally play a waltz, but he wants his audience to be out of their seats and moving to the music. “My set is pretty much the same,” he says. “It’s a down-home, foot-stomping party.”
Step Rideau and the Zydeco Outlaws perform Friday, Oct. 4 at 8:30 p.m. at Greenbelt American Legion Post 136, 6900 Greenbelt Road, Greenbelt. $18. The group also performs Saturday, Oct. 5 at noon at the Dancing by the Bayou Festival at Blob’s Park, 8024 Max Blobs Park Road, Jessup. $30-$50.