Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers ready to plug into the energy at the Black Swamp Arts Festival


BG Independent News

To celebrate the 25th year of the Black Swamp Arts Festival, the performance arts committee wanted to bring back some favorite performers from years past.

Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers certainly fill that bill. The band played town several times including sets at the 2010 and 2011 festivals that had listeners buzzing.

That feeling is mutual.

“I love Bowling Green,” Dopsie said in a telephone interview. “The people, the town, the atmosphere, I mean it’s like New Orleans part 2. It’s awesome.” That’s high praise coming from zydeco royalty.

Dopsie is the younger son of zydeco legend Alton Rubin, who performed as Rockin’ Dopsie.

His sons have adopted the “Dopsie” moniker as their own. Dwayne Dopsie’s other brothers also perform keeping their father’s old band alive.

Dwayne Dopsie literally learned accordion and zydeco at his father’s feet. His father would be at home, having gotten off the road, and would be cleaning his instrument getting ready for the next show.

“He always taught me,” Dopsie said. “‘I want you to play it the right way.’ … One thing he always showed me is zydeco is not what you hear, it’s what you feel.”

This set him up on his future course.  “This is what I want to do. I wanted to follow my father’s footsteps because I always heard it.”

But he doesn’t replicate his father’s music. “I probably have a little more aggressive style.”

The young Dopsie had the advantage of hearing not just his father’s music, but that of Clifton Chenier as well as the sounds his own contemporaries are making.

The elder Dopsie had his own father’s traditional style to build on. “I incorporate that love and passion for the music.”

Those sources all play out in a Hellraisers’ set. There are originals, traditional tunes, and covers of music by the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix.

Dopsie said he remembers the Black Swamp Arts Festival really getting into his band’s rendition of a Jerry Lee Lewis classic.

The tune was familiar but had the Hellraisers’ distinct twist and energy.

That’s part of the enduring appeal of live performance. “More people are gravitating toward people actually playing music,” he said. A listener can go to a club and listen to a DJ spinning discs, but “you will never get the real effect of watching a musician playing.

Showmanship, he said, is “engaging with the crowd and making them feel like they’re part of the show, making them feel like this is where they need to be.”

Putting on that kind of show demands energy of the performers. Dopsie said they imbibe in “no evil substances, no alcohol. We take nothing to enhance our energy, just the love of the music and seeing people’s reaction to the artistry they’re hearing. That’s what creates our energy.”

That energy will be on display in Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers’ two sets at the festival. They will headline the show on Friday, Sept, 10, at 10 p.m., and on Saturday, Sept. 9, they’ll play at 4 p.m. on the Family Stage before moving their gear into Howard’s Club H where they’ll play an after-hours show starting about  midnight.