Boogaloo Swamis: live in Cambridge MA
@ Passim Coffeehouse / review from the Boston Phoenix
Now that the temperate solo troubadours dominate the coffeehouse market, it's easy to forget the days when folk basements often showcased a more rambunctious pack of performers. The old Club 47 offered a grab bag of quasi-folk noisemakers from the Charles River Valley Boys to visiting blues brawlers like Muddy Waters and Junior Wells. But thanks to a well hyped acoustic-music renaissance, local concert moguls have been steadily luring away both high-priced ensembles and seasoned folkie stars, leaving the coffeehouses with a dwindling pool of quality singer-songwriters. In an admirable attempt to stalk some new game, the Passim promoters tossed in a wild card by booking the Boogaloo Swamis, a five piece band of local eclectics ostensibly dispensing Cajun and zydeco dance music. Less selective than native Louisiana purveyors of those styles, like Beausoliel and Queen Ida, the BOOGALOO SWAMIS spliced in enough blues rave-ups and plain rock and roll to re-create the Cambridge MA make-shift-dropout mode of Kweskin's Jug Band and the Holy Modal Rounders.
On stage at Passim, washboard-clad Mickey Bones led his quintet through a smorgasbord of bayou standards ("Jolie Blon"), upbeat zydeco (Cleveland Crochet's "Sugar Bee"), country crossovers (Hank Williams' "Jambalaya"), and saucy blues stomps (Howlin' Wolf's "Built for Comfort"). Guitarist Joe Pete crooned Creole French on "Back Door" and "Port Arthur Blues". Accordion and fiddle twirled Mardi Gras sounds behind rejuvenated warhorses like "Diggy Diggy Lo". Ever true to real tradition, the Boogaloo Swamis frequently disassembled and rearranged zesty blues calls. They hit their peak when Bones took a deadpan tenor turn on Little Feat's "Rocket In My Pocket" with fiddle slithering over low accordion drones. If the folkies begin to adopt more renegades like the Boogaloo Swamis, coffeehouses everywhere may start widening their dance floors and start sneaking rum into the hot cider.
Whether playing at rowdy rock clubs like the now defunct Rat in Boston MA or performing at a corporate function, the Boogaloo Swamis know how to entertain the crowd.