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Aug. 4, 2005

Collins and Squeeze Bayou bring stylish Cajun to sweltering Silver Spring

by Merlyn Deng, Online Editor-in-Chief
Swimsuit clad toddlers and children prance about in the bubbling water fountain in Downtown Silver Spring as Blair computer science teacher Karen Collins and her Cajun & Zydeco band, Squeeze Bayou, tune up and play a few measures before the beginning of another Silver Spring Swings Summer Concert Series performance, on Thursday, July 28.

A few minutes pass as the crowd gets excited as 7:00 approaches on the big clock at the plaza. The moment comes, and with a fiery opening to match her flaming boots, Collins's crisp and genuinely country voice and lively fiddle open the two hour concert with a Cajun song, "Jongle a moi."

Collins is quickly joined by the other five members in her band: Matt Levine on lap steel; Brian Simms on accordion and vocals; Fred Feinstein on guitar; Kevin Enoch on bass and David Lopez on drums. Adults tap their fingers and smile in amusement as children bounce up and down in excitement.

The children especially have more than just the music to smile for. Every concert event offers free animal balloons and face painting for children, activities which have been popular in the past, from 7-8 p.m. There are free raffles - during intermission and after the concert - in which adults and children can win Silver Sprung merchandise and gift certificates donated by local businesses. This year, the Concert Series is helping to raise money for a $30,000 permanent restoration of the penguin mural beneath to the Silver Spring Metro station by selling penguin t-shirts, posters and mugs.

But aside from fresh entertainment, the 12th annual event also serves to help the collection of restaurants and shops nestled in Silver Plaza by drawing community residents to Silver Spring, which in its previous life was home to many boarded-up buildings and foundering businesses, and attracted very few crowds. Susan Hoffmann, the Marketing & Special Events Manager for Downtown Silver Spring, says that these events "[bring] people in and [make] the place economically healthy."

But now the crowds are here. Dancers of all ages and type fill the plaza. Many couples are waltzing or two-stepping, but more jump in just to dance.

Dale Barnhard is seen during almost every song, dancing or observing the dancers. "I've been here three times. [There is] a good mix of people and dancers. Everyone does [his or her] own style and everybody has fun," she says.

The Concert Series has drawn people even from far away, such as North Carolina resident Natasha Gerstmann and her five-year-old, Carrie. Gerstmann travels to Silver Spring every other month and enjoys Collins's concert immensely. "This is a really good Cajun band," she says.

Richard Jourdenais and his wife also frequent the Concert Series regularly, with their lawn chairs in tow. "We try and come every week," he says. "We've been coming to concerts ever since eight years ago."

Jourdenais always finds the Concert Series appealing, thanks to its wide selection of genres - from Collins's Cajun to symphony orchestra music.

Squeeze Bayou itself provides its audiences with an appealing mixture of language and culture in its music. Singing her selections in Cajun French and English, Collins also occasionally brings out an instrument native to Louisiana: the metallic rub board.

The crowds don't diminish as Collins starts to sing the last song. "We had a large, enthusiastic crowd and there was a lot of energy in the air," she says afterwards.

Hoffmann agrees. "[Downtown Silver Spring] is just the new hot place to be," she says. "It doesn't get any better than this: people dancing in the streets."

Squeeze Bayou's next performance will be on Friday August 26, at 5344 Gainsborough Drive, Fairfax, Virginia from 7:30-8:30 p.m.



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  • Jung on August 4, 2005 at 10:37 PM
    Very nicely written. Good Job! =D
  • jmh on August 5, 2005 at 10:51 AM
    nice review merlyn. keep 'em coming
  • 05 on September 9, 2005 at 10:47 AM
    Go Ms. Collins!
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