Guest Author - Chris Curtis
The moment you step foot into the legendary Whiskey River Dance Hall, you feel the vibe. When Geno is playing there, the vibe intensifies. You can feel it in the air. There is a buzz of excitement waiting for the show to start.
Early arrival is necessary because parking is limited at Angelle's Whiskey River Landing and it's sure to be a packed house. Located in Henderson, LA, it sits beyond the levee at the edge of the Atchafalaya Basin. Dancers know it for its early Sunday evening dances.
Recently renovated to repair damage from a 2008 Hurricane that took its roof, the dance floor has been enlarged to accommodate the growing dance community. It's not a fancy place with its plywood dance floor, yet perfect for sliding those leather soles in a hot Zydeco or Whiskey River Jitterbug. A full length bar lines the back wall, where the "bar maids" hustle to cover patrons' orders from one end to the other. You can hear the "tip bell" ring repeatedly giving thanks for the tips that pays their wages.
The walls surrounding the stage area are decorated with laces of Mardi Gras beads. It has an austere charm in its minimized décor that gives way to the beauty of the swamp behind it. The stage area backs up to three full sized bay windows overlooking the Henderson swamp. The swamp is rich with herons, egrets, swallows, cormorants and other water fowl who feed on the fish and insects that thrive in the rich vegetation. On a dreary day, the Cyprus trees take on an ethereal feel as the misty fog lingers about while the sky darkens at dusk.
When Geno Delafose and his French Rockin' Boogie play, dancers come from all over to dance. It's a wonderful mix of young, old, locals and tourists mingling together in the common bond of Zydeco music.
It's a grand entrance to start the show. Geno smiles and shakes the hands of familiar dancers from near and far. In a touching show of respect, Geno removes his hat momentarily as he welcomes, Bob, an older gent from the Denver dance community. Then Geno and the band take the stage and crank it up for 4 hours; mixing in a steady groove of zydeco, waltzes and slow sultry blues tunes. This is clearly Geno's theater. The synergy between the band and the dancers is electrifying.
At the end of the show, Geno announces the traditional "bar dance" as several dancers climb up on the bar to dance to Geno's signature tune, "Dancing All Night Long". Geno is an absolute favorite among the Zydeco dancers but to dance to his brand of Zydeco at Whiskey River is the ultimate experience. Somehow it's different than any other venue. What a fun treat!
The editor paid the normal cover charge for this performance at Whiskey River.