A romp in the swamp

A day of blues and Cajun at Fraze Pavilion

By Brandon Semler

Photo: Ellie Lee & Blues Fury will open the Swamp Romp Blues Fest at Fraze Pavilion; photo: Ben Robinson | Schlegel Creative

The bluesy, bayou jamfest Swamp Romp Blues Fest will hit Fraze Pavillion on Sunday, June 22. The free, all-day festival will feature Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Albert Cummings, Arnett Howard and Ellie Lee & Blues Fury. 

The new format of Swamp Romp was created by the merger of two Fraze festivals: the Blues Festival and the annual Cajun/Zydeco Swamp Romp festival.  

“There were not enough dates on our calendar for both events and we didn’t want to make a choice of one or the other,” Fraze Pavillion General Manager Karen Durham explained. “So, we combined.”

The first set of the day will feature Ellie Lee & Blues Fury, a blues trio led by Lee, a powerful virtuoso with a tremendous attack on the guitar. After touring the nation with a band immediately after high school, Lee took a 25-year hiatus to focus on raising a family. She is now back in the game, cutting new tracks and playing shows all over the area. The group will take the stage at 1 p.m. 

Lee said she always looks forward to playing Fraze. 

“I fell in love with that venue,” Lee said. “I have a special place in my heart for Dayton and all our friends and fans there.” 

Trumpeteer Arnett Howard and Friends will take the stage at 3:30 p.m., bringing some Motown, New Orleans rhythm and blues and Creole with them. Howard grew up in the 1960s listening to records by Sam & Dave, Otis Redding and Dave Covay. He currently performs around the state and offers several educational music presentations for schools.

“We’re honored to be at the festival,” Howard said. 

Howard also said he looked forward to opening for Big Sam’s Funky Nation and trying to give them a run for their money in terms of performance.

“We’re going to come, we’re going to play and we’re going to make it hard for Big Sam to follow us,” Howard said.

Blues guitar will take over again at 6 p.m. as Albert Cummings takes the stage. Having started his life in his family’s home-building business, Cummings did not take up the guitar full time until the age of 27. After several records, including a few with the lauded Double Trouble as his rhythm section, Cummings is touring nationally in promotion of his most recent album, No Regrets.

Headlining the event will be Big Sam’s Funky Nation at 8:30 p.m. Big Sam is an urban funk ensemble led by energetic trombone-wielding frontman Big Sam Williams, formally of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The band’s high-energy live shows are fueled by heavy brass licks and crowd participation.

“This group played a $2 show for us back in 2012 when it was about 120 degrees on stage and less than 300 in the audience,” Durham said. “They gave 100 percent that night and we hope to have a much fuller house for them on June 22.”

Williams said he remembered that show well. 

“I remember it being very hot,” Williams said, “but we had fun.”

Fans can expect all the funk that they enjoyed last time from the group, with a bit more of a rock edge this time around.

“We’re moving up a level,” Williams said. 

The festival has been going strong since 1996, and this year, all acts will perform on the Fraze main stage. 

The 2014 Swamp Romp Blues Fest will begin at 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 22 at Fraze Pavilion, 695 Lincoln Park Blvd. The festival and music are free. For more information, please call 937.296.3300 or visit fraze.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Brandon Semler at BrandonSemler@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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