Like the Junkyard Band in 2008 and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux in 2007, Rob Curto’s Forro For All turned out to be the smash-hit dance party of the 2009 American Folk Festival. Both sets the band played were among the many highlights of the festival. The wildly energetic Friday night performance inspired mass jumping and clapping, while the rainy Saturday afternoon set brought couples, newly versed in the traditional forro style of dancing, to their feet.
Curto, a New York City native who spent several years learning the roots of forro in northeastern Brazil, brought his infectious personality and spectacular accordion skills to the dance stage. No bass player was needed for the four-piece band — the low end of Curto’s accordion brought plenty of deep, funky foundation, as he tickled the tiny ivories on his machine, drawing out the melodies. A guitarist and two percussionists were all that were needed to round out the sound.
And what a sound it was. Landing in among merengue, zydeco and Afro-beat, Curto’s take on forro starts in Brazil and ends somewhere in the wilds of the great diaspora of musical traditions. As befits a New York City musician, there’s a little bit of everything in there — bebop jazz, funk and straight-up rock could be heard at different times. Regardless of genre, it’s an inviting, irresistable melange, and, judging by the crowd reaction at the AFF, it was a welcome addition to the festival lineup.
Saturday’s miserable weather didn’t dampen the spirits of those gathered to hear him. Though the audience was not as large as it was Friday night, they still danced energetically, many soaked to the bone, sporting rain boots and ponchos. Some things, even the rain can’t stop.