Over 30 years of hosting Mardi Gras parties led Joe Atkins of Mount Rainier to start the Wild Anacostias.
The Zydeco band began in 2013 with just a few of Atkins lifelong friends. Today, it has 15 members, mostly local, who play brass instruments, the saxophone, drums and guitar. The band has all female vocals, including a member who sings in French.
“The core of the band is people I’ve known forever, people I know from going out and dancing, people I’ve jammed with over the years,” said Atkins. “It sort of grew out of these Mardi Gras parties I’d throw at my house, so we put together a pick-up band.”
Atkins started hosting Mardi Gras parties in law school after several trips to Louisiana in college. He grew up loving classic rock, but his taste for blues and Cajun music developed from his trips south and his experiences at Zydeco dances on the East Coast.
“I wanted to go out and learn how to dance and tons of bands were always coming up from Louisiana,” said Atkins. “It’s a huge Zydeco, Cajun dance scene up and down the East Coast. I really came to it as a listener and a dancer more than a player.”
Atkins continued hosting parties after moving to the Mount Rainier area in 2009. In 2013, the party turned into a parade.
“We got people together who play the horn and drums, and we just did it one year and just thought we’d see how it goes,” said Atkins. “It was kind of a big hit after that, so we decided to formalize it and turn it into a real band.”