O’Jays’ Throwdown Kicks Off Wolf Trap Season

It was a relatively hip scene for a black tie DC fundraiser at Wolf Trap’s annual kick-off of its summer season on Tuesday night. It was the 35th year for the spring gala, which celebrates both the opening of the Filene Center for outdoor concerts and raises money for the Wolf Trap Foundation’s education programs – one facet involves putting master artists into schools to train teachers. With its rolling lawn and a cavernous wooden hall that’s best suited for acoustic music, Wolf Trap has been a favored destination for those who love symphonies in the park and Show Tunes!, but its line-up has often left a lot to be desired for concert-goers with more diverse or more youthful tastes. That has been changing. This year’s schedule shows the venue’s continuing effort to ditch its stodgy ways, although the Trap is still largely catering to a boomer audience. Yes, A Prairie Home Companion is the Memorial Day opener, but the June 1 Lynyrd Skynryd show is sold out. And there’s the naked grab for the youth market with a double booking of moe. and North Mississippi Allstars on June 10.


At the gala–where tables of 10 went for $5,500 to $20,000–local and national politicians and captains of industry boogied to the 70s sounds of the O’Jays.

Gotta admit, there’s something a little incongruous about, say, former Louisiana Senator John Breaux bellied up to the front of the stage, bopping his head to “Livin’ for the Weekend,” and the protest anthem “Back Stabbers.”


It was a Vegas-style, tightly-managed show, complete with restrictions that limited photos to no-flash and first-two-songs only. But the O’Jays were bumpin’, complete with the obligatory extended verbal shout-out, “they ain’t no party like an O’Jays party,” which was enthusiastically enjoined by close to 500 mostly white, over-50-year-olds.

The patrons were in a dancing mood after having slogged through a sumptuous-sounding but relatively tasteless spread of poached lobster prepared two ways and kebobs of lamb, beef and salmon with basmati rice and steamed carrots, and of course, bottomless wine.


The highlight, as often is the case at rubber chicken dinners, was dessert, a frozen mousse of fine champagne and mango, complete with decorative chocolates that ended up in heaps on busboys’ trays.


The O’Jays party did stop, at about 10:15 PM. Sharp. Everyone exited the grand tent that had been erected on the lower meadow behind the Filene Center and waited with their Mobil 1 goodie bags (complete with 10% off an oil change at a Mobil station in Virginia) while the valets retrieved their vehicles. Let the summer begin.

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