The Bass Geek - Words about Music, Circuitry, and New Orleans
The Bass Geek

Good Neighbors

Somehow, gathering with a bunch of great people involved in New Orleans music and seeing Victor Wooten at the Howlin' Wolf yesterday got me down a little bit. Not that there wasn't talent, energy, and vibrancy in either place - it was obvious there was a ton of history and passion in what everybody did. But the gathering was the result of club owners and musicians trying to figure out how they can continue playing and performing in a city where labyrinthine zoning and permit regulations make it impossible to successfully manage a live music venue without a grandfather clause. In a place that gave (and continues to give) the world so much great music, it's technically illegal to rehearse in a home or have a poetry reading in a coffeeshop without a live music permit. It's just staggering. And unfortunately, there's a ton of legal work to perform in order to remedy this situation - although I'm an outsider at this point with no knowledge of the system here, I'm assuming this will be a monumental task. But we're talking about laws designed (in the words of one legal expert) to keep rock and roll out of the city - that ship has sailed. This city needs a full revision of zoning and permit laws to at least make it possible to work out live venue and performance rules.

At the end of the Victor Wooten show (which was a typically wonderful affair), he made a plea to just keep the video clips short when the audience inevitably posts on YouTube or other service and not give away the music. Obviously, there's differing schools of thought on how posting the video really affects sales and such (I point you to Steve Lawson for the extremely well-stated counterpoint to this). But it was a sad punctuation on an otherwise fine performance.

Through the whole day, the phrase "good neighbor" kept popping up in several contexts:

  • Bar owners making sure to reduce the amount of trash, noise, and parking issues in their neighborhoods
  • Neighborhood residents respecting the culture and history of neighborhoods they may have just moved into and not working to "Disneyfy" the place
  • Working with neighborhoods to make sure your voice is heard and understood
  • Respecting the wishes and needs of everybody in a neighborhood and being easy to live with

One of the lawyers at the meeting acknowledged her tendency to Pollyanna-ism, and I'm afraid this blog post tends to that as well. But wouldn't being a good musical neighbor go a long way here? Understanding that music is a part of culture everywhere, that it needs to be given room to grow and develop, and that both sides need to foster good relationships here to build on what we have (no need to review the RIAA and the textbook case of how they did EVERYTHING wrong).

Just a thought.


Made It!

For the most part, I'm here and functional in my new home of New Orleans. Moving a ton of musical gear is never an easy feat, but compressing it into a smaller area than before is truly a challenge. On the plus side, I managed to turn up three or four pedal power adapters I'd forgotten about - that pedal board will be much happier with less batteries now.

Now that everything is back together, I should be able to get the Playboy Psychonauts EP uploaded to Bandcamp for sale to the general public within the next week or so. Still tweaking the files a bit, but everything else should be ready to go.

And Victor Wooten is in town next week, with a bonus Anthony Wellington clinic earlier in the day, at Howlin' Wolf. Gotta manage my work schedule.

And, of course, gotta find a gig now. ūüôā So I'll be hitting the streets - let me know if you hear anything, okay? And if you're just running across this blog for the first time, feel free to peruse sound samples at my SoundCloud site.


New Orleans Wrap-Up

The last day and night were kind of a blur, mostly because we were three days into a big festival and were probably achey and a bit dehydrated. So this is more of a list of memorable moments more than a full recap:

  • The Blind Boys of Alabama were one of the most moving performances I'd ever seen. Even on well-worn songs, they managed to wring out so much soul and emotion.
  • Ozomatli and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, while stylistically different, were forces of nature with remarkably similar impacts. Not a single audience member standing still.
  • Did Trombone Shorty make a Juvenile guest appearance both entertaining and enjoyable? Indeed, he did. Nice work.
  • Some of the most memorable occasions were getting ambushed by random musical events, whether it was a robot, a bull-shaped music cart, or a marching band (even though I think one of the cheerleaders molested my wife)
  • The bass was on full display, moreso than any other festival I think I've seen (setting up stage plots on the fly is terrible and thankless work). Whether it was Wil-Dog Abers from Ozomatli, Norwood from Fishbone, or Erykah Badu's set, every bass note was clear, distinct and well-mixed. Kudos to the players and the sound techs.

We ended our stay with a quick stop at a pizza joint near our hotel. No sooner had we sat down than a Latin-tinged dance band was playing and the dance floor was filled with salsa aficionados. Great way to end the weekend.


New Orleans, Night 1

Even in late October, the humidity clings down here as soon as you get off the plane. And it stuck around through an amazing Italian dinner, coffee and ramd musical happenings. Somebody in a bright pink beehive treated Frenchman St. to some free jazz-funk, and the group met all my standards for excellence:

1. Stellar bass (via tuba).
2. Horns supporting the song when not soloing or playing the head.

Tomorrow should bring vintage guitar hunting and the first day of Voodoo. And more humidity. But the former should make the latter bearable.


A Quick Summary of Music and Podcasts

Radio Radio has Pete Francis (Dispatch) Friday night and Hillbilly Casino Saturday.  The former is jammy, the latter is rockabilly.

Sam's Saloon features Holding Mercury and Deep Cricket Night (both from Chicago) Friday night and DJ HaBlack O’Bama (from Other People’s Money) Saturday.

Deano's Vino hosts New Augusta Friday night and the John Harden Project on Saturday.  Also, it's Swing Night at the Fountain Square Theater.

The new IMN podcast can be downloaded here or heard at the site or at WFYI HD2 Thursdays at 4pm.

I'll be in New Orleans for a long weekend for the Voodoo Music Festival, and I'll most likely be blogging or Twittering from there.  Keep the place together while I'm gone.


New Orleans, Fourth Night

The day itself was spent collecting the requisite souvenirs and such from various locations (and wasting some time watching a lackluster Steelers game).  After obtaining the necessary cultural detritus, including a sizable number of snuff bottles (they were on sale), we absconded for pizza and the start of our musical adventures.  Even though there wasn't anything live at One Eyed Jacks, it was still worth the stop to hear a jukebox that featured Betty Davis, Dio, Turbonegro and Funkadelic.  The red velvet wallpaper and black velvet nudes complemented the place well.

From there, we took in some more Kermit Ruffin at the Blue Nile.  Tight funk and jazz band - well worth a second viewing.  While my wife didn't pass out early or anything, there was evidently something in the vodka and tonics that promoted zombification.  Not in a drooling roofie sort of way, but in a clawing, constant-demanding-for-brains sort of way.  You have to be careful with such things in this town, but luckily we managed to escape without incident.

Also, Jennifer thinks she might have run into Keith Urban, in all of his tiny, spa-enhanced glory.  So, there you go.  Thank you for that, Sugar Bowl.

We're trying to decide now what to do with New Year's Eve - Morning 40 Federation at One Eyed Jacks, Dumpstaphunk and Porter/Batiste/Stoltz at Howlin' Wolf's, or the celebration downtown.  Comments? 


New Orleans, Third Night

Kurt Vonnegut’s Confetti #59The music had quite a bit to overcome this evening, as torrential rain poured over the city and the city's restaurants conspired to keep us from finishing dinner until about 11:15pm (I'm not going to name the restaurants, but I would ask those folks who work there not to accept reservations over the phone and then deny that they'd take reservations for a table of two when we actually arrive. I'd also ask the other place not to quote a 45-minute wait and then take 2 hours. Feh.).

Between the rain and the residual frustration with food service in general, we decided not to venture further and decided to take whatever Frenchman St. would offer on the way back to the hotel. It managed to salvage the evening with Bob French's birthday party at Ray's Boom Boom Room. It was a soulful and jazzy take on just about every song in the New Orleans songbook, performers rotated on- and off-stage to offer their harmonies or song choices, and I was just happy to be able to get in for the party. Thanks to all who put that event together - you managed to salvage the night.

EDIT: I also forgot to mention the tenacious performance of the brass band in last night's downpour. That's dedication.

DOUBLE EDIT: I also forgot to mention that Frenchman St. offered some death metal, which we politely declined. It did sound intriguing, though.


New Orleans, First Night

After a rather rough flight, including multiple delays, birds sucked into intake valves, horribly random seat assignments and a pledge never to fly Northwest again, we finally made it to New Orleans. It's much as we remember it, except for the absence of mobile command stations on the medians from last year. Baby steps, I suppose. After a quick meal of thai, coffee at Cafe Du Monde and drinks at the R Bar, we took in some of the music. There was the obligatory street brass band performance, and then we returned to the Maple Leaf for an amazing show from Johnny Vidacovich's trio. George Porter, Jr. wasn't there this time, but the group didn't disappoint at all. Grimy funk in the Maple Leaf was exactly what we needed to get over the flight nightmare.

My wife also wishes to inform the readers of this blog that it was I that cried "Uncle" first this night and not her, upsetting the normal balance of the universe and surely foretelling the end of days.


Second Verse, Same As The First

So we're headed back to New Orleans for the new year this year, and I've been looking ahead at the music calendar for some ideas of things to do while we're there (now that we've gotten some of the tourist stuff out of the way, I look forward to sleeping later and enjoying more of the nightlife).  The funny thing is that some of the big shows we saw down there last year are coming around again.  George Porter and Johnny Vidacovich at the Maple Leaf?  Yep.  Eddie Bo and Snooks Eaglin at Mid-City Rock N' Bowl Check.  Dr. John at House of Blues?  Mais oui, ma cheri.

These shows were good enough to demand a return visit, I'd think.  We were so exhausted that we didn't get to catch the whole thing, so there's certainly more to be heard. And watching George Porter play bass is a revelation. These folks are legends.  Plus, there's a Toadies reunion while we're down there, and I'd like to relive my college radio days.  This is going to be a lot of fun.