So here’s part 2 of my Louisiana trip.
New Orleans kicked my ass… in the best way possible. And most of the ass kicking was done by women.
As some of you know who follow me on Facebook, or on this blog, I’ve had the good fortune to start playing out live with a great cover band, Mister Kick. Great energy, great songs, great audiences (when they actually come)… it has played a pretty large part in revitalizing music for me…. getting back to the joy of it. But I’d be lying if I said that it’s all fun and games. Hard to find great venues… hard to get people to come out… hard to get any money, etc. etc. – we still do it because we love it… and when people DO make it out, they seem to love it too.
But what I saw in NOLA… well… let’s just say that after seeing the performers I saw – I was almost embarrassed. They worked so damn hard, played and sang so well, and just exuded joy around what they were doing.
It actually started my first night in Baton Rouge. There was a band playing at the opening night called L’Angelus – four siblings from a musical family that were just phenomenal. But the bass player, Paige Rees, was one of the most amazing live performers I’ve seen to date… not just because she’s a great player and singer, though she is… and not because she works hard at it, which she clearly does… but because there wasn’t one moment where she wasn’t just radiating pure joy around the music – she just looked like she could bust right out of her shoes with joy.
I’m not exactly a spring chicken… I’ve seen a lot… but her performance just floored me. I made a point of telling her so afterwards too, while trying not to be a complete idiot about it.
Here’s just a little clip of them from a NAMM show. It doesn’t really do them justice, but it’ll give you an idea.
Fast forward three days to NOLA.
I stayed with friends originally from NY, who were kind enough to put me up in some fine accommodations behind their RV in an RV park near the airport. And for three days, I went back to the French Quarter over and over again. The first night, I was only there briefly – but in that short time, I was treated to one of those groups of young men and women who gather on a street corner at dusk and kick out some the sweetest music you ever heard – and everywhere I went, there was music.
The following night, I went back to the Quarter and spent the whole evening. What I was treated to totally changed my perspective on making music.
Starting with Lil’ Red and Big Bad…every single act I saw – and there were a bunch – worked incredibly hard, made music so joyfully, and insisted on getting it back from the audience… and they did, every time. The bands insisted on pointing out the tip jar – often. And just as often, the audience would come up and fill it.
Nancy “Lil’ Red” Gros is easily one of the hardest working performers I’ve ever seen. She never stopped moving, or interacting with the audience, or being in joy with the music… all while singing her ASS off – no breaks – for about 2.5 hours. Just brilliant. And to top it off, the band not only took the audience seriously while onstage, but offstage, they took the time to stop and talk with any audience member who wanted. I mean, for like 45 minutes.
I saw this repeated over and over and over, everywhere I went. Up here in New York – a Monday night gig would by it’s very nature be a losing proposition. But there in the Quarter, every club, from the big ones to the little corner pubs, had live music playing and people there listening – and supporting the music with their attention and their wallets.
It made me realize two really important things:
1. I wasn’t working nearly hard enough as a live musician – and I wasn’t getting in joy around it either.
2. Us northerners are going to have to stop complaining about the lack of audience and the lack of places to play. If we want great live shows, we’re going to have to make them great live shows – and go out to see and support them too. And venues are going to have to support this ecosystem as well – otherwise, we’ll be stuck with this “Gee I wish things were better around here for live gigs” mentality and situation… which would just suck.
But the icing on the cake for the trip…
Since about 2009, I’ve had an online friend named Elaine Tuttle – a kickass singer in her own right, and a hoot and a half of a being across the board. But we’ve never actually met in person, even though we’re both in New York. It’s just never happened.
Well, lo and behold… I’m there on Facebook on Tuesday morning… and I see a post from her saying that she’s in goddamned New Orleans. Not knowing whether or not this was an old post… I messaged her:
- Hey… TELL me you’re not in NOLA.
- Ok, but I am. Why, are you??
So that night, we met up in the Quarter… yep – took traveling 1/4 of the way across the country to finally meet up.
And the kicker? While we were there, she got up on stage with a local band, and proceeded to whoop ass all over the place. Here was a fellow New Yorker doing all the stuff I’ve been talking about here.
I managed to get up on stage for a jam with the Smoky Greenwell band that Monday night… and I told the audience in between songs just how much NOLA had taught me in that short time – and that I’d be bringing it back home with me. Well… 15 days after I got back to New York, I had a gig at Harmony Music in Woodstock. I had those NOLA lessons burned into me big time – and the gig was the best one I have ever had.
Yep – New Orleans (and Lil’ Red, Smoky Greenwell, Elaine Tuttle and a whole bunch of others) firmly kicked my ass. And I’m eternally grateful.
Here are some random shots from Nola: