Saturday, April 18, 2009
French Quarter Festival; My Favorite Picks.
I love watching Coco Robicheaux play by The River. It just seems like the most natural place in the world for him to be, standing up there, dressed like a cross between Johnny Cash and Steven Tyler, arms raised to heaven, singing to the world. He was joined today by the usual suspects, including Irene Sage, Mike Hood & Dave Easly, as well as the standing members of his club band (sorry about the names, guys) and much of the material I have heard before.At the same time, that’s a lot of what brought me here, the prospect of hearing the stories, the testimony, the blessings that fall from Coco like water from a rain cloud. At one point a couple next to me turned and said, “He ought to be a preacher.” “He is”, I replied. “He’s performed weddings at my house”, I told them, a true fact. “But are they legal?” asked the man. “Everything is legal here”, I answered, “as long as you don’t get caught.” While my joke about New Orleans may be untoward in certain company, it is true New Orleans. Just like Coco Robicheaux. By the time he got to playing Walk With the Spirit, from his Spirit Land album, a landmark of hoodoo blues and swampy rock and roll that set him apart by a distance too great to measure, well, let’s just say that Church was in session. The offerings here are as diverse as the cultures that bred them, and as the paths that have led Coco to this time & place. There is, in the collection plate today, old time soul music, and the R&B of the Chitlin Circuit, the gospel known only to the rural south, and the blazing guitar interplay, sounding much like Jerry Garcia and Muddy Waters, mixed madly in the same cocktail. There is pain & truth, suffering and salvation, the voice of mortality and the wisdom of ages. So there he is, standing before the mighty Mississippi, arms raised to the heavens, growling to the sky about the purity of spirit that carries him, me, you, all of us, through the world we think we know, and we are transformed by his presence, as he is transformed by ours. Something Is Happening Here. The band moves along like a giant rippling muscle hidden deep beneath the Spanish moss, the guitars and keyboards swelling and voices filling out the cloying jasmine and humid air, as we are led Back Home, wherever that may be, by this growling preacher’s somehow lilting words. As the song rose to a fever pitch near the end, a large flock of birds began circling over the stage, flying in tighter and tighter patterns. I turned to my friend and warned him then; “This is either turning in to a chapter from The Stand, or somebody dropped their fries.” In the end, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that we were there the day that Coco sang by The River. ——————————————- IF there were such a thing as real pirate music, it would be The Zydepunks. There are many great Zydeco players in southeast Louisiana, too many to try to name here. Somehow, the Zydepunks transcend that genre, and open the doors to other lands, from Klezmer music to eastern European gypsy jazz, Mediterranean dance music and beyond. The combination of accordion and violin is not uncommon in The Peoples’ Music, as it appears in smatterings across the globe. The uses of electric bass and drum kit are not that far removed from the stand up bass and trap kit that one might find in a strange underground cabaret, or around a gypsy fire. The fervor with which it is embraced here is the key. Passion is given melody, and mania a rhythm. The Zydepunks do not transform themselves to accommodate the crowd or room they play to. They transform the crowd to accommodate the music that they play. It becomes impossible not to shout to the choruses, or stomp the rollicking beats, and the swell of the accordion and violin join the song until one realizes it is their own voice they hear shouting with it. This is the song of freedom, of wild hearts and passionate abandon. This is a language all it’s own, that will speak to anybody willing to listen, telling them to throw off their coil of propriety and dance madly, long into the night. This is the sound of the Zydepunks. ——————————————- R. Scully is either a complete fucking idiot savant or a mad genius. There may be no difference between the two, and if there were, would it matter? Having spent a decade as part of the driving force behind the Morning 40 Federation, a new band had some staggering shoes to fill, and the Rough 7 does just that. Like the two previous bands listed above, this show was all about the passion. But this time it was no sermon or gypsy camp fire, but total abandon that poured out on to the floor of Cafe Negril. Somehow, Scully squeezes truth out of wrangled phrases, often disconnected, even if one were to try to understand them. But why bother? Each is an emotional touch stone, creating a network of images and feelings, one by one, letting you in on the complexities of the simple truth. “A sledge hammer can break your heart.” - R. Scully These simple words, having very little literal meaning, speak volumes about the lives we lead. What is the sledgehammer in your life, and what is it that stops one’s heart from breaking? The images they conjure are different for each of us, but somehow the same. Chances are, before you can ponder them, another phrase of meaningless truth has caught you and the stringing together of emotional images makes you FEEL IT in ways that understanding lyrics could never do. And then there’s the band… Somewhere along way, a potion was mixed, of Sam & Dave and Hank Williams, of the Replacements and The Clash, of the late night howling from a lost asylum and the screams of a roller coaster crowd on a down hill run. This is no less a drunken Malay than Morning 40 Federation, but a more mature, perhaps jaded vision, chiseled, perhaps, out of a decade of on the edge performances, skulking on the verge of success, the bitter fruit of seeing the edge so close, and the glorious satisfaction of knowing you didn’t quite slide over. I have seen R. Scully perform with Morning 40 since it’s inception, and seen his solo shows since he began doing them. What’s most interesting here is his obvious inclination to Let It Happen. To let the musicians he’s chosen for this new brand of musical talking-in-tongues speak for themselves entirely, knowing they somehow share the message of these messy and brilliant emotions, poured out on the barroom floor. They all Let It Happen. And it does. Let it happen to you. Go see R. Scully and the Rough 7. This, my friends, is a band to watch grow and evolve. Along the way, hold on to your fucking hat. Lord David Skull Club New Orleans