A New Orleans Kind of Music
The 2009 French Quarter Festival is April 17-19; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. The festival will feature 17 stages dotting the Quarter, including six on Bourbon Street, three on Royal Street, three along the river and two at the Old U.S. Mint.
Combined, the scheduled acts are an amalgamation of sound elements that represent the spectrum of New Orleans music. Styles represented will include Zydeco, punk, reggae, brass, rock, folk, honkey tonk and jazz. And, since there’s no entrance fee, music-lovers can expand their otological palates without spending a recessionally naughty bit of cash.
To make it extra-clear, FQF is free, as always, so you don’t have to worry about breaking the bank a few short weeks before Jazz Fest. It is also a marvelous way to warm up for the upcoming food-heavy festivals of the spring and summer.
With that in mind, here’s a wee list of bands performing that cover a wide spectrum of “New Orleans” sounds. Check out the FQF performers below and take advantage of the opportunity to see a band you’ve never heard of, or check out a genre you don’t normally hear. (For more info on performance dates and times visit the FQF Web site, Fqfi.org.)
Big Chief Bo Dollis Jr. & The Wild Magnolias – Mardi Gras Indians
Theodore Emile “Bo” Dollis & Wild Magnolias
The Mardi Gras Indian tradition in New Orleans honors the relationship between the black community and the regional American Indian tribes, as well as African and Caribbean traditions. Since the 1800s, members of New Orleans’ black community have donned elaborate costumes of feathers and hand-beaded murals to celebrate culture on occassions throughout the year.
At this year’s FQF, you can catch one of the best-known of the roughly 45 current tribes, The Wild Magnolias and, leading the tribe since 1964, Big Chief Bo Dollis. The Wild Magnolias are known for playing tunes such as “Two Way Pak E Way,” a Wild Magnolia’s song that has become a New Orleans standard over the last 30-some years.
Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue – Rockabilly
Vanessa Niemann, vocals; Dave James, guitars; Dave Brouillette, upright bass fiddle; James Clark, drums.
Gal Holiday and the The Honky Tonk Revue play badass country music. “Gal Holiday,” Vanessa Niemann, founded the band in 2004 to play the kind of bluegrass she listened to growing up. The band now plays old-timey tunes, thanks to Niemann’s research, as well as hipper rockabilly and swing tunes. The band is also set to do a night show the day of their FQF gig, April 17, at the Balcony Music Club on Esplanade Avenue.
Honey Island Swamp Band – Southern Rock
Chris Mulé, guitar, vocals; Aaron Wilkinson, mandolin, guitar, vocals; Sam Price, bass, vocals; Garland Paul, drums, vocals.
Members of Honey Island Swamp Band got their group together while in Hurricane Katrina exile in California. A love for New Orleans kept them together and soon the band was back home performing locally; they released their first album, eponymous, in 2007.
Rebellious steel guitar juxtaposes heavy lyrics, such as “One man’s lovin’ woman is another man’s ho/Took a ride on the wrong side of the old man’s double barrel/I’m just killin’ time/‘Til the bullet gonna bring me home,” from the song “Reincarnation Blues.”
Bassist Sam Price will also be performing at FQF with another band, Otra, of which he’s the founder.
Otra – Afro-Cuban Jazz
Sam Price, bass; Humberto “Pupi” Menes, tumbadora, bongo, chekere; Rob Block, piano; Brent Rose, saxophone; Cristobal Cruzado/Gabriel Vasquez, timbales; Eric Lucero, trumpet.
Latin band Otra was founded by Sam Price, bassist. “El Canon” Cruzado came out of retirement to join the band, Eric Lucero replaced the band’s original trumpeter and Rob Block fell into place as the last piece of the puzzle. Their music is fast-tempoed and festive, yet unembellished by superfluous styles, with influences including Poncho Sanchez and Cubanismo.
Rockin’ Dopsie and the Zydeco Twisters – Zydeco
Rockin’ Dopsie Jr., aka David Rubin, rub board and vocals; Tiger Dopsie, aka Alton Rubin Jr., drums and vocals; Anthony Dopsie, aka Anthony Rubin, accordion. Various artists, bass, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, saxophone, trumpet, keyboard, harmonica/percussion
Carrying on southwest Louisiana’s rich musical tradition, Rockin’ Dopsie (“Doop-See”) Jr., will make an appearance at FQF. Zydeco is super upbeat, festive dance music and is related to genres such as blues, rhythm and blues and French music. Rockin’ Dopsie features Zydeco’s two most identifiable sounds, the accordion and the washboard, or Rub Board.
Soul Rebels – Brass/Funk
Tannon “Fish” Williams, trumpet; Lumar LeBlanc, snare drum; Edward Lee, sousaphone; Erion Williams, saxophone; Marcus “Red” Hubbard, trumpet; Derrick “Oops” Moss, bass drum; Winston Turner, trombone; Norimitsu Hirata, guitar.
Access to live, funky, funky music shows by bands such as the Soul Rebels is one of the best things about life in New Orleans. Soul Rebels shows are always a spectacle of hot brass. (And everybody likes a hot piece of brass.)
The Soul Rebels put on a great show, one where everyone in attendance can’t help but jump, sing and dance along. Their latest album, Rebelation, highlights their style. Don’t miss the FQF show – you won’t be sorry!
The Zydepunks – “Cajun/Irish/Breton/Klezmer/Slavic/Zydeco”
Scott Potts, bass; Denise Bonis, fiddle; Eve, accordion; Juan Küffner, accordion; Joseph Lilly, drums; All, vocals.
FQF 2009 won’t be the Zydepunks’ first rodeo. The “genre-bending” band played at FQF ’07, ’08 and about 30 other festival gigs so far.
This band’s best-known feature is their embrace of global influences. The band sings in several languages, including French, English and Spanish, so if you don’t understand them, don’t assume you’ve drank too much. (Unless you’ve drank too much.)
The band’s style is akin to Gogol Bordello. (You might recognize Gogol’s song “Start Wearing Purple” from the Elijah Wood movie Everything is Illuminated.)
The Zydepunks’ most recent album, Finisterre (Nine Mile Records 2008), was released in October, and the band’s manager, Chris, said they’ve also got a few new tunes to try out at the Fest.
Fans at Zydepunks concerts get rowdy and jump around a lot, so try not to stand next to anyone sweaty or you might get slimed.