Freret Street, once a sleepy thoroughfare, has morphed into an active corridor with several hip eateries, bars and businesses. A little over a year ago, Michael Twillman, Micah Burns and other partners, who had experience booking small shows at the underground location Breezy’s and other spots, added a music club to the booming street, and a cool one at that. Gasa Gasa (GasaGasa.com), with a colorful exterior that makes it easy to spot, has become a hot-spot for hipsters from the nearby universities, and anyone else seeking nontraditional New Orleans bands and slightly under-the-radar touring acts Uptown. Twillman talked to us about the club, which in June features Sasha Masakowski’s Progression music series and touring acts The Eastern Sea, Matrimony, Swearin’ and more.
Where did the name come from? Gavin MacArthur (one of the partners) was on vacation with his wife and in-laws in Hawaii. He had a pinched nerved and had a small stroke. We got a call: “Don’t freak out, but Gavin had a small stroke.” We really didn’t know what we were going to do, but we finally heard from Gavin himself. The first thing he texted Micah (Burns) was “gasa gasa.” We said, “I know you had a stroke, but what the hell is this?” He finally explained that his physical therapist was telling him he was too “gasa gasa” – “we’ll work on walking today and then you can start playing guitar later, one thing at a time” (the therapist said). He was trying to do too many things at once. It’s a Japanese slang term that literally means “rustling noise.”
What was your goal, as far as the music goes, with this space? Prior to opening Gasa Gasa, a lot of what we did was a little more of your less traditional New Orleans music, indie rock, experimental and just different from your typical New Orleans stuff. That was just kind of vein we were thinking of, that we enjoyed the most. Also we saw an opportunity to fit a gap that wasn’t being served in Uptown as far as live music that gets booked up here. A lot of what we have are bands that are touring that don’t fill bigger places and are not well known but can bring a couple hundred people out to a show. For folks Uptown, you have to drive all the way downtown to catch some of that sometimes. There’s a crowd that was wanting to see that kind of thing in their own neighborhood.
What are some shows you’ve hosted that stick out in your memories? There’s been so many. The No. 1 coolest one was Sebadoh, with Lou Barlow from Dinosaur Jr. Growing up Dinosaur Jr. really played a role in my and Micah’s taste, and a lot of people feel that same way. Cloud Nothings was one that was just – man, if my high school self were here I’d be freaking out.
Those were my weekends every weekend in high school, going to punk rock shows. People were stage diving and moshing … I was thinking, “I’m so glad I paid the insurance premium this month. Please, nothing happen.” But at the same time, on the inside I’m screaming “This is awesome.”