One way you know your attachment to a particular band has shifted from crush to deeper feeling is realizing that its music has become evocative of something beyond the tunes. You hear the band’s music and you remember all the good times you shared with friends at their shows, the festival stages and music club nooks where they performed, the times when their music was the soundtrack for your parties or your road trips.
So it was that listening to the new album by the New Orleans Bingo! Show took me back to the first time, years ago now, that I ventured past the kitchen at Fiorella’s Restaurant to experience this unlikely, uncanny act.
Here’s where it all started, the small, rear dining room of a greasy spoon on Decatur Street in the lower Quarter, which, on Thursday nights back then, was temporarily turned into a cabaret for the restless, almost manic creativity of the Bingo! Show.
Clint Maedgen, founder and ringleader of this endeavor, worked at Fiorella’s at that time, pedaling his black cruiser bike around the Quarter delivering fried chicken and po-boys while nurturing a number of music projects. When he came across a lode of vintage, reusable bingo boards at a thrift store, a new project began to take shape.
There would be music, a lush and wildly diverse suite of country ballads, carnival midway zaniness, found object/sound-effect mélanges, alt rock and flat out garage rock. There would be homemade video shorts and animation. And, yes, there would be bingo. Rounds of the old-fashioned game were interspersed between the music and video sets, presided over by Ronnie Numbers, one of the Bingo! Show’s roster of theatrical characters.
For a stretch there in the early days, my friends and I seemed to hit the Bingo! Show every other Thursday. We couldn’t get enough. When people visited from out of town we gleefully herded them along, through the dining room and into this unexpected lair in back, eagerly sharing this find. It was always much more than just a music show. It was like a toy chest kicked over, its contents scattered and jumbled and then weirdly, wonderfully reanimated to act out silly, funny, sometimes touching vignettes.
But still, it was the Bingo! Show’s music that resonates most after the shows themselves are over the props packed away. That’s what holds the evocative power to summon up those fun, fun nights from years back.
The Bingo! Show rolls into Tipitina’s this Friday, July 15, for a show with free admission, part of the Uptown club’s ongoing Foundation Free Fridays series. With cover waived for the night you might already feel like a winner heading into this show, and that’s before the first round of bingo has been called.