Tony Green: Musician, Artist, Firebrand
Your answer to the question posed in the title of the new documentary “Who The Hell is Tony Green?” may be based on which of Green’s artistic mediums you most admire. The film makes its debut at a screening, discussion and concert on Thursday, April 21, at the Howlin’ Wolf, so the full picture will be revealed then. But some people probably already know part of the answer.
If you’ve seen him perform around town, perhaps as recently as at French Quarter Fest, then you know that Tony Green is an accomplished gypsy jazz guitarist, one heavily influenced and unabashedly in thrall of the traditional sounds of Django Reinhardt.
If you ever passed a night at Rock ‘n’ Bowl and inquired about the Pelican Stadium mural that graced its walls (and which lives on, in reconstructed pieces, in the relocated Rock ‘n’ Bowl), you may have learned that Tony Green is also an accomplished painter. He’s the artist behind many large-scale murals installed around town and he’s done poster work for Mardi Gras krewes and local festivals and events.
So Tony Green has impressive bona fides as a musician and as a visual artist. But it was still another side of the man that inspired director Todd Grove to make, and provocatively title, “Who The Hell is Tony Green?” (see the short trailer here).
This would be his increasingly outspoken role as political activist, and more particularly as a crusader against the threat he names as the New World Order. His concerns, on which he can hold forth passionately, take in collusion between the major American political parties, the power of fluoride to cow the masses, the occult symbolism of U.S. currency, 9/11 plots, the menace of airplane contrails and the progressive hope of self-actualization.
For a primer on this part of Tony Green, check out this brief, though intensely didactic, video of Green explaining a 2009 exhibition of his work.
Before I knew Green as a musician, as an artist or as anything else, I knew him as the dapper guy who graciously gave my car a jumpstart one dark night when I was stranded outside of the River Shack Tavern. About a week later I happened to run into him again, this time while he was dressed in a tuxedo and performing at the New Orleans Museum of Art.
I’ve followed his work ever since. I think his music is beautiful and intricate, and I’m always fascinated by his art. I especially enjoy the way he paints so much true detail and so many anonymous yet instantly recognizable characters into his murals.
His political prognostications are new to me, but the intensity he seems to be putting into this is classic Tony Green. When at a recent party a friend teased him about his “conspiracy theories,” Green instantly shot back that what he was talking about was “100 percent conspiracy, zero percent theory.”
While I haven’t seen the documentary yet, Grove describes it as “a picture of a controversial character who truly cares about beauty and life.” It should make for a feisty evening on Thursday. The event begins at 8 p.m. and includes a screening of the one-hour documentary, a Q&A session with Green and a performance by Green and his Gypsy Jazz trio. A $10 suggested contribution at the door will help fund duplication and distribution of the film.
907 S. Peters St., New Orleans