Photoset // Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns: 01.27.2011

Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns performing at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art for “Ogden After Hours” on January 27, 2011

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Happy Talk Band: 01.26.2011

New Bywater bar Siberia hit the ground running when it opened in October.  Owned and operated by a group of former Mimi’s bartenders, it began hosting shows before the proprietors even settled on an official name for the place.  Fliers around the city and postings on NOLADIY appeared with more and more frequency, promoting performances at a venue known simply by its address, 2227 St. Claude.

The bulk of the shows lean heavily towards metal and punk, but the current schedule is augmented with an increasingly diverse collection of noise-pop, R&B and even bounce rap acts, adding to the bar’s bona fides as a dependable and well rounded music club.  And it was fitting that Happy Talk Band ushered me into Siberia for the first time, as the bar exists – both metaphysically and geographically – within Happy Talk lead singer and songwriter Luke Allen’s creative universe.

Luke Allen weaves the type of stories you may expect from Craig Finn if he grew up in the Upper Ninth Ward, but he tells them with Donald Fagen’s flair for identifying true beauty in nefarious characters and compromising situations – be it real or imagined – instead of simply describing them in graphic detail for dramatic effect.  These are not redemption songs, though.  Just as in life, everyone gets what they deserve and the only lessons learned are the ones you can figure out for yourself.  Still, Allen’s tales of suffering and loss are peppered with messages of acceptance and, sometimes, even hope.  While those messages seep out of the band’s recorded material, they are at the forefront of a Happy Talk live show.

In the confines of Sibera’s sparse but well proportioned bar room, the crack backing band – inherited from semi-defunct scuzz rock legends Morning 40 Federation as well as The New Orleans Bingo Show! – erupted behind Allen, punctuating his morose tales of junkies and pickpockets with incendiary guitar solos and funky, danceable bass lines.  Virtuosic performances and bold arrangements flip some of the songs and their underlying meanings on their head, “Pack Your Bags” from 2010’s Starve A Fever being a perfect example.  A line like  “Why don’t your pack you bags and go?” sounds more like a playful dare that a direct order when it’s complemented by bright, honky-tonk piano; but a question like “Who’s going to save me from myself?” sounds less like a desperate plea and more like a battle cry when delivered to the delight of the boozy crowd that was at once intently hanging on every word and bouncing around the room with reckless abandon.

But live shows are not merely opportunities to make old songs louder, even though the current line-up of Happy Talk Band does just that, to brilliant effect, on “Ash Wednesday” and “Giant”.  “Mugger’s Waltz” shows up even more stripped down and whimsical that the album version, as if Allen wanted to drive home the point that he is playing Devil’s Advocate in what could easily be a whiskey-addled argument between good friends at an old bar, not taking the pulpit to defend the petty criminals that terrorize French Quarter tourists.

This is the magic of seeing Happy Talk Band in person: the performance is more than just a collection of rollicking takes on the band’s diverse alt-country and punk inspired catalog (not that there would necessarily be anything wrong with that).  Luke Allen’s tales sweep across the broad spectrum of despair, and the full band’s nuanced and energetic performance bring the true, humanizing spirit of his wretched poetry into sharp focus.

Offbeat Magazine Celebrates the Best of 2010

On Friday night, Offbeat Magazine hosted their annual Beat of the Beat Awards at Generations Hall, an event that brought together some of the best and most influential musicians in the city.  Many came to perform – as the 7-hour affair featured two stages, two sets of star-studded tributes, and a lineup that spanned from Meschiya Lake to the Soundclash Allstars and Lyrikill – but all came to see whose contributions to the New Orleans musical landscape throughout 2010 was worthy of an award.

The big winner at the awards was Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, who took home five awards, including Artist and Album of the Year. Other multiple award winners included Dr. John, Anders Osborne, Kermit Ruffins, Big Freedia, John Boutte and Gal Holiday.

Winners are chosen completely based on a public vote, and this year’s online poll drew a record turnout.  Other honorees include Happy Talk Band, greatest band in the universe Rotary Downs (who took home “Best Rock Album” for the epic Cracked Maps and Blue Reports), Honey Island Swamp Band, DJ Soul Sister, John Gros and the McDonogh 35 High School Gospel Choir.

Best of the Beat 2010 Music Award Winners :: OffBeat :: Louisiana and New Orleans Online Music Resource.

Live Picks: 01.27.2011 – 02.02.2011

Monotonix is performing at One Eyed Jacks on January 31, 2011

01.27: Proud Father + Jungle Dress + Helen Gillet – Mudlark Theater

01.28: Sun Hotel hosts “Throwback” – Republic

01.29: Yo La Tengo – Tipitina’s

01.31: Monotonix + Why Are We Building Such A Big Ship? + Caddywhompus – One Eyed Jacks

Just days after releasing their Steve Albini-produced sophomore LP Not Now, Israel’s Monotonix has crossed the Atlantic and is swinging through their one-time stomping grounds for a show at One Eyed Jacks. Banned from nearly every venue in their hometown of Tel Aviv, this guitar-driven garage rock band’s live shows have become infamous for their haphazard fire play and their propensity for inspiring already rabid crowds to start uproarious dance parties.

Local experimental/loud noise band [intlink id=”372″ type=”post”]Caddywhompus[/intlink] will be there to further contribute to the madness, as will classically inspired punks Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship?, also fresh off the release of a new album.

02.01: Daikaiju + Dead People + In Elevators – Siberia

02.02: Brad Walker and Simon Lott Duo + WATIV – Allways Lounge

Check out our [intlink id=”302″ type=”page”]New Orleans Music Calendar[/intlink] for a full slate of constantly updated live picks.

The Get Up Kids: There Are Rules

Quality Hill Records, 2011

The Get Up Kids are a band probably best known for bringing emo music to the nauseating forefront of mainstream rock in the early 2000s. Whatever your opinions are on the merits of emo or the bands that identify themselves as such, you can probably acknowledge that the Get Up Kids have for a long time been considered the spokesmen for the genre as a whole.

Odd then, is their understated return to the game after a seven-year hiatus. The Get Up Kids appear to have come back not to reestablish their supremacy over the legions of eyeglassed imitators and straight-haired clones that followed them, but rather to simply try out some new sounds.

This makes some sense with some context. Though broken up, the members of the Get Up Kids haven’t spent their off time casually gloating about how cool Fall Out Boy thinks they are; quite the opposite actually. Lead singer Matt Pryor did what lead singers do, and embarked on a solo career; the Pope brothers spent time as rhythm section mercenaries, lending their touch to bands like Koufax and Spoon; guitarist Jim Suptic started bands, record labels, recording studios, and everything in between; and keyboardist James Dewees went to rehab a bunch of times and wrote some very puzzling yet sincere music under his solo moniker Reggie and The Full Effect.

Also, they disowned the entire modern emo movement, going on record as apologizing to the American public for any headache or inconvenience their influence on music may have caused. Unfortunately, that association isn’t entirely unavoidable: There Are Rules is still very clearly the Get Up Kids. For better or worse, they have a connection to emo that they’ll never be able to fully downplay, no matter how much shit they talk about Cobra Starship.

There is good news for the band though: There Are Rules is very good – much better than even they themselves probably could have anticipated. For possibly the first time in their recording history, the Get Up Kids have the benefit of nuance. Recorded entirely analog by longtime producer Ed Rose and mixed by Steve Albini’s Shellac buddy Bob Weston (Who also had the board on 1997’s Four Minute Mile), there’s an astounding depth to the entire affair.

On “Pararelevant”, for instance, the recording preserves an astoundingly three-dimensional drum ambiance and prevents Pryor’s nasally voice from overpowering the guitars and the much-more-present-than-usual keyboards. “Kieth Case”, a track carried over (for good reason) from their 2010 EP Simple Science, takes a driving mid-paced drum beat and lets it build with a bass/synthesizer rhythm combo and strings-of-heaven guitars straight off a Jupiter-era Cave in riff until launching into a classic Get Up Kids chorus.

The end result is a double-edged sword: On the one hand, this album is a collection of synthy power pop songs that genuinely defy the genre and fad associations that footnote the rest of the band’s library; on the other hand, the Get Up Kids seem discontent with their current place in modern music and want to start over, but I don’t know if There Are Rules is the kind of album that will convert the unfamiliar or unconvinced. Regardless, it is certainly a step in the right direction.

There Are Rules at