I was worried that the slightly altered format of this year’s Foburg Festival would greatly eliminate the wild west-frontier spirit that consumed me as I bounced around Frenchman Street in the spring of 2010. The addition of Bywater venues Hi-Ho Lounge, Siberia, Saturn Bar and AllWays Lounge – not to mention greatest rock club in the city, One Eyed Jacks – was no doubt welcome, but the expanded footprint of the event coupled with an abbreviated nightly schedule offered myriad logistical challenges for those hoping, as was possible last year, to hit every venue each night.
Seeing as not everyone descends on a weekend music festival with the megalomaniacal desire to see every band at every club for the purpose of bragging about his or her exploits on a fledgling local music blog, this was hardly a non-starter. More precise and thematic programming led to some fascinating monster bills, and, at the end of the day, it was hard to be disappointed about missing one killer show when you are getting your brains blown in by another.
My decision to spend the first night exclusively on Frenchman Street came at the expense of a lot of heavy hitters who set up shop on St. Claude or Toulouse, but a unique and dense schedule offered the greatest chance of reliving the glory days of yore. All five venues in the Marigny proper were hosting bona fide blockbusters – from the alt-folk throwdown upstairs at Blue Nile to the freak-out progressive showcase in the belly of the Dragon’s Den – and the evening’s perfect weather made the decision to stay in the area with the greatest walkability score a relatively guilt-free one.
In what has become an ad-hoc New Orleans music festival tradition, my weekend began taking in the soulful croon of Luke Winslow-King, who was accompanied this evening by the lovely and talented Esther Rose on washboard and backing vocals. I’ve already gone on record with enough glowing compliments about King – both in print and otherwise – that I’ve ran out of colorful adjectives to cram into dense, grammatically suspect sentences describing his uniquely haunting take on Dixieland music and its antecedents, so I’ll just say that once again he was fantastic.
From there it was off to the races, but not before a quick pit stop in the front room of Maison to check out Booty Trove, a 9 piece brass band popping up at more and more rock shows around town. Up until now, I have not really know what to make of them, as raising the bar when dealing in the indigenous, horny funk in which they specialize is no small feat for any band. On this evening, however, they sounded fresh and tight as they sparked through an incendiary set of originals, standards and inspired covers.
In retrospect, my memories of the shuttle run up and down the stairs of Blue Nile and back and forth between the Maison and Dragon’s Den have already become hazy and disjointed, but I will not soon forgot what went down at the latter venue when Austin-based avant-experimental duo Zorch took the stage. For 45 dark, loud, mind-blowing minutes they powered through a collection of synth-driven, psychedelic manifestos that were as disorientingly brilliant as they are impossible to describe (although if I were to give it a shot, I’d start by calling Zorch’s music something akin to an gonzo combination of Z-era My Morning Jacket, On The Corner-era Miles Davis, Speaking In Tongues-era Talking Heads, and Green-era Universal Indicator; drenched with an additional dose of heavy, nimble drum work just for good measure).
A whacked-out light show and bag full of prop tambourines only added to the mayhem, and after their show I could have easily gone to bed and slept through the rest of the weekend without regrets. So imagine my delight when unavoidable long-bill start time creep allowed me to catch a large chunk of both Hurray For The Riff Raff and Native America‘s set before diving headfirst into the ramble that was Debauche’s headlining spot back where my night began.