The crapshoot dynamic of New Orleans as a viable tour stop for national acts of every size and rank is such an oft-treaded discussion that in some ways it’s nothing more than yet another unspoken piece of the shorthand “Only in New Orleans” ideology. Whether it’s dealing with underwhelming crowds, bar and venue owners or even finding a place to stay, out-of-town musicians basically have their pick of considerable hurdles in dealing with the scene here. Nevertheless, a growing number of touring acts – especially in the very recent past – have found creative ways to get here, if not for the exposure then simply for the excuse to spend a little tourist time in the northernmost Caribbean city.
Seattle, Washington band Orca Team may have discovered the best way to mix business and pleasure while passing through town on August 12. Having just played a laid-back in-store performance at Euclid Records that afternoon with a similarly-planned show scheduled at the Really Really Free Market the following day, the nostalgic surf pop trio found itself in the sweltering backyard of a cozy Bywater home at a gourmet barbecue attended by a modest but enthusiastic crowd of friends, scenesters and others generally uninterested in preseason Saints football. The unavoidable heat, BYOB designation and phenomenal pork roast came together for one of the more lighthearted and satisfying concerts the city has seen all year.
If there exists a realm in which the speed and edge of classic punk rock seamlessly and unironically meld with the nonchalant restraint of 1960s surf poppers like Dick Dale and his Del-tones, Orca Team has certainly found it. Pounding out two-minute-max ditties one after another for the better part of an hour, Dwane Cullen kept up a lightning-fast metronomic drum style while guitarist Jessica B. provided a pace-keeping melodic Rickenbacker rhythm for the complex, machine-gun punch of Leif Anders’ bass, all with a classy – though healthy – amount of reverb. Anders’ bass skills were made all the more impressive by his youthfully-smooth Morrisey-filtered-through-Turn-On-The-Bright-Lights vocals, which he effortlessly delivered all while practically playing lead guitar on a four-string.
Unconventional spaces inherently lay the foundations for memorable concerts, for both the unique energy they foster and the feeling of freedom they impart as a welcome respite from more traditional music venues. When a light surf pop band gets enough people in a living room nodding their heads and moving their bodies that it’s hotter inside than it is near the back yard grill in the dead heat of a New Orleans summer, then the show is an unequivocal success.
Photo courtesy of Isabel Ryan Theriot