In the last six months, no local venue has made a larger effort to break into a higher echelon of rock club status than hidden-in-plain-sight Garden District standby Cafe Prytania. More frequent, consistent and eclectic booking in the back half of 2011 slowly but surely elevated the humble establishment from occasional Loyola-band hotspot to a dependable destination to catch up-and-coming local, regional and even nationally touring talent.
The only downside to Cafe P’s rising profile was the unfortunate way the larger, more frenzied crowds brought the shortcomings of the bar’s unusual layout into sharper focus, as a raised stage/dance floor area flanked by awkwardly placed half partitions limited the comfortable viewing area in the otherwise huge space to what felt like only a few dozen square feet. But a much-needed facelift has removed most of the unnatural boundaries keeping the performance area from the rest of the room, and continued improvements to the sound system and lighting set-up are further signs Cafe Prytania is getting very serious about its place in the New Orleans live music pantheon.
And this year’s Cafe Carnival, the bar’s annual string of post-Mardi Gras parade concerts, appears to have gotten an upgrade as well, with a ripper of a lineup complementing Cafe P’s prime location with what could easily turn into a non-stop five-day party. A Thursday night funk-fest with Flow Tribe and Naughty Professor sets the stage for the centerpiece of weekend, Chinquapin Records‘ Mardi Gras Chindig. The two-night event that puts local indie-rock institutions Sun Hotel, Caddywhompus and Big Rock Candy Mountain along side heetseeking newcomers Donovan Wolfington will also feature a fresh-from-the-studio Vox And The Hound and serve as one of the last chances to catch the force of nature that is Country Club. The Revivalists will pack the place out on Sunday night and the now-Grammy Award Winning Rebirth Brass Band headlines on Lundi Gras.