News Briefs: Survivor Series Edition

As the hottest month of the year finally comes to a close, nonstop rain and monsoon weather has attempted to dampen the collective mood of all New Orleans art and entertainment fanatics. Naturally though, the city’s music culture seems to only get denser and more exciting as the summer trudges along:

Hometown hip-hop hero G-Eazy, currently criss-crossing the country on the 2012 Vans Warped Tour, just announced the details of his fall tour. He’ll be joining forces with fellow buzzed-about indie rapper Hoodie Allen for a month of shows that will take him through the midwest and across the great plains. The tour kicks off with a September 7 gig in Columbus, Ohio and begins to wind down at our own House of Blues on September 27 – just a day after he plans to drop Must Be Nice, his highly-anticipated follow-up to last year’s The Endless Summer.  G released the latest sample of his new album, “Plastic Dreams” featuring Johanna Fay, this week.

After unleashing the Art Boonparn-helmed video for “(I’m Gonna) Love You Back To Life” in May, local garage punk legend King Louie Bankston returns with another clip, this one for “Another Girl”, in which his band of Missing Monuments hauls their gear over to a few Greater New Orleans Area parking lots, covered in blood (per usual). Both songs can be found on the three-song (I’m Gonna) Love You Back To Life 7″ EP, available now via Hozac Records.

This year, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band has not cut a single corner in celebrating the 50th Anniversary of their iconic home.  Their memorable set at the 2012 Jazz Fest – closing down the Gentilly Stage with a handful of special guests – amazingly does not even rank as their most star-studded show of the year. That honor rests with their January performance at New York City’s Carnegie Hall, where they were joined by The Del McCoury Band, Ed Helms, members of GIVERS, Tao Seeger, My Morning Jacket, Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def), King Britt, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs (just to name a few).  Thankfully, this acclaimed performance was caught on tape and will be formally released on September 25 under the title St. Peter and 57th. The version of “St. James Infirmary” that will appear on the live album, featuring Jim James and Trombone Shorty, premiered on Pitchfork this week.

Caddywhompus, at this point one of the most road-ready bands in the Crescent City, is embarking on their most ambitious tour to date. With a kickoff two-night run in Houston, including a headlining show at Fitzgerald’s with Limb, the noise pop duo will trek up to the Midwest and over to the entire eastern seaboard, performing everyday for 41 straight straight days, after which point they’ll round their summer with their second appearance at Denver, CO’s annual Goldrush Music Festival.

After a 2012 first half that saw them widen their presence in and around New Orleans and even find a showcase at South by Southwest Festival in Austin, uptown-area party rockers Chilldren have released their debut EP, Slug Life. The six-song release finds this hip hop trio beginning to showcase their talent beyond sweat-drenched, energetic live performances with some seriously impressive beats and noticeably expanding rhyming techniques.

Live Picks: 07.26.2012 – 08.01.2012

07.26: You Blew It! + The Rooks + Les Doux + Shark Bait + Brent Houzenga – The Big Top

07.27: The Iko Allstars + Colin Lake – Tipitina’s

07.28: Quintron and Miss Pussycat + Gary Wrong – One Eyed Jacks

07.29: The Cons and Prose – Circle Bar

07.31: Glish + ArchAnimals + Big Waves of Pretty – Banks Street Bar

08.01: Heat Dust + Adults + The Fagettes + The Clap – The Saint

Although it seems like only yesterday, it has been almost nine months since Austin-bred singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer Jasper den Hartigh dive bombed New Orleans’ DIY music scene with his latest project Heat Dust.  After releasing a genre-defining eponymous EP in late 2011, the post-fuzz outfit when on a live tear, splitting a string of bills all over the city with similarly newcoming spacegaze supergroup Glish. As each show devolved into a splendidly raucous miasma of crowd-surfing and property destruction, both bands cemented their places near the head of local punk rock’s newest wave.

Seeing and hearing den Hartigh lace his piercing tirades with the controlled chaos of willfully dispatched feedback, there is no doubt these guys are heavy as shit.  But even when the sometimes ethereal vocal harmonies present on their recorded material are casualties to the subprime sound systems common in most of New Orleans’ small rooms, there’s a resonance in Heat Dust’s canon beyond the reverb of the lo-fi  paradigm.  The immediacy of Clayton Hunt’s frenetic drumming cuts a deep swath for bassist Shawn Tabor’s throaty bass thumps, adding an extra dimension to washed-out guitar drone that is intense and angular enough to be a spectacle in and of itself.

The mid-week show at the Saint will kick off Heat Dust’s most ambitious tour to date, a two-week, play-every-day journey up the east coast and back with fellow New Orleans punks Adults.  The free show also features Boston co-ed surf rockers The Fagettes and Atlanta’s The Clap.

MP3: Heat Dust: “I Was Afraid Of Dying”

Check out our New Orleans Music Calendar for a full slate of constantly updated live picks

The Lollies: 07.08.2012

If the Lollies were practically any other band imaginable, they’d be dead in the water. After losing a member like Brian Pretus, who could at worst be described as a fantastic guitarist and one of the most pitch-perfect vocal harmonizers in New Orleans or at best be considered the co-face of the band, the Noel to Zach Quinn’s Liam if the Gallagher brothers had a hilarious onstage chemistry and weren’t completely unintelligible, the Lollies’ flawless brand of highly complex, mathematical guitar-dueling pop punk could have been rendered virtually unplayable, forcing a depressingly early curtain call for this talented unit.

However, anyone who has witnessed even a messy set by the Lollies is starkly aware of the level of talent and confederacy running through the veins of this young band. With the Community Records Summer Tour with Nashville thrash band Stuck Lucky looming, and with no practical way of either replacing Pretus or retooling their material to fit a three-piece, the remaining three members did what possibly only they could be capable of doing: they wrote a wealth of drastically different material tailored to their new dynamic and road tested it.

Returning to New Orleans on July 8 for an Independence Day weekend-ending Sunday matinee show at the Big Top, the Lollies were a very different band than the lighthearted pop punkers we have come to love, naturally. But the personnel change – and the minor growing pains associated with it – is arguably the best thing that could have happened to them, as this stylistic shifting of trajectory takes them, at times, far from the comparatively sugary Descendents-influenced punk of Potential into something edgier, darker and heavier – a complex interplay that often finds Alex Talbot’s gnarled, muffed-out bass lines surprisingly becoming the driving melodic force behind Quinn’s note-for-note guitar perfection and Joey Mercer’s increasingly heady rhythms. As the sole vocalist, Zack is gruff, harsh, guttural and everything else that could generally describe someone who yells rather than croons, creating an ambiance that more often than not abandons punk altogether for unabashed aggressive rock.

The hallmarks of the Lollies, as they’ve come to be known, are their well-channeled penchant for snappy melodies and their nostalgic anti-conformist humor. Though the levity hasn’t been wholesale eviscerated (Quinn still exudes a considerable amount of charming swag in his inter-song banter), their pop sensibility isn’t noticeably present in their new material; but it genuine doesn’t matter when that new material is as compelling and perfectly executed as it was on Sunday. Certainly it’s relieving to see a band, when faced with personnel adversity, brave through it and attempt to retain some semblance of quality. But surprising in the case of the Lollies is that their change of gear has resulted in something that might be better than it could have ever been without the tumult.

Picture: from June 13, 2012

Live Picks: 07.19.2012 – 07.25.2012

07.20: Adults + Mystic Inane + VHS – United Bakery

07.21: Vockah Redu & the Cru + Boyfriend – The Big Top

We’re way past the point of debating the merits and socioethnic implications of modern bounce music or its cross-dressing sub-genus. At this stage of the game, it’d be a waste of time to even resubmit the same, perpetually cliched questions about the phenomenon (“Is it music, or art, or simply an experience? Or all three? Or is it something new? And why do white kids love it so much?”). No, by now we’re all heavily engaged in the fun part, where we get to freely decide who our favorites are. Naturally, there’s something to be said for nearly every single enigmatic personality that inhabits this aught-10’s New Orleans bounce community whether it be the intense Sissy Nobby, arguable progenitor of the movement Katey Red or Big Freedia, the undisputed luminary and preceptor for the nation at large.

However, for my money, there is simply nothing on the planet like Vockah Redu. Though often falling under the radar of most New Orleans outsiders and local, casual showgoers, Vockah Redu and the Cru have been slowly but emphatically growing a fan base while existing on the fringes of Bounce itself for the last four years. Indeed, one will rarely find this act on the bill of one of the city’s many bounce showcases; they instead tend to opt for something decidedly less predictable (See Quintron’s Lundi Gras 2011 concert featuring the likes of garage punk acts Turbo Fruits and the Black Lips, where Redu and his Cru drenched a sardine-packed room of molly ravers and acid eaters in an overwhelming primer of sweat and life-affirming energy). It’s a mix of dance, rhythm and crowd-baiting that most every bounce artist in town molds to his or her own liking but that few can deliver with the eye-popping transcendence of Vockah Redu: Without singing, rapping or playing a single instrument, he is Prince, Andre Benjamin and Jimi Hendrix all rolled into one mesmerizing and cultish persona.

This saturday, Vockah Redu and the Cru go by burgeoning DIY arthouse the Big Top with Boyfriend for the Summer Sauna Bounce Party.

MP3: Vockah Redu: “Shake Yo Bones”

07.22: Toadies + Helmet – One Eyed Jacks

07.23: The Slants + Chinatown Dance Rock + Consortium of Genius – Howlin’ Wolf Den

Check out our New Orleans Music Calendar for a full slate of constantly updated live picks

Chris Rehm: [i found an] Elephant Ring [and gave it to you]

Chinquapin Records, 2012

Even in an insular music culture like that of New Orleans, where there is rarely any attention – nary even lip service – paid to industry conventions like album cycles, public relations pushes or award banquet back-patting, the “solo ambient album” as an objet d’art tends to escape the honest and centered attention of even the most attentive listener. With few exceptions, the simple act of stating that a particular artist has made an ambient record has an almost automatic consequence of marginalizing the work as something extraneous, or maybe even parallel to, but ultimately less important than that artist’s ordinary output. And whether by design or defect of progressive rock’s cult-maintaining mainstream alienation, in the context of modern indie rock most ambient artists are ostensibly satisfied with endlessly building upon their own unheard, un-vetted and un-critiqued recordings, as if ambience is a musical phenomenon that only exists to perpetuate its own existence. The best we the audience can hope to glean from such music is an understanding of the innerworkings of an artist’s personality because, though released for consumption by the general public, it is music ultimately made for the musician’s piece of mind, not ours.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to pay attention, in the off-chance that you’ll hear something greater than a collection of basement-esque, masturbatory noise exercises. Chris Rehm – known to most as one half of Houston-by-way-of-New Orleans noise pop duo Caddywhompus, is no stranger to the ambient compulsion. Hailing from a Clutch City community nationally revered for its experimental noise culture and now living and playing among a group of New Orleans musicians in Chinquapin Records who spend nearly as much time speed-releasing minimalist electronica as they do crafting perfectly gestated indie rock, he can routinely be heard eschewing his guitar in favor of pedals and knobs.

In truth though, Rehm’s solo recorded output has been spottier lately than in the past, the result of both Caddywhompus’ manic creative tear and a mishap that left volumes of unreleased tracks stolen from his tour van last Summer. Aside from split cassingle with Native America and Ghostandthesong, as well as a single contribution to the Chinquapin/Skanky Possum Holiday Jingler in 2011, his recently released [i found an] Elephant Ring [and gave it to you] is the only true taste of a Sean Heart-less Chris Rehm anyone has heard since early 2011’s Worries, etc.  (Okay, holistically his output isn’t that spotty; but compare it to that of contemporary Tyler Scurlock and holy shit pick it up dude.)

As tends to be the case, Elephant Ring is the result of a relatively unfocused culling of tracks that span almost the entire length of Rehm’s New Orleans tenure. What’s surprising, though, is how unfocused the record doesn’t sound. Quite the opposite: as far as bedroom “fuckaround” releases go, it’s arguably more flowing and concise than anything we’ll hear all year, a deceptively gift-wrapped offering that shrouds – while not totally obscuring – the talent for melody and disarming sentiment that makes Rehm one of the most beloved figures in the HOU-NO corridor.

After a pleasant and not altogether unforgettable primer of noise collage and diagetic melody, the album reveals its personality of ripe, affected acoustic numbers with “They All Are”. Meanwhile, on “I Can’t Feel Anything but You Anymore”, a parallax of dueling acoustic guitars that sway in and out of rhythmic unison, Rehm sings an echoed, doubled riff vaguely reminiscent of Bowie’s “Five Years”. Numbers like these, among a record of otherwise traditional noise and ambience, are what remain with the listener long after the record has come to its blistering, otherworldly conclusion with frequency-shattering single “Coming Up Roses”.

Perhaps it’s the presence of bleeding melody seeping from almost every crevice of Elephant Ring that will hold the attention not just of musical aficionados and fellow ambient musicians but of the listening public as a whole. Though sonic meandering tends to be a breeding ground of new ideas and creative techniques, Rehm doesn’t meander here; and if there lacks, in Elephant Ring, any game-changing or wheel-inventing influence, it is more than balanced by a focus of musical identity and the quality of material on display. In short, this record isn’t a traditional fuckaround release in any sense of the phrase, rather a standalone offering devoid of sophistication but masterfully intelligent and accessible. It might not be considered the most groundbreaking ambient record of 2012,  but [i found an] Elephant Ring [and gave it to you] is certainly the most rewarding so far.

[i found an] Elephant Ring [and gave it to you] on Bandcamp

Rotary Downs’ Jason Rhein Raising Money For Shed Documentary

Any New Orleans resident who has gone east in search of beaches with actual sand and water that won’t leave a mark is likely familiar with The Shed, the Ocean Springs, MS barbecue and music destination.  Whether you’ve pulled off I-10 to grab lunch on the way back from Hangout Fest or just seen the name in plain black letters along side the fast-food options listed on the Exit 57 information boards, in the last decade the Orrison family, who own and operate The Shed BBQ and Blues Joint, have earned their place in the hearts and minds of Gulf South residents and visitors.

Intrigued by the already compelling history of The Shed, which started as little more than a clapboard shack and grew to an award-winning culinary and entertainment landmark, New Orleans filmmaker Jason Rhein (who can also be found thumping away on bass for greatest band in the universe Rotary Downs) had been collecting footage of the family-run operation since the beginning of the year.  But – Hurricane on the Bayou-style – an unexpected tragedy completely changed the trajectory of the the planned documentary narrative: In February, the hallowed Ocean Springs location burned to the ground.

Now, Rhein’s project will chronicle the rebuilding of the Gulf South institution from the ground up, a process the Orrisons hope will be finished in time for the Shed’s annual BBQ and Blues festival in September.  As a result of the film’s expanded scope and increased urgency, Jason Rhein and his Elephant Quilt Productions have launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a full-length feature.  The ambitious $80,000 goal will fund an additional three months of filming, cover the cost of post-production, pay for a fully-licensed soundtrack and got towards various film festival application fees and related travel expenses. Donation rewards include everything from the standard “Thank You” in the credits to an honorary spot on The Shed’s award-winning BBQ pit team.

Fire at ‘The Shed’: A Family Story of Barbeque and the Blues on Kickstarter