Preview // Creepy Fest 2012

Though the subversives behind local b-movie film aficionado group Terror Optics Studios and its off-shoot horrorcore label Sheer Terror Records aren’t the type one would expect to hear bragging about, or even taking serious notice of, any measure of success, it shouldn’t be any surprise that the ultra-DIY punk festival known as Creepy Fest has been steadily growing under the radar of even the city’s most attentive music junkies. In it’s fourth year, the citywide festival catering to all things jagged, aggressive, terrifying and downright adrenal seems to be not just ballooning in size but also widening in geographical scope, the result of bands as well as venues eager to take part in what is arguably the most community-minded festival experience in New Orleans.

Broken up over five nights and seven venues, Creepy Fest 2012 will boast roughly 40 acts hailng from the Louisiana/Gulf Coast area. Once again taking up the job as festival kickoff headliners, raucous instrumental surf trio the Unnaturals will perform along side a b-movie double feature at the Big Top Wednesday night, while Thursday finds hardcore surf band the Bills and self-proclaimed “lazy punk” act the Poots at the Saturn Bar. Friday’s free double header has Checkpoint Charlie’s hosting the likes of horror punk heroes the Pallbearers and ultra-rad hardcore parody Dummy Dumpster; meanwhile, the Dragon’s Den, one of several new venue entries since last year, has aggressive rockers Fat Camp and noise band Interior Decorating. Saturday, boasting a slightly higher-priced package of $10 for both shows, brings neighbor venues Siberia and Hi-Ho Lounge into the mix with New Jersey-based early 90s punk rock legends Electric Frankenstein and local skate thrashers Toxic Rott. Finishing up the lengthy festival on Sunday, not-so-recently reopened Circle Bar welcomes a stacked lineup that includes locals the Split () Lips and Classhole as well as Mobile, Alabama power pop quartet the Suzies.

With a price tag of $5 per show, save for Free Friday and $10 Saturday (or $25 for the entire weekend), the entrance fee to this massive and expansive underground festival is as reasonable as they get.

Creepy Fest 2012 Schedule

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Preview // Free Press Summer Fest

In its fourth year, the Free Press Summer Fest continues to be horrible news for New Orleanians who take pleasure in deriding Houston as our perpetually lame neighbor.  The two day event is returning to downtown’s Eleanor Tinsley Park with one of the summer’s most extensive, diverse and nuanced lineups you’ll find outside of Manchester, Tennessee.  Neo-folk superstars The Avett Brothers, country legend Willie Nelson and original gangsta Snoop Dogg lead a charge of over 120 bands representing the most exciting players of every relevant musical genre.  Rockers include The Flaming Lips, Portugal. The Man, Primus, Maps and Atlases, Jeff The Brotherhood, Girl In A Coma and recently reunited So-Cal punk stalwarts The Descendants; rising hip-hop stars Shabazz Places, Z-Ro, Danny Brown and our own Queen Diva Big Freedia will be there; and the ubitiquous EMD presence includes Afrojack, Pretty Lights, R3hab and renown New Orleans aficionado Diplo.

But what makes the festival most unique is the way they’ve keep a solid focus on local and regional bands even after scoring headlining acts of increasingly impressive stature.  The lineup includes no less than 30 acts from Houston and the surrounding area, in an assortment just as varied and interesting as the schedule of national artists. The highlight may be the appearance of the recently reunited Fatal Flying Guilloteens. With a sonic approximate somewhere between Hot Snakes and Drive Like Jehu, this Houston-based post hardcore band may be the only of their ilk that could also reasonably categorized as “rock and roll as fuck”. Popping up nationally on labels like Gold Standard Laboratories (R.I.P.) and French Kiss, their calling card became supreme instrumental aggression balanced by a refreshing lack of emotional depth (because, let’s be honest, dead seriousness had completely overstayed its welcome in nearly every “post” genre by the mid-2000s), and to the Southwest region of the country, the FFGs’ freewheeling stage shows became the stuff of legend.

Elsewhere, soul-shakers The Tontons, underground rap technician Fat Tony, one-man noise orchestra Limb, revolving-door indie rock ensemble the Eastern Sea and country/bluegrass impresairo Robert Ellis join New Orleans-based expats Caddywhompus (the members of which are also appearing with their high school mother sauce the Riff Tiffs) at the top of a charmingly expansive undercard of local talent.

MP3: Fatal Flying Guilloteens: “Long Distance Reacharound”

Preview // 2012 Hangout Music Festival

After last year assembling the platonic ideal of an outdoor festival in only their second go ’round –  dropping a knockout lineup and perfectly sized crowd onto one of the best conceivable settings for a live music event – The Hangout Music Festival returns to the beautiful beaches of Gulf Shores this weekend.  The third edition offers another eclectic mix of arena-ready headliners, regional favorites and the ubiquitous electronic dance music purveyors, this time spread out over an expanded footprint that puts the fairgrounds on both sides of main drag Beach Blvd.

Organizers have also dispensed with a schedule of official after-shows in favor of a kick-off party on Thursday.  Almost eight hours of music on each of two stages turns the Festival into a four-day affair for those arriving early and adds standouts like Big Gigantic (winners of this year’s Buku Music and Art Project), Boombox, and our own Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and The Revivalists to the weekend’s bill.  A comfortably spaced schedule and limited number of stages almost eliminates anxiety-inducing mortal conflicts, but we’ve still put together a short list of acts that come highly recommended.

5/18: Alabama Shakes – Chevrolet Stage, 2:15PM

Rarely does New Orleans (or anywhere in the Gulf South, for that matter) get included on the early-buzz circuit that sweeps the “The Next Big Thing” to sold-out showcases in the Brooklyns, Austins, Los Angeleses, and Londons of the world.  While the deft promoters and talent buyers in our city have a knack for catching bands before they blow up as well as bringing a continuously impressive string of de rigeour national acts to town, The Alabama Shakes‘ January visit to One Eyed Jacks hot on the heels of their successful CMJ run and subsequent signing to ATO and Rough Trade felt like an extra special treat – the timing of which was likely equal parts savvy booking and just plain dumb luck.

Playing an early show to a crowd as large as any we’ve ever seen packed into the French Quarter’s premiere rock club, the Alabama Shakes torched the stage with the raw fury of a band about as wide-eyed and excitable as the diverse audience assembled to get a sneak peek at the much-talked about southern roots rockers.  Lead singer Brittany Howard and bassist Zac Cockrell went well beyond validating the Shakes’ status as band of the moment with a performance that overflowed with virtuosity and charm, and it’s exciting to think what they may pull off on their home turf with a few months of high pressure gigs under their belts.

5/19: Dr. Dog – “Letting Go” Stage, 4:15PM

If you’re the type who perpetually thinks about music in terms of “the zeitgeist”, then unfortunately there’s a good chance that you’ve either never closely listened to Dr. Dog or simply disregarded them. Nevertheless, this Philadelphia group’s charm has always been their ability to craft songs as attentive to pop accessibility as they are to creative high-mindedness. While not the cataclysmic, industry-changing creations that get routinely credited to the Animal Collectives and Arcade Fires and White Stripeses of the world, the music waxed by Dr. Dog – songs that end up being traded, e-mailed, linked and placed on countless playlists and mixes – is more akin to a catalog of indie rock radio hits, sans the radio or any real criterion point for what constitutes a “hit”.

But then again, I doubt Dr. Dog have ever given much thought to their place in such a zeitgeist, and in that capacity these guys probably aren’t making music for us wannabe patricianists. À la The Band circa Cahoots, existing both within and decidedly outside of the artiste-driven national musical climate surrounding them, Dr. Dog rides a whimsical creative model for the type of band whose true colors one can really only experience in a stage setting with a revelrous atmosphere capable of matching their unique penchant for the free energy of unpretentious rock and roll. Unsurprisingly, the Gulf Coast has often been, aside from the Philly area itself, a perfect entry point for Dr. Dog’s unfettered live mix of pop, psychedelia and multi-instrumental virtuosity, and the opportunity to see them on the Hangout Fest pedestal on late Saturday afternoon should not be missed.

5/20: Mavis Staples – Chevrolet Stage, 1:45PM

The most emotionally charged moment of this year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival came at the very start of what was supposed to be the first of two scheduled appearances by soul and R&B legend Mavis Staples.  She kicked off her Friday afternoon set in the Gospel tent with a rousing rendition of The Band’s “The Weight”, evoking her standout performance in the seminal concert flick The Last Waltz. At the song’s conclusion, Staples raised her arms to the sky and repeatedly shouted “Levon Helm!” as the standing-room only crowd rose to their feet and cheered wildly in a celebratory eulogy that lasted a full three minutes.  It was just weeks since the venerable drummer and vocalist, with whom Staples was slated to share the stage the very next day, had passed away; and of all the Jazz Fest tributes Helm inspired, her’s was the most moving and impassioned.

Along with the rest of her wide ranging set, that moment demonstrated the enduring power of Mavis Staples’ voice as well as her effortlessly wonderful sensibilities, both musical and otherwise.  After over 45 years at the front of the one of the most influential spirituality-based groups of all time in The Staples Singers and after appearing on the recorded work of everyone from Bob Dylan to Los Lobos, Mavis is once again in the midst of yet another creative renaissance after winning her first Grammy for last year’s Jeff Tweedy-produced Americana album You Are Not Alone. Plus, with Wilco in town for a their own Friday slot at Hangout, the potential for a surprise cameo (in one way or another) is at an all time high.

 

Preview // 3rd Annual Daze Between Festival

For some, long days at the Fairgrounds and late nights at their favorite rock club for seven days over two weekends are not enough to satisfy their Jazz Fest-induced live music jones.  Enter the Daze Between Festival, lodged between the first and second weekend of The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which returns to the Rusty Nail for the third straight year.

This time around the event returns to it’s origins as a one-day affair, but the modest courtyard stage of festivals past is being replaced by a full-scale outdoor set-up, making room for bona fide full band performances inside and out.  Daze Between veteran Papa Mali will return to headline the day-long tribute to the music of The Grateful Dead, while the diverse group of “Friends” who will end up joining him could include any combination of the talented motley crew he runs with.  As Mali currently tours with Bill Kreutzmann and New Orleans living legend George Porter, Jr. (as 7 Walkers), and has shared the stage with everyone from Willie Nelson to Burning Spear, his have always been performances notorious for exciting pop-ins and unexpected cameos.

Also returning from last year are the Honey Island Swamp Band, Colorado jam band Frogs Gone Fishin‘, members of San Franscisco’s Tea Leaf Green and the Iko All-Stars (featuring Billy Iuso, former Radiators Reggie Scanlon, CR Gruver and Gravity A‘s Mike Foo). Jimmy Leslie, the Mike Dillon Band, Dave Jordan and TheSoulswampbillyboogieband round out the lineup, while the ghost of the Rads will be further represented by guitarist Camile Baudoin and his newest project The Living Rumors.

The music starts at 3pm on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 and a portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to the Gulf Restoration Network.  NOLA Brewing and Sailor Jerry are sponsoring the event, and vendors will offer hot boiled crawfish, Woody’s Fish Tacos, McClure’s Barbeque, and plenty of fresh shucked oysters.

Daze Between Festival on Facebook

Preview // 2012 Community Records Block Party

By the end of April, just as the rest of the country is getting their festival engines started, a triumvirate of consecutive noteworthy weekend events will have already swept through New Orleans, satiating the diverse tastes of locals and flooding the streets with music lovers from all over the world. This past weekend’s record setting French Quarter Festival did well to entertain fans of oppressive downtown crowds and bands you can probably see almost any other weekend of the year, while the looming Jazz Fest – with an old-bro jams heavy lineup that somehow includes Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, The Beach Boys, The Eagles and Jimmy Buffett – is pretty secure in its standing as the marquee event of the season regardless of how much FQFesters boast about that event’s swelling attendance.

But in it’s fifth year nestled between April’s two behemoths, local DIY powerhouse Community Records’ annual Block Party continues to fill the broad niche inhabited by garage, punk, ska, and noise fans of all ages and is becoming not just a local institution but something of a tourist destination.  This year’s event features 26 bands from all around New Orleans and locales as far flung as Michigan, Rhode Island, California and Indiana, drawing carpoolers and couch surfers to town from all over the country for what has grown into a nationally recognized event (while an extensive and tightly-packed pre- and post- party schedule has transformed the one-day celebration into a truly weekend-long affair).

During the twelve hours of non-stop music on Saturday, here are two acts to look out for:

Matt Wixson’s Flying Circus – 4PM, outside

A Detroit area native who manages to act both as a DIY go-to-guy in his own community and an artist who wears more hats than his fan base can keep up with, perhaps no performer at Block Party is as unique a case study as Matt Wixson. One of the few (only?) ska artists who seems to embody the internet age’s obsessive collage culture, Wixson’s recorded history plays like a blogged stockpile of old Toots records and a few beat up Dan Pothast CDs owned by a 90s pop culture apologist who’d be working from behind a laptop at home if not for his obvious guitar skills.

Though he’s been known at different times to belt out numbers at the top of his lungs over an acoustic guitar, provide pounding keys to already-earsplittingly heavy skacore bands and craft the strangest punk mash-ups you’re likely ever to hear, the project he’ll be bringing to Clio Street on Saturday, Matt Wixson’s Flying Circus, is an exercise in archetypal genre blurs and splices as he and his merry backing band delve both parodically and reverently into political discourse, protest music, drinking hymns and middle American angst.

MP3: Matt Wixson’s Flying Circus: “They Can’t Fix Me”

Brunt Of It – 6PM, outisde

Of every punk/ska hybrid one may to encounter in a lifetime, Brunt Of It‘s drive to perfect the energy of old school punk will likely always stick out. Where contemporaries of their 15+ year history have tended to take their punk roots into thrash or metalcore territory while relying on ska’s metered upstroke and sinewy brass to create some semblance of melodic balance, this Boston-based act seem to do the exact opposite. With punk spiritually culled from the likes of Dead Kennedys, Brunt Of It’s ska roots often emerge warped and textured, making for strange concoctions of rocksteady and hardcore: where you’d expect Flaming Tsunamis you get Screeching Weasel, and where there might otherwise be a few pieces of pedestrian 3rd Wave Ska bacchanalia, there are horns and rhythms rife with a discordant intensity few ska acts can achieve.

Returning to Block Party after a year off in 2011, Brunt Of It will prove to be one of the highlights of the entire event. Expect a massive, sweat-drenched circle pit and some microphone-induced forehead bleeding.

MP3: Brunt Of It: “Art School Dropout”

The 5th Annual Community Records Block Party takes place on Saturday, April 21 at The Big Top, 1638 Clio St.  Tickets are $20 at the door, $14 in advance or with a clothing or food donation on the day of the event.  Gates open at 11:30AM and the music goes non-stop from noon to midnight.

Community Records Block Party on Facebook

Preview // Record Store Day 2012 in New Orleans

Almost as quickly as our music-consuming culture abandoned compact discs as the industry standard in favor of digital downloading’s ease and convenience, it began grasping for some semblance of physicality in the experience of owning and sharing music. Of course, the result has been the galvanizing reemergence of vinyl records. The newly-piqued interest of the medium has begun to yield not only the practice of contemporary albums finding release on vinyl but also a systematic first-issuing of an entire generation of music that existed during the age of cassettes and CDs and for whom such a release is nearly as new an experience as a bona fide new release. And with a yearly holiday like Record Store Day adding a face to the culture and appreciation of this phenomenon, it appears to be vastly more than just a passing fad.

Whether an impetus for – or simply a manifestation of – pop culture’s current re-obsession with vinyl records, Record Store Day has, in its own right, served as a modest beacon of success for a mainstream music industry desperate to find a new identity and rebound from its mid-aughts pseudo-collapse. Now in its fifth year, the nationwide day of observation invites music fans to patronize our nation’s independent record stores (not that any un-independent record stores even exist anymore outside the CD section of Best Buy and the occasionally-found FYE) with the promise of specially-tailored releases from their favorite artists old and new.

For the 2012 edition – which officially takes place this Saturday, April 21 – Record Store Day founders have appointed an Official Ambassador in Stooges front man and proto-punk icon Iggy Pop. With this figurehead title, Mr. James Newell Osterberg, Jr. will be tasked with representing a cultural movement that reaches not just across the entire United States but to Europe as well. On the national side of things, collector junkies can expect shwag from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Captain Beefheart, Chocolate Watch Band, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., David Bowie, Phish, the Flaming Lips and the White Stripes alongside limited-press regional releases from Hey Mercedes, Battles, Lemuria, Branford Marsalis (That’s us!), and Botch among many others.

Here in New Orleans this weekend, all the hometown heroes are getting in the unofficial holiday spirit as well, with nearly every record store in the area participating in Record Store Day by either stocking special releases, running sales or hosting in-store live performances. Below is a list of our town’s record outlets and what they have in store:

All performances on Saturday, April 21, except where noted:

Euclid Records

11:00am – DJ Matty (Mod Dance Party)

12:30pm (noon) – The Charlie Halloran Experience

1:30pm – Blind Texas Marlin & the Ramble, Tamble, Tamblers

2:30pm – Johnny Corndawg

3:30 – Boom Chick

4:30 – Die Rotzz

PLUS DJs: Bunny, Sarah Mason, Suzy Q, Yamin

Louisiana Music Factory

2:00pm – Claude Bryant & the All-Stars

3:00pm – Anais St. John

4:00pm – Lil’ Red & Big Bad

The Mushroom (Friday, 4.20)

7:30pm: The Poots

9:00pm: The Unnaturals

PLUS: $4.20 off selected items

Odyssey Records

Stocking select special releases for Record Store Day, specials TBA

Peaches Records

TBA

Skully’z Records

Stocking select special releases for Record Store Day

Past Record Store Day Items: 50% off

Sidewalk sale – specials TBA

To find out more about special releases and participating record stores, visit the Record Store Day Homepage.

Johnny Corndawg photo credit: Kevin Hayes

Preview // 2012 French Quarter Festival

It’s common to hear this weekend’s annual French Quarter Fest referred to as the younger sibling/cousin/progeny of the much grander New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, but these days that classification is really only applicable based on the literal age of the event.  Sure, FQF didn’t land Bruce Springsteen and His E Street Band this year, but due in no small part to a very attractive price of admission, the four-day showcase regularly out-draws it’s Mid-City companion.

With attendance expected to surpass 500,000, The French Quarter Festival is the largest admission-free music event in the Gulf South and features a line-up composed almost exclusively of New Orleans talent.  With 20 stages scattered around the Quarter, Riverfront and Marigny, almost every jazz, folk, R&B, gospel and brass band in the city can be found somewhere on the bill; and as the weekend grows, it grows more eclectic with a greater sampling of some of the city’s younger movers and shakers showing up every year. Here are a few recommendations when navigating the huge crowds and extensive schedule.

04.12: The Revivalists – 4:30PM, Absolut Louis-Louis Stage (Woldenberg Park)

04.13: MyNameIsJohnMichael – 3:45PM, Malibu Rum Esplanade In The Shade (Old U.S. Mint)

04.15: The Tin Men – 2:00PM, Malibu Rum Esplanade In The Shade (Old U.S. Mint)

04.16: Theresa Andersson – 2:15PM, Abita Beer Stage (Woldenberg Park)

Before her surprise appearance in this year’s Muses parade – where she was carried down St. Charles Ave. on a large puppet goose as part of a music video shoot – it had been a while since New Orleans had heard from local, self-made songstress Theresa Andersson.  After arriving from her native Sweden in 1990 to support fellow Swedish transplant Anders Osborne during his first wave of mainstream success, Andersson struck out on her own and became a leading name in New Orleans’ early 2000s burgeoning alternative rock scene.  Crafting a one-woman show that evolved into a spacey mix of Keller Williams-style loop-pedal wizardry and nimble Kate Bush-like melodies, Andersson seemed primed for national stardom by the time 2008’s Hummingbird, Go! caught the attention of the critics at Rolling Stone and Pitchfork.

But after spending nearly two years on a world tour, Andersson returned to New Orleans to find out she was pregnant with her first child, aiding in her creative quest to record a suitable follow-up to her breakthrough album but further keeping her out of the public eye.  With her new album Street Parade set to drop at the end of April, Andersson is back on the local scene with a six-pack of shows starting Sunday at French Quarter Fest and ending during Jazz Fest before setting out on a tour down the West Coast.

29th Annual French Quarter Festival