Live Picks: 08.23.2012 – 08.29.2012

08.23: Michael Girardot’s Macrofuns + Mississippi Shakedown – Circle Bar

08.24: Alexis and the Samurai + England in 1819 + ImagineIAM – Howlin’ Wolf Den

08.25: Coyotes + Gold And The Rush + Sports & Leisure – Carrollton Station

As a unit, Sports & Leisure have only been a presence in the New Orleans underground musical consciousness since October 2011, but the band’s individual players possess as impressive and diverse a musical pedigree as any local act currently playing. Though this orchestal-leaning indie pop band is the first major project embarked upon by former MyNameIsJohnMichael keyboardist and guitarist Richard Leo Dubourg, S&L is arguably much more than yet another offshoot from that aforementioned band’s prolific member exodus. Touting Solid Fuzz drummer Russell Shelton and Silent Game guitarist Scott Hannan as well as BJ Blue, Whitney Brown and Jeremy Peres, who share between them memberships in hiatus’d alternative rock band the Green Genes and early 2000s progressive screamo outfit Infinite Hours, Sports & Leisure’s work was cut out for them as they spent late 2011 and early 2012 searching for chemistry where there was already no lack of physical talent. After an impressive string of performances earlier this summer and a trip to the studio to put down their first offerings of recorded material, what is obvious to many at this point is how Sports & Leisure has quickly managed to match their complex – often jarring – milieu of folk, indie pop and psychedelic miscellanea with an organic tightness and a fantastic level of onstage energy.

This Saturday night they join forces with two other up-and-coming local acts, Americana indie band Coyotes and raucous southern rockers Gold and the Rush for a night at Carrollton Station, a venue which is mere blocks from an evening of cocktail-fueled rowdiness and bizarre costuming courtesy of the Krewe of Oak’s A Midsummer Night’s Mardi Gras. The post-party concert is set to beginning promptly after the krewe parades down Oak Street at 9:00pm.

08.27: Vox and the Hound + Birds and Batteries – Circle Bar

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

Live Picks: 08.16.2012 – 08.22.2012

08.16: Babes + Dominique LeJeune – Circle Bar

08.17: Rotary Downs – d.b.a.

08.18: Felix + Cons and Prose + Sideshow Tragedy – Prytania Bar

When entrenched in the Austin City Limits spillover that fills local stages during the fall and the South By Southwest, et al runoff that keeps our agenda slammed throughout spring, it is easy to forget how dusty and plodding a New Orleans summer has the propensity to be.  This year was made particularly lean by the absence of two notoriously prolific groups, who are mercifully returning to action just as local schedules are beginning to show some signs of life:  This weekend, both Felix and greatest band in the universe Rotary Downs return to the New Orleans stage.

After holding their own opening and closing ceremonies for this years Jazz Fest in the form of characteristically epic marathon performances at Le Bon Temps and Circle Bar (respectively), Rotary Downs spent the end of the spring and the beginning of the summer working diligently on their new album, a follow up to the 2010 masterpiece Cracked Maps and Blue Reports that is due out in early 2013.  They reappear this Friday on one of their many home courts, the friendly cypress-wrapped confines of d.b.a. that has been the backdrop of some of RD’s most memorable outings.

But just as exciting is the long-awaited return of Felix, whose absence from the scene isn’t quite as easily explained but who, during their periods of high activity, reign as the most fearlessly awesome band in town.  On record their songs are rancorous delights that land anywhere from funked-out country-western dirge to bluesy folkabilly rippers, but it is their live act that is truly the stuff of legend. Playing anywhere in town, in any slot on any kind of lineup, the ragtag trio regularly steals the show with an unhinged performance that remains frighteningly dialed in even as the group – most notably lead singer John Curry (equally engaging with his Blind Texas Marlin side/solo project) – descends into brute-force post-punk chaos: Curry growls through heart wrenching and hilarious lyrics in a wide range of physical and emotional postures, keyboardist Thomas Furtado navigates his multi-tiered universe as if he has far more than the standard issue 5 fingers per hand and drummer Adem Van Hull thrashes mercilessly at his well traveled kit and the hodge-podge of auxiliary percussion devices that surround it.

They will be joined at the re-christened Prytania Bar (the constantly evolving haunt formerly known as Cafe Prytania) by Austin’s Sideshow Tragedy and freshly minted local supergroup The Cons and Prose.  Saturday will mark just the second show for the new project that brings together lead singer extraordinaire Rik Slave, bassist Al Small of The Blue Party, Sports And Leisure‘s Whitney Brown and Bingo! Show drummer Keith Hajjar.

08.19: Sweet Street Symphony + Saint Bell + Pancake – The Big Top

08.20: Fang Island + Adebisi Shank + All People – The Parish at House of Blues

08.21: Rational Animals + Microshards + SS Boombox + Curved Dog – United Bakery

08.22: Gruff Rhys + ArchAnimals – One Eyed Jacks

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

News Briefs: Movin’ On Up Edition

The city looks like they may be starting to chill out just as the music schedule is starting to pick up. This is a good thing. Other good things: Heat Dust gets signed, Brass Bed’s got a new song, Au Ras Au Ras’ got a new video and Buku is back for 2013.

San Antonio-based Texas Is Funny Records has added nostalgic fuzz rockers Heat Dust to their small but growing roster of noise, punk, prog and “post-” bands from around the south.  Heat Dust is just getting back to town after their most extensive tour to date and are scheduled to release a 10″ of new material later this year.

Lafayette’s bouncy psychedelic-pop champions Brass Bed have released the title track their upcoming A Bullet For You 7″.  The three-song EP is due out September 18 and will act as a preview of The Secret Will Keep You, their long-awaited (formal) follow-up to 2010’s breakthrough Melt White expected early next year on Crossbill Records.  The band is also embarking on a late summer tour that starts this weekend in Baton Rouge and will take them up the west coast before running them through the midwest.

Buku Music and Art Festival, the EDM-focused weekend event that took over Mardi Gras World for this first time this spring, has announced the dates of its return to the riverfront.  The second incarnation of Buku will take place March 8-9, 2013 – a calendar shift that will no longer pit it directly against the music portion of Austin’s South By Southwest but instead is projected to counter the loosely organized French Quarter/Marigny/Bywater indie rock showcase Foburg.  A limited number of early-bird passes go on sale next week.

Just about a month away from its formal release, renaissance woman Tess Brunet has offered up another preview of The Great Nothing, her second Au Ras Au Ras full-length.  This time it comes in the form of the beautifully stark music video for single “I’m A Liar”, directed and edited by Adam Gambrel (whose portfolio also includes music videos for The Honorable South, Kristin Diable and Coyotes).  It’s the third song Burnett has made available from The Great Nothing, which will be released on September 11, 2012 and is available for cassette, vinyl and digital pre-order now.

Narcissy: 08.02.2012

The first thing I noticed upon walking into The Big Top last Thursday night was how great everything sounded in what is normally an acoustically quirky and unpredictable room.  One look at the stage explained everything, as front-and-center, relentlessly wailing on an electric guitar and crooning about how much he hates the south through a devilish grin was Jay Holland, the longtime front of house guru who helps make One Eyed Jacks the best room in the city to catch live music.

He was fronting cowpunkish rockers Narcissy, a band of scene veterans who have spent the better part of the last decade sporadically subverting genre titles and gently offending the sensibilities of more mild-mannered local concertgoers.  With bassist Anthony Donado and drummer Bill Rachel, the power trio unleashed a hilarious (and hilariously nimble) set that was equal parts experimental performance art piece and downright devastating rock n’ roll masterclass.

They bounced between every conceivable style and mood even before the band ditched their setlist in favor of a choose-your-own-adventure format in which Holland sifted through the Narcissy canon by asking the enthusiastic crowd questions like “Do you want a country song or a metal song?” and “Do you want to hear a Neil Young song or a song about Neil Young?”.  But no matter what kind of music they settled on, the rhythm section was tight, the vocal harmonies were bracing, and bouts of outlandish on-stage theatrics alternatively highlighted and brilliantly obscured the true virtuosity baked into even deceptively straightforward numbers.

There was something thrilling about watching these hyper-musically literate old pros manhandle their instruments, and an even more encompassing feeling of glee took hold when it became clear the players on stage were free from the confines of any one particular musical vocabulary.  These guys could play anything – southern roots rock, avant-garde drone, alternative country, light psychedelia – and did so with an unflinching panache that could have passed for insolent arrogance if Holland and co. didn’t consistently appear to be having even more fun than the truly delighted audience.

Live Picks: 08.09.2012 – 08.15.2012

08.09: The Eastern Sea + Native America + Sharks’ Teeth – One Eyed Jacks

Although their last trip to New Orleans was just a little over a month ago, it feels like The Eastern Sea we’re talking about right now are a completely different monster than the group who passed through town at the beginning of July.  There was no doubt plenty to be said about one of Austin’s most impressive exports leading up to that particular gig (a Carrollton Station show that marked Vox And The Hound‘s homecoming and the back half of a co-headlining doubleheader  between the two bands), as their ornate mix of spacey folk and atmospheric post-rock has been flooring listeners pretty much since the day lead singer Matt Hines began self-producing meticulously sprawling soundscapes in his bedroom in 2005.

And if you had the pleasure of seeing The Easter Sea help local heroes Sun Hotel release Coast at One Eyed Jacks in the fall of 2010, or perhaps caught a snippet of the ever expanding and contracting orchestra at South By Southwest or CMJ in recent years, you would have had good reason to be excited for their valiant return to town last month. But in only thirty days time an Eastern Sea performance has gone from highly recommended to nothing short of required, appointment viewing.  They killed at Carrollton Station, the new album they just put out is an all-consuming masterpiece and their current 7-piece touring outfit perfectly navigates the tension-filled narratives and robust instrumental panoramas of the long-awaited Plague with an expressive energy that adds yet another dimension to the dazzling compositions on their full-length debut.

The bill for Thursday night’s early show will be something of a reunion of the aforementioned One Eyed Jacks show of almost two years ago.  But instead of sharing the stage with Sun Hotel, The Eastern Sea will receive support from the band’s two spacey off-shoots: Native America – comprised of Sun Hotel’s John St. Cyr and Ross Farbe along with Country Club’s Ray Micarelli – and Sharks’ Teeth – the experimental noise project of uber-prolific Sun Hotel front man Tyler Scurlock.

MP3: The Eastern Sea: “Santa Rosa”

08.11: Gravity A – One Eyed Jacks

08.12: Glish + Self Help Tapes + No Clouds – The Big Top

08.14: Canadian Rifle + Adults + Heat Dust – United Bakery

08.15: Shovels and Rope + MyNameIsJohnMichael + Folk Family Revival – One Eyed Jacks

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