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

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Live Picks: 04.12.2012 – 04.18.2012

04.12: The Unnaturals + Blacksmoke + Babes – The Saint

04.13: Hurray For The Riff Raff – AllWays Lounge

04.14: Silent Disco hosted by Rusty Lazer – 524 Frenchmen St.

One of the most fascinating things I saw at my first Bonnaroo, amidst the sea of outrageously fascinating things ones sees at his or her first Bonnaroo, came as I wandered aimless and barefoot around Centeroo after taking in as much of the after-hours sets as my drug-addled and exhausted body could handle.  Off in the distance I noticed a group of late-night revelers moving in decided unison without hearing anything coming from their particular direction other than the ambient festival drone that probably stretched for miles across the Tennessee countryside.  Only after getting up close and personal did I begin to grasp what was going on: there was, in fact a DJ, but his rig was hooked up to a transmitter instead of an PA system; and only those in the crowd of wireless headphone-wearing participants were in on the rager.

I was witnessing my first “Silent Disco”, a novel experiment in performance art and entertainment. Popularized at outdoor musical festivals looking to keep the party going after local noise ordinances took hold, Silent Discos are at once perfectly inclusive and blithely exclusive; and may be almost as enjoyable for those watching from the sidelines as for those in the private universe of the synced up headphones.  With the always-decreasing cost of technology and more and more audio equipment manufacturers getting in on the game, Silent Discos have spread beyond festivals are now the provenance of bars, clubs and even house parties.  This weekend, back-to-back local events bring the trend to the New Orleans.

On Friday at Cafe Prytania, female-duo Spirit Animals will get the party started before Jermaine Quiz, Sir Shitz A Lot and Gangbusters compete for your attention.  Saturday, however, could bring the Silent Disco fad to a most outlandish apex as Rusty Lazer – the man behind the monumental rise of sissy bounce and one of the best ambassadors for New Orleans’ long tradition of gritty and glorious street music – hosts what may be the world’s first Silent Shake-Off.  DJs Lady Business, SirReal, Rotten Milk and more will help provide the soundtrack to an all-night dance party that will probably have to be seen to be believed.

04.15: Opposable Thumbs + Violent Sects + New Lands – The Big Top

04.16: Hunx and his Punx + Natural Child + Jean Eric + King Louie’s Missing Monuments – Siberia

04.17: The Fens + Hillbilly Hotel + Blind Texas Marlin – Siberia

04.18: Chairlift + Night Jewel – One Eyed Jacks

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

Underhill Family Orchestra: 03.01.2012

Every time the roving bacchanal known as the Underhill Family Orchestra rolls into a foreign town in their graffiti-doused psychedelic Dodge Ram Cargo Van, they must be expecting a hoard of Timmy Martins to traipse over and drop their jaws in wonderment at the sight of seven veritable savages, all bearing the surname “Underhill”, cavorting around unhinged in an incompatibly refined world. Covering the eyes of their sons and daughters from such wanton deviance, repressed older men will wonder if the lone lady in this hippie commune is its queen or its concubine or, even more perversely, both. And as soon as these derelicts reach into their van to reveal ROCK MUSIC INSTRUMENTS, it’s all over.

“Ruining good ole christian family towns! Looking like drug-adled miscreants, freaking out the ass-backwards establishment, spreading the message of perception in God’s Country” is how I imagine this young Mobile, Alabama-based band fantasizes its own existence in a still very traditional area of the United States. For that matter, it might indeed be true that Underhill – with their 60s-harkening “Family Orchestra” title, their Kesey-inspired flying bus and their faces all detailed in red and black paint – often find themselves gleefully at odds with the spirit of the small towns surrounding Mobile. Maybe they can genuinely freak folks out with image alone.

But in New Orleans, where Religion comes to die and even suited-up politicians have weird subversive arts obsessions, people see right through face paint, modes of transport and collective demeanor, and they’re more than adept at perceiving Underhill Family Orchestra for what they truly are: a roaring, catastrophically energetic rock n’ roll band, in possibly the oldest fashioned sense of the term. With no trace of Red Krayola pumping through their veins, Underhill plays a set more akin to early Small Faces, muffing out their guitars to the point that acoustic and electric conjoin for a seamless ear-bursting howl, pummeling the crowd with bursts of cymbal crash, and gracefully abandoning all rhythmic continuity in favor or a looser, far more endearing milieu.

It’s to a setting of this sort of startling energy that you begin to realize that all the non-musical miscellanea Underhill carry with them is less like a grand gesture to their audience of how “different” or “open” they are than it is the result of an instinctual need to physically embody the thrill they experience from performing a piece of creative work more revelatory than any one of them could muster individually – the “family”. Everyone sings or yells or bellows or growls and trades high fives or knowing grins, and it isn’t before long that half the crowd, fully entrenched in the band’s unforced and organically-born live antics, is on stage with them to share in the titillation; because lawless reciprocal participation – rock n’ roll as a truly democratic art form – is precisely what makes New Orleans kids sweat ecstasy. The wacky Ram Van unassumingly at rest outside of Cafe Prytania is a mere bonus.

Live Picks: 03.01.2012 – 03.07.2012

03.01: Coyotes + Underhill Family Orchestra + Aerial Attack – Cafe Prytania

Let’s not say it; saying it would expose us to all the pitfalls of belting out an amusingly campy, jargonic platitude. But let’s quietly, delightedly think it: the second wave of New Orleans’ now-legitimate burgeoning indie rock “scene” is upon us. 20ROCKIN12 has brought the city a slew of young bros and, with them, a paradigmatic shift wherein former young bros have become the old bros and former old bros have been hoisted into the echelon of curators of the Crescent City’s Underground Music Community. There is plenty of new music to galvanize rock concertgoers around town – Chinquapin Records padding its roster with stellar acts like Habitat; Lafayette native and Brass Bed multi-instrumentalist Johnny Campos beginning to reemerge as a bona fide NOLA artist; and a loose collection of young acts including Gold & the Rush, Donovan Wolfington, ArchAnimals and Pals – but one emerging band, though fresh in its current incarnation, has anomalously been around for what seems like years.

Coyotes was formerly the pet project of NOLA-by-way-of-Los-Angeles singer songwriter Duz Mancini. Though the act has experienced a well-documented revolving door lineup, only recently has Mr. Mancini managed to solidify the kinship of an incredibly talented, highly collaborative group of young musicians. Now officially rounded out by guitarist Justen Cheney, renaissance bassman Christian Baraks and drummer Lucas Cox, the four-piece Coyotes have ramped up their live presence over the last two months, sharing stages with the likes of Tennessee’s the Features and local Grammy Award-winning group Rebirth Brass Band. With that calculated momentum growth comes “Cosmic in the Badlands”, a contemplative little EP that actualizes Mancini and Co.’s collective paroxysms as well as their subsequent musical stability. The record is possibly the introduction to a year of local releases at least as satisfying as the community’s 2011 output. And Coyotes’ newly established live prowess finds them at the de facto center of a group of ready-to-go young bros already making their way to the forefront of the local milieu.

To ring in “Cosmic in the Badlands”, Coyotes is hosting a show at Cafe Prytania Thursday night, and joining them will be Mobile, Alabama-based folk rockers Underhill Family Orchestra and yet another band of local newcomers, the psychedelic noise pop outfit Aerial Attack.

MP3: Coyotes: “Wheels”

03.02: Gold And The Rush + England in 1819 + Pals + Autotomii – Hi-Ho Lounge

03.03: Bipolaroid + Bare Wires + Mahayla – Circle Bar

03.05: B.Y.O.Vinyl Night – The Rusty Nail

03.07: Ponykiller + Mike Bell and the Movies + Rabbit – The Big Top

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

Preview // Cafe Carnival: 02.16.2012 – 02.20.2012

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.

02.16: Flow Tribe + Naughty Professor + Saltwater Grass

02.17: Sun Hotel + Country Club + Vox And The Hound

02.18: Caddywhompus + Big Rock Candy Mountain + Young Mammals + Donovan Wolfington

02.19: The Revivalists + Star & Micey + The Blue Party

02.20: Rebirth Brass Band + Mississippi Rail Co. + Coyotes