Foburg, Day 1: 03.11.2011

I was worried that the slightly altered format of this year’s Foburg Festival would greatly eliminate the wild west-frontier spirit that consumed me as I bounced around Frenchman Street in the spring of 2010.  The addition of Bywater venues Hi-Ho Lounge, Siberia, Saturn Bar and AllWays Lounge – not to mention greatest rock club in the city, One Eyed Jacks – was no doubt welcome, but the expanded footprint of the event coupled with an abbreviated nightly schedule offered myriad logistical challenges for those hoping, as was possible last year, to hit every venue each night.

Seeing as not everyone descends on a weekend music festival with the megalomaniacal desire to see every band at every club for the purpose of bragging about his or her exploits on a fledgling local music blog, this was hardly a non-starter.  More precise and thematic programming led to some fascinating monster bills, and, at the end of the day, it was hard to be disappointed about missing one killer show when you are getting your brains blown in by another.

My decision to spend the first night exclusively on Frenchman Street came at the expense of a lot of heavy hitters who set up shop on St. Claude or Toulouse, but a unique and dense schedule offered the greatest chance of reliving the glory days of yore.  All five venues in the Marigny proper were hosting bona fide blockbusters – from the alt-folk throwdown upstairs at Blue Nile to the freak-out progressive showcase in the belly of the Dragon’s Den – and the evening’s perfect weather made the decision to stay in the area with the greatest walkability score a relatively guilt-free one.

In what has become an ad-hoc New Orleans music festival tradition, my weekend began taking in the soulful croon of Luke Winslow-King, who was accompanied this evening by the lovely and talented Esther Rose on washboard and backing vocals.  I’ve already gone on record with enough glowing compliments about King – both in print and otherwise – that I’ve ran out of colorful adjectives to cram into dense, grammatically suspect sentences describing his uniquely haunting take on Dixieland music and its antecedents, so I’ll just say that once again he was fantastic.

From there it was off to the races, but not before a quick pit stop in the front room of Maison to check out Booty Trove, a 9 piece brass band popping up at more and more rock shows around town.  Up until now, I have not really know what to make of them, as raising the bar when dealing in the indigenous, horny funk in which they specialize is no small feat for any band.  On this evening, however, they sounded fresh and tight as they sparked through an incendiary set of originals, standards and inspired covers.

In retrospect, my memories of the shuttle run up and down the stairs of Blue Nile and back and forth between the Maison and Dragon’s Den have already become hazy and disjointed, but I will not soon forgot what went down at the latter venue when Austin-based avant-experimental duo Zorch took the stage. For 45 dark, loud, mind-blowing minutes they powered through a collection of synth-driven, psychedelic manifestos that were as disorientingly brilliant as they are impossible to describe (although if I were to give it a shot, I’d start by calling  Zorch’s music something akin to an gonzo combination of Z-era My Morning Jacket, On The Corner-era Miles Davis, Speaking In Tongues-era Talking Heads, and Green-era Universal Indicator; drenched with an additional dose of heavy, nimble drum work just for good measure).

A whacked-out light show and bag full of prop tambourines only added to the mayhem, and after their show I could have easily gone to bed and slept through the rest of the weekend without regrets.  So imagine my delight when unavoidable long-bill start time creep allowed me to catch a large chunk of both Hurray For The Riff Raff and Native America‘s set before diving headfirst into the ramble that was Debauche’s headlining spot back where my night began.

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Photoset // Foburg, Day 1: 03.11.2011

Luke Winslow-King, Booty Trove, Native America, Hurray For The Riff Raff, Zorch, The Yes Way, High In One Eye, Sun Hotel, Debauche and Flow Tribe performing at the 2011 Foburg Music Festival on March 11, 2011

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Preview // Foburg, Day 1: 03.11.2011

Ra Ra Riot + GIVERS + The Luyas – One Eyed Jacks

Sun Hotel + The Yes Way + Native America + Booty Trove – Maison Downstairs

Flow Tribe + The Blue Party + Mississippi Rail Company – Blue Nile Downstairs

Debauche + The Lisps + Hurray For The Riff Raff + Luke Winslow-King – Blue Nile Upstairs

The seeds of Debauche were sown in 2007 when Ukranian ex-pat Yegor Romantsov took up residency at the now-defunct French Quarter coffeehouse Kahve Royale.  The former Russian punk-rocker spent his Friday evenings sipping homemade vodka and playing Soviet Union-era prison dirges about criminals, orphans, and other assorted ne’er-do-wells, what he calls “Russian Mafia Hooligan Music.”

Within months, his weekly solo gig turned into a series of increasingly wild jam sessions as members of cajun-klezmer band the Zydepunks became regular guests, and the nom de guerre of the resultant group is as appropriate as the music is unique.  But even with arrangements that are heavily informed by Romantsov and his brethren’s gypsy-punk-rock DNA, Debauche’s music is defiantly – or perhaps, quintessentially – folk music.

The same can be said about the sound made by the rest of the bands appearing in the Blue Nile’s balcony room on the opening night of the 2011 Foburg Music Festival.  While all modern music is technically a descendant of 19th century musical folklore, participants in Friday night’s showcase draw more identifiable inspiration from classic compositional tradition than most.  New Yorks’ The Lisps crafts their over-the-top, vaudevillian stage shows around country-twinged anti-pop; Hurray For The Riff Raff’s Alynda Lee sets delicately heartbreaking tales against spacey acoustic accompaniment; and even Luke Winslow-King‘s original waltzes sound as old and spirited as New Orleans herself.

I, Octopus + Zorch + High In One Eye – Dragon’s Den Downstairs

G-Easy + D.P. + DJ G-Cue – Dragon’s Den Upstairs

Megafauna + Luke Starkiller + General Bye Bye + Enharmonic Souls – Siberia

The Other Planets + Caddywhompus + Fights – AllWays Lounge

Vox and the Hound + Modern Skirts + The Beams – Hi-Ho Lounge

The White Bitch + R Scully’s Rough 7 + The Green Demons – Saturn Bar

French Quarter Fest Announces Lineup, Adds Extra Day

It’s hard to call something attended by over 500,000 people a “well-kept secret”, but despite its meteoric rise in popularity since its 1984 inception, The French Quarter Festival still feels like just that.  Maybe it’s the  massive music schedule that features almost exclusively homegrown talent, maybe it is the way way the 18 stages organically sprawl across the Quarter, maybe it is the fact that it is still free after all these years.

Either way French Quater Fest has grow to be the largest admission-free music festival in the Gulf South, and this year the aim is to make it even bigger:

For the first time in its history, the festival has added an additional day. Dubbed ‘Locals Lagniappe Day,’ Thursday, April 7th will open the festival. An eclectic mix of artists, chosen because they are local favorites, include: Los Hombres Calientes, Benny Grunch and the Bunch, Kipori Woods, and The Preservation Hall-Stars will play opening day.

And as the scope of the event expands every year, so does the diversity of the line-up.  Traditional jazz, R&B, zydeco, brass bands, folk and gospel and will all be well represented, but so will indie rock, funk, post-classical French Pop, and Russian mafia punk:  Artists such as MyNameIsJohnMichael, Flow Tribe, Helen Gillet’s Wazozo and Debauche fill out a line-up of perennial local favorites.

The 28th Annual French Quarter Festival