News Briefs: Bringin’ Back Breezys Edition

Fall is upon us (though the heat would have us believing otherwise), and with it comes the time of year when local musicians and the like begin to ramp up their creative output. This week Generationals, LoOmis and Mason Briggs unleash new music, while Breezy’s begins its long-awaited comeback and Royal Teeth’s recent good fortunes continue.

Never known to go quiet for too long, locally-based nationally-recognized indie pop duo Generationals have returned from with the follow-up to 2011’s Actor-Caster, the synthy and upbeat new single “Lucky Numbers”. In addition to prepping the release of an EP of the same name on October 2, the Generationals can be found touring the road for the majority of the next two months.

After nearly two years as a bastion of DIY culture in New Orleans’ indie rock community, local venue Breezy’s has moved onto a larger, more commercially legitimate endeavor. New space Breezy’s On Freret, set to open later this fall, will be only blocks from the former house-turned-coffee shop-turned-underground music spot that owners Mike Twillmann and Micah Burns used to inhabit. Currently working towards proofing and perfecting the new venue’s future sound system, the Breezy’s boys have begun a Kickstarter campaign to help them in their quest to give the Uptown campus area an unsurpassed underground live music experience.  More news as this campaign develops.

After dropping the video for single “Tired Flags” last month, former Smiley With A Knife guitarist Patrick Bailey – known individually as LoOmis – has just released his fifth full-length album of material since beginning the experimental analog project in 2007. A Beautiful Coincidence takes his well-documented penchant for instrumental post rock and intriguingly stretches it into territories more akin to drone and chillwave. Though the current San Francisco resident can’t generally be found haunting the concert venues of New Orleans these days, you can follow Mr. Bailey as he documents our rich history of underground rock and roll at The Memory Farm.

After spending the last six months experimenting with a Keller Williams/tUnE-yArDs one-man loop pedal format as Mason Briggs and forming post rock outfit Luxley with the likes of Bantam Foxes bassist Collin McCabe, local singer and guitarist Ryan Gray has returned with the Briggs monicker for a string of solo tracks utilizing only a guitar and an iPhone app. New song “Elegance” comes on the heels of last month’s “Distractor”.

Thanks to a growing and increasingly rabid national fan base, local indie pop act Royal Teeth will be taking the stage at Filter Magazine’s Culture Collide Festival, which takes place October 4-7 in Los Angeles. The result of a polling contest put on by Red Bull Soundstage, Royal Teeth placed first among dozens of acts from all over the country. Meanwhile, you can find the sextet on tour through the month of October (they’ll be back in New Orleans for the Voodoo Music Experience) or in EA Sports’ Fifa 13, which is available September 28 and features Royal Teeth track “Wild”.

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Thanks, Dog: A Strangely Fitting Kinship

It was only recently that I began to finally fathom, after four years or so, the narrow yet oddly pervasive influence of Dr. Dog in the consciousness of New Orleans. I’ve always felt their presence here; it’s inescapable when you live in the town that boarded the dudes who started a label specifically to put out records for this group of outsider Northeasterners. When Park the Van Records became a concrete entity in 2005, it marked one of the only times up to that point in which the Big Easy had earned itself any sort of braggable rock n’ roll cred since the Warehouse hosted the blazing Hades of embarrassment that was Jim Morrison’s final live performance. Since that night in December of 1970, our local collective ken has been hip enough to hang its hat on legendary prurience like Soilent Green, Acid Bath and Pantera’s Phil Anselmo – artists whose well-established creative profferings to the American musical landscape have been perpetually stilted by the apathy of a Louisiana mainstream more interested in hearing the new Neville offspring with an axe to grind or finding the successor to Louis Armstrong’s platonic ideal of a brassman – while we place what remaining rock n’ roll faith we have in the hardworking, ceaseless touring ethic of creatively impotent alternative rock acts like Cowboy Mouth and Better than Ezra.

But all of the sudden one day, in the primordial months preceding Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans found itself with a fragile, though strangely appropriate, link to the outside world of then-burgeoning “indie rock”: a band of Philadelphia psyche rockers with a bunch of weird nicknames, a penchant for the lo-fi stylings of Guided by Voices and a musical talent the likes of which NOLA’s metal, punk and ska scenes (the only real bastions of DIY or underground music that truly existed at the time) had never seen. With a string of low-key performances in front of college kids schooled in Tulane liberalism or Loyola music careerism, the odd Park The Van/Dr. Dog paradigm presented an unobtrusive new concept for New Orleans’ confidently home-grown artistic traditions: a scene self-curated, the indie imported.

If you’re the type who perpetually thinks about music in terms of “the zeitgeist”, then there is a good chance you’ve never closely listened to Dr. Dog, or that you’ve simply disregarded them. I know that’s been my case for nearly five years, and it’s more than fair: I doubt Dr. Dog has ever given much thought to their place in such a zeitgeist, and in that capacity this group of Philadelphia outsiders 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 placidly gained national traction with Easy Beat, and they were more than happy to snooze the indie intelligentsia with a similar sounding follow-up in We All Belong, as well as with each ever-so-joyously-repressed recording since.

But for those musicians and listeners whose tastes are fervently tethered to and filtered through the culture of New Orleans, an aestheticism built on endless hours spent living as opposed to making, and playing as opposed to posing, the idea that this city could act as Dr. Dog’s unofficial second home, a de facto pied-à-terre, was one of the most revelatory events in their lives: here is a band of classic oddballs, schooled in all the perceivable ways that the NOLA greats of all genres had been (loose perfection of a confined craft, collaboration, irreverence and the courage to do it all in the most passé fashion possible), playing on someone else’s turf yet curiously running talent-circles around not just the rockers but the funkers, jazzers, punks, hip hoppers and zydecos. And then the band would disappear, without a trace of fanfare, back up to cold, metropolitan Philadelphia, leaving us down here reeling for more and waiting patiently for the next time this revenant spirit of dead rock n’ roll would emphatically thunder into town again.

That feeling and experience, of which I never had the blessing of being a part, must have been profound in that it left a lasting impression so far in the fronts of local artists’ minds that New Orleans’ massive flood was a mere speed bump on the road of what was to come. It must have been only days after being allowed back in the city to assess all the damage that a string of bands began popping up around town with a sound decidedly new to the local consciousness but vaguely familiar to anyone with a taste for jangly indie rock or pensive chamber pop. Untrained, I took it as another of the strange, faddish yet outmoded shifts that local underground music here has an inclination toward. Just as the punk kids started playing ska in the mid-90s at its national peak and those ska kids turned to emo as it became a phenomenon, this indie thing was the next permutation of a rock scene that – aside from a deep history of sludge metal and grindcore – has glaringly never had a personality of its own.

And maybe that’s still true about our scene, but I’d be a fool to continue to argue it after realizing not just what influenced the current slew of local indie rock bands but how it influenced them. Sure, local ska had its MU330 and Mustard Plug – under the radar out-of-town bands that had a heavy influence on the style of ska we saw – and early Dashboard Confessional provided the simplest and quickest way to emulate late 90s emo (there was scant impact to be found from the rip-roaring chaos of acts like Cap’n Jazz and Braid because, with the exception of Community, no one in this city was talented enough to replicate that stuff); but whereas those acts appeared to lead the charge in their respective genres, Dr. Dog, has from day one, actively bucked the bellwethers of indie rock and its continually fluctuating trendiness. And their music couldn’t simply be emulated, it had to be assimilated. If you wanted to do what these guys were doing, you couldn’t just ape an upstroke and find a horn guy, or learn to tune in Open C, you had to perfect an entire fucking craft: You had to start thrifting for an old Rhodes, listen up on your lo-fi and fuse together a wealth of psychedelic effects pedals; You had to find a drummer that could play rock and dance and syncopate with ease and you had to master baroque vocals.

The simplest analogy available is that Dr. Dog was the mother sauce of New Orleans indie rock, a bechamel from which the Silent Cinemas, Generationals, Empress Hotels, Giant Clouds, Vox & the Hounds and Native Americas of the city could arguably find their spiritual lineage. For instance, calling the Generationals a “dancier Dr. Dog” (as I have routinely heard) may sound like a write-off that does creative injustice to that duo, but the comparison is unavoidable and, more importantly, a revelation: in a flash the band’s lineage – from the defunct Eames Era to the Generationals to the offshoot Au Ras Au Ras – goes from run-of-the-mill to positively rich and resonant when one accounts for Dr. Dog’s floodgate significance.

Giant Cloud Releasing Final Album, Playing Reunion Show

From the end of 2008 until just a few months ago, many arguments about the best band in New Orleans’ burgeoning indie rock movement came to one surprisingly consistent conclusion, surprising only given how nebulous and pedantic any such discussion tends to be.  With their baroque space rock – equal parts majestic instrumentation, soaring vocal harmonies, and nimble tempo shifts – Giant Cloud was the most dependably impressive group of musicians the city had to offer.  But just as they were primed to release the highly-anticipated Bloom & Decay, their full-length follow up to 2010’s Old Books EP, Giant Cloud broke up.  Their gig this past June, opening for Park The Van labelmates Generationals, was to be their last and an album full of the delicate and shifty compositions they had dynamically and relentlessly toured against for over a year was indefinitely shelved.

It was an abrupt conclusion to one of the most exciting and promising storylines the New Orleans alternative music scene had to offer, but now the Giant Cloud will get their proper final chapter: Park The Van will formally release Bloom & Decay digitally on November 8, and the band will reunite on December 17 for a special evening at Chickie Wah Wah with Empress Hotel and San Antonio-based punk rockers The Hawks (of Holy Rosary).  It probably won’t ease the still-lingering pain of the breakup, but at least it will give us a little more to remember them by.

MP3: Giant Cloud: “Windy Road”

Park The Van Records

G-Eazy: The Endless Summer

Pigeons & Planes/Mostly Junk Food, 2011

It would be far too easy to call G-Eazy‘s The Endless Summer a “mixtape”, as the term has become a quick and dirty shorthand for any sample-laced internet-only hip hop release of the last ten years.  The latest from this New Orleans-based, Bay Area-bred MC does ostensibly fit the bill: Despite a somewhat unique inclination towards 50s and 6os rock and soul, the album is effectively the work of a buzzworthy blog rapper rapping over quirky beats borrowed from the canons of blogged-about buzzbands.  But the pristine and conscientious production of The Endless Summer – in both the traditional music recording sense of the term as well as its hip hop specific beatmaking definition – fiercely eschews classification as a standard issue “mixtape”.

The eponymous album opener as well as its lead single, “Runaround Sue”, are quick to put a fine point on this important distinction, as both showcase G-Eazy’s compositional propensity to elevate the songs on The Endless Summer beyond each’s well-picked loops.  The source material is easily recognizable (especially the case for the latter), but the vintage pop of The Beach Boys and Dion is cradled in booming low-end, and local vocal talent is tapped to supplement Eazy’s laid back flow with freshly written and well-performed choruses.  The beautiful “All I Can Do” similarly transcends the “mixtape” paradigm, as the portion of the track borrowed from LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrslf Clean” sits comfortably among American Idol-alum Devon Baldwin‘s sultry voice and NYC alt-rapper Skizzy Mars‘ playful boasts.

And as was the case on G-Easy’s March offering The Outsider (on which Caddywhompus‘ “But Not Before A Show” served as the backbone for the standout “You Were Up To Something”), the assist on The Endless Summer‘s high point again goes to a brilliant sample deftly plucked from New Orleans’ own indie-rock movement.  In a true masterstroke of creativity and sardonic wit, the infectious “Make-Up Sex” is built atop the bouncy chorus of Generationals’ “When They Fight, They Fight”, with G-Eazy replacing the polite innuendo of the original with the good-natured but frank earnestness that defines most of The Endless Summer‘s choicest cuts.

The Endless Summer is not without its momentary missteps however, as the topical pleasure of Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks” proved too alluring for even G-Eazy’s otherwise admirable discretion. But an occasional odd track that doesn’t quite pass the high bar set by the album’s shining moments does little to stop the impressive momentum of G-Eazy’s consistent, clever and sharp new set.

The Endless Summer on Bandcamp

Live Picks: 06.23.2011 – 06.29.2011

06.23: Rotary Downs – Ogden Museum of Southern Art

06.24: Gravity A + Earfunk – Hookah

06.25: Generationals + Giant Cloud + Empress Hotel + Au Ras Au Ras – Tipitina’s

Even if you haven’t spent hours devouring their 2009 debut Con Law, their follow-up EP, Trust, or their latest full-length offering Actor-Castor, there is a good chance you have heard the musical stylings of Generationals Grant Widmer and Ted Joyner.  Since their time in Baton Rouge-based quintet The Eames Era, the two have been crafting the kind of breezy, retro-pop ear-worms that have not just caught the attention of fans and critics across the country, but also television show runners and the creative teams for some major advertising agencies.

But their music is more than just a good soundtrack for episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and Bloomingdale’s holiday commercials.  Easy-going melodies and jangly odes to almost every noteworthy musical genre that sprouted up between 1950 and the late 1970s combine to provide a blissful backdrop for nearly any activity that comes to mind.

In a live setting, however, Widmer and Joyner are far less less quaint, beefing up their spacious studio sound with enormous drums and synth that give their already catchy songs enveloping sonic weight.  The two are also no strangers to a delay pedal, and are not afraid to launch into a fuzzed-out guitar jam if the moment is right.  This all adds up to a stage show that is at the same time as agreeable as one may expect, but also far more rollicking (as anyone who witnessed the band’s garden-dance-party inducing set at this year’s Jazz Fest will readily attest).

If that is not enough, Saturday will likely mark the final show for Giant Cloud, purveyors of some of the most delightful music ever caught on tape.  Lead vocalists Benjamin Jones and Julie Odell have probably forgotten more about bouncy, ethereal harmonies than most singers will ever know; and locals are sure to be elegiazing the shifty, dynamic space-pop Giant Cloud crafted for years to come.  Park The Van label-mates Empress Hotel and Au Ras Au Ras open.

MP3: Generationals: “You Say It Too”
MP3: Giant Cloud: “Old Books”

06.26: Andrew Duhon + Sun Hotel + Dominique LeJeune + Reid Martin + Alexis Marceaux – Breezy’s Spot

06.28: Cigarette + James Hayes + Dave Fera + Opposable Thumbs – Euclid Records

06.29: Kool Keith – Maison

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

The Jazz Fest 2011 Daily Lineup is out!

In New Orleans, Jazz Fest is like Christmas.  Which makes Christmas something closer to Easter. Easter is then relegated to the ranks of a Flag Day, probably, and the rest follows from there.  At least that’s what it is like for me.  But even people who are not willing to blaspheme and degrade generally-accepted secular holidays will agree that the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is a seven-day smorgasbord of music that borders on magical.  At midnight the full line up was released, and it goes something like this:

Arcade Fire, Bon Jovi, Robert Plant, Jimmy Buffett, John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Wilco, The Strokes and Kid Rock are the big headliners in the lineup for the 2011 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Other notable nationally touring acts coming down to the Big Easy include John Legend with The Roots, The Decemberists, Lucinda Williams, Lupe Fiasco, Ms. Lauryn Hill and Michael Franti with Spearhead.  And does anyone else remember Edie Brickell?  Yeah, she’ll be there, too.  So will Jeff Beck, who returns for a second year in a row, probably to finish the job of blowing every mind in the greater New Orleans area.

As is increasingly the case over the last few years, the announcement was met with a mixture of excitement, disappointment, trepidation and debate; not just overthe merits of the headliners themselves, but over what their presence at an event that bills it self as a “Jazz and Heritage Festival” means for the Current and Future State of Music©, local version.  Without getting too entrenched in the discussion, I’ll conceded that there are undoubtedly some head scratchers in there.

But never fear, for no amount of Kid Rock can change the fact that the food is going to be amazing, the tent scene is sure to be transcendent, and the early afternoon lineups on the stages with include native heavy-hitters such as Happy Talk Band, Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns, Big Freedia and Katey Red, greatest band in the universe Rotary Downs, Hurray For The Riff Raff, Anders Osborne, Los Po-Boy-Citos, Bonerama, MyNameIsJohnMichael, The Generationals and many many more.

Jazz Fest 2011 Daily Lineup Released :: OffBeat :: Louisiana and New Orleans Online Music Resource.