Live Picks: 09.27.2012 – 10.03.2012

09.27: The Soft Pack + Heavy Hawaii + KG Accidental – One Eyed Jacks

09.28: Rotary Downs + King Rey – Prytania Bar

09.29: Glish + The Beams + Native America + L.F. Knighton – Circle Bar

On some oblique level, the Beams may be the purest example in New Orleans of what it means to be a band. Though boasting, through its members, a pedigree that links it to several of the most well-known and meaningful local rock acts of the last fifteen years, this bristly four-piece power pop act seems to perpetually exist as a fringe presence or a phantom of indie rock past. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing: the less time the Beams spend striving for relevancy in a culture that demands overt self-promotion and subtle competition, the more opportunities they find to offer opening support for the young artists who are actively seeking mainstream acclaim, and thus act as a model of hard work and passion where there would otherwise be none.

At their core the Beams are – simply put – an always pleasant, often loud, occasionally mind-blowing concoction of jangled guitars, heartbreak melodies and charmingly unrefined vocal harmonies. Yet there is always something even more unique about this act bubbling just below its forthright surface. Indeed, most Beams live shows tend to carry with them elements of both isolationism and confederation. Almost as often as the band can be found doing one-off afternoon bar shows and record store appearances completely by themselves, they can be found comfortably on a bill next to literally any band in the city that uses a guitar.

This Saturday night is no exception, as the Beams stop into Circle Bar to lend a hand to space rock shoegazers Glish, who will be celebrating the release of their second EP, Come Down. Fuzzcore act Native America and Mobile, Alabama-based rock and roll band L.F. Knighton also perform.

09.30: Heat Dust + Donovan Wolfington + Isidro

10.01: King Louie’s Missing Monuments + Cyclops + White Mystery – Circle Bar

10.03: Dinosaur Jr. + Shearwater – Tipitina’s

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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

Rotary Downs’ Jason Rhein Raising Money For Shed Documentary

Any New Orleans resident who has gone east in search of beaches with actual sand and water that won’t leave a mark is likely familiar with The Shed, the Ocean Springs, MS barbecue and music destination.  Whether you’ve pulled off I-10 to grab lunch on the way back from Hangout Fest or just seen the name in plain black letters along side the fast-food options listed on the Exit 57 information boards, in the last decade the Orrison family, who own and operate The Shed BBQ and Blues Joint, have earned their place in the hearts and minds of Gulf South residents and visitors.

Intrigued by the already compelling history of The Shed, which started as little more than a clapboard shack and grew to an award-winning culinary and entertainment landmark, New Orleans filmmaker Jason Rhein (who can also be found thumping away on bass for greatest band in the universe Rotary Downs) had been collecting footage of the family-run operation since the beginning of the year.  But – Hurricane on the Bayou-style – an unexpected tragedy completely changed the trajectory of the the planned documentary narrative: In February, the hallowed Ocean Springs location burned to the ground.

Now, Rhein’s project will chronicle the rebuilding of the Gulf South institution from the ground up, a process the Orrisons hope will be finished in time for the Shed’s annual BBQ and Blues festival in September.  As a result of the film’s expanded scope and increased urgency, Jason Rhein and his Elephant Quilt Productions have launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a full-length feature.  The ambitious $80,000 goal will fund an additional three months of filming, cover the cost of post-production, pay for a fully-licensed soundtrack and got towards various film festival application fees and related travel expenses. Donation rewards include everything from the standard “Thank You” in the credits to an honorary spot on The Shed’s award-winning BBQ pit team.

Fire at ‘The Shed’: A Family Story of Barbeque and the Blues on Kickstarter

Live Picks: 05.03.2012 – 05.09.2012

05.03: Babes + Bruiser’s House of Surf + Sun Year – Dragon’s Den

05.04: Brass Bed + Big Rock Candy Mountain + Au Ras Au Ras  – Siberia

05.05: Nick Lowe + Autumn Defense – House of Blues

05.06: Rotary Downs – Circle Bar

To the casual observer, it may have seemed like a quiet spring for greatest band in the universe Rotary Downs, who kept a scarce live schedule since tearing down d.b.a. at Foburg early this past March. But while the brilliance of New Orleans’ champions of psychedelic-influenced art-pop has not been on public display for over a month, the newly expanded lineup of the most enduring force in our city’s independent rock panorama has been hard at work writing, tracking and re-imagining a slew of new compositions that will eventually become the follow-up to 2010’s masterful Cracked Maps and Blue Reports.

But during Festival Season, you can count on Rotary Downs to come out swinging.  After opening up the first Jazz Fest weekend with last Friday’s ripper at Le Bon Temps Roule, a marathon performance that showed off almost a dozen fully-realized new tunes and featured an unplanned cameo from experimental organist extraordinaire Marco Benevento, Rotary Downs will be closing down the festival in similarly epic fashion at The Circle Bar.  Multi-instrumental talent Alex Smith – who took over bass duties for the stretch Jason Rhein spent working and touring with Imagination Movers last year – has been installed as a full time member, adding another weapon to Rotary Downs’ endless sonic arsenal, and the creative momentum that accompanies any band’s writing and recording process has injected a terrifying vigor into the live performance of RD songs new and old.

Sunday night’s show will be the band’s first since The Circle Bar reopened it’s doors in January, and after warming up at 11:15AM on the Acura Main Stage, there’s good reason to expect a thrilling and memorable end to another fantastic Jazz and Heritage Festival, et al.

MP3: Rotary Downs: “Holiday Home”

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

05.08: Rusty Lazer + Nicky Da B + LuckyLou + NOLAFam + Walt McClements – Siberia

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

Live Picks: 01.19.2012 – 01.25.2012

01.19: King Louie’s Missing Monuments + Bipolaroid + Lonely Nights + DJ Matty + Lefty Parker – Siberia

01.20: Rik Slave & the Phantoms + O.L.D. + Little Maker – THE CIRCLE BAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

01.21: Rotary Downs + R. Scully’s Rough 7 – One Eyed Jacks

If I learned one thing in 2011, it’s that there is no bad way to see greatest band in the universe Rotary Downs.  Whether opening up the Gentilly Stage at Jazz Fest or pushing a crowd of exasperated revelers to the brink of exhaustion with their annual Halloween marathon at d.b.a., Rotary Downs stunned and dazzled and amazed at every stop.  But then, I also learned this lesson in 2010, 2009 and 2008 before that; and anyone with even a glancing interest in the New Orleans independent music scene (and/or a working set of earholes) at any point in the last decade should be keen to the seemingly endless artistic potential of our most ruthlessly talented local treasure.

So while there is no wrong time to ever see Rotary Downs specifically, there is never a better time, in general, to see any band as when they are embroiled in the creatively inspiring and grueling task of writing and recording a new album.  And if you had the pleasure of catching Rotary Downs anytime in the last nine months, you were treated to an increasingly awesome selection of brand new songs like the swirling, Built-To-Spill-in-space-esque ripper “Godzilla”, which keeps getting more and more exciting each time it’s unleashed.  As the band will head to Lafayette in early February for initial tracking of their 5th full length album – and 3rd in a row with Grammy Award-winning Louisiana native Ivan Klisanin –  Rotary Downs’ next run of shows, kicking off on Saturday at One Eyed Jacks, should be just about as ferocious as local live music gets.  Morning 40 Federation lead-man Ryan Scully’s newest project, a “Rough 7” that includes organist Ratty Scurvics and the inimitable Meschiya Lake, opens.

MP3: Rotary Downs: “A Drink From The Cloud”

01.24: Thou + Kindest Lines + The Body – Zeitgeist

01.25: The Features + Coyotes + Girl In A Coma – One Eyed Jacks

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

The 2012 Jazz Fest Lineup Is Out!

As if fighting on one side of the “War On Christmas” or the other isn’t stressful enough this time of year, The New Orleans Jazz And Heritage Foundation just released the lineup for the 2012 Jazz Fest, setting off an almost inevitable debate about The Current And Future State Of Music™: Local Edition that has become as much of a yearly tradition as the purchase of ridiculous BayouWear leisure shirts adorned with piano keys shaped like fleurs-de-lis (or vice versa).  But regardless of whether you see last night’s announcement as a beacon of hope or a harbinger of disaster, we’ve got another pretty solid festival on our hands.

Top tier headliners for the 2012 Jazz and Heritage Festival include Tom Petty and his Heartbreakers, Foo Fighters, John Mayer, 2010 Voodoo alums Florence + the Machine, “Best New Artist” Nominee Bon Iver and – in accordance with their 4+ year long (and counting) love affair with New Orleans – My Morning Jacket. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Iron & Wine, Jill Scott, Herbie Hancock, the heart-stealing Grace Potter and the venerable Levon Helm – owner of 2010’s best performance of the fest and appearing this year with Mavis Staples – are also on the enormous multi-weekend bill.

The formidable local talent rounding out the first weekend includes Empress Hotel, The Revivalists, Dee-1, Sasha Masakowski, GIVERS and Meschiya Lake; while the second weekend features Feufollet, Supagroup, MyNameIsJohnMichael, greatest band in the universe Rotary Downs and Honey Island Swamp Band along with two of the most can’t miss homegrown events of the weekend: If Jazz Fest’s “Bounce Shakedown” is anything like this past Voodoo’s “Azzstravaganza” showcase,  New Orleans’ hip-hop aficionados of all stripe and persuasion are in for a spirited encounter with some of the most dynamic personalities making music these days; meanwhile, after their ripper of a set at last month’s Chingdig, Lafayette’s Brass Bed heads into their Jazz Fest debut just about as highly recommended as a young band can be.

Jazz Fest 2012 takes over the Fairgrounds (and the city) April 27 – April 29 and May 3 – May 6.  Weekend packages and discounted single day tickets are on sale now.

MP3: The Band: “Chest Fever”

Jazz Fest Lineup 2012: The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Artist Roster Announced :: OffBeat