Guitarist/Vocalist Chris Posner of the band Tom Violence, like many a suburban Metairie musician before and undoubtedly after (yours truly included), fights the good fight on behalf of rock-a battle fraught with disappointment and challenge in the New Orleans realm of funk, brass bands, rhythm & blues, jazz, Cajun music and more funk, none of which is going to land anyone on MTV, headlining arena shows across the nation or sharing magnums of Cristal and a hot tub with Paris Hilton.
“People largely don’t care about rock,” 23-year-old Posner surmises. “Your standard Joe Blow on the street, you can’t really get them that energized to go see live music. People care to go see the standard New Orleans music. So many people my age don’t pay attention to New Orleans rock because they don’t think it’s there. There’s not that much of an infrastructure in the city for rock. There’s a lot of clique-ishness here and that’s a big problem.
“Metairie is a wasteland. When you go to Metairie, you’re talking three or four clubs. If you’re playing Metairie, you’re going to be playing metal at places like Zeppelin’s. I live in Metairie but I’ve only played one gig with Tom Violence in Metairie. We’ve done all of our gigs in the city. I’m not trying to disrespect Metairie bands but I would say the smarter rock bands play the city.”
Named after a Sonic Youth song (“Tom Violence is a dream coming out of a girl”), Posner’s band is a decidedly smarter rock trio with a secret weapon: African-American drummers, originally Travis Batiste of the renowned musical family (featured on the group’s Unless CD), now replaced by Kaland Mebane.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever worked with black drummers,” Chris explains. “Originally, it was between Travis and another friend who was your standard white guy rock drummer. We played with him and it actually sounded more powerful than with Travis but I thought with the white guy, it’ll just be what-you-expect cookie-cutter beats. I thought with Travis, we’d get this jazz touch and we could make more out of that. The guy we have now, Kaland, is trained in jazz but he’s a lot heavier hitter than Travis was. He acts like a rock drummer.”
Posner’s edgy, frenetic guitar parts are influenced by such edgy, frenetic players as Kurt Cobain, Black Flag’s Greg Ginn (“that guy was nuts!”) and Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett (“incredibly brilliant and beautiful, way better than anything Roger Waters ever did with that band”): “When somebody sounds like they’re just going crazy with it, then you know that they’re really putting their heart into it. I’d rather hear some guy just scraping the butt of his hand on his strings with power and emotion than some guy who’s going to sit there and learn all these runs and scales and being able to play a Bach piece. Nobody’s ever going to care about that.”
Judging by the frequency with which they are mentioned in rock lyrics, people do care about UFOs and/or patricide, perhaps second only to heartbreak. “I kind of like to confuse people,” Chris observes, concerning his songwriting. “I’ll either write lyrics that are extremely introspective, extremely metaphorical, that nobody can really understand but me and people take away all kinds of different meanings. Or else I’ll write something that really means nothing to me-it’ll just be the literary setting of a scene and showing something that’s going on. ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ is like that, basically about a UFO landing. It paints a picture.
“‘Pink Cloud’ is another painted-picture thing. It’s about a child who kills his parents-a small child. I just started rolling with it. He knifes them to death. It’s a very happy song so there you go. I don’t have any problems with my own parents. I just paint wild pictures for people.”
On April 17, there’s a triple bill of Metairie rock bands at the Hi-Ho Lounge with Tom Violence sharing the stage with the Radiohead-esque Abner and the psychedelic Idel, one of those groups dedicated to defying the rules of spelling.
The Biloxi rock band Atomship, formerly known as Watership, releases its debut album, The Crash of ’47, in May on Wind-up Records, the home of Evanescence, 12 Stones and Creed. Like Evanescence and 12 Stones, Atomship secured Mandeville’s Dave Fortman as producer and his touch is evident immediately: no one anywhere captures heavy guitars and heavier drums with facility equal to Fortman’s. Perhaps it’s because he’s too expensive but it is difficult to fathom why any local band would ever hire another producer. In comparison, all non-Fortman productions sound like they were recorded with microphones encased in marshmallows. Fortman’s records, whether or not you even care for rock, are models of clarity and power.
Atomship’s drummer, Chad “Clark” Kent, is likewise a marvel. It’s hard to believe he’s even a single drummer; on the CD, it sounds like a squadron of percussionists is going at it with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers in lieu of drumsticks. And here’s something we haven’t seen in recent times—a seven-minute drum solo! (Entitled “Drum Solo”!) Kent is a human weapon of mass destruction.
About the CD’s title: 1947 is supposedly the year those unfortunate little green aliens crashed their flying saucer in either Roswell, New Mexico, or 45 miles away in Corona, New Mexico. Like Tom Violence and a thousand other bands, Atomship believes in a significant link between UFOs and rock ‘n’ roll. What other possible explanation could there be for Elvis Presley and his former son-in-law, Michael?
Wresting himself from the lamented ruins of his beloved El Matador, Rio Hackford, in partnership with Fifi Mahony’s Ryan Hesserling, returns to the French Quarter scene this month, opening One Eyed Jack’s on the site of the former Shim Sham Club. The grand opening, on Friday, April 16, will be a burlesque extravaganza starring the World Famous Pontani Sisters, Candy Whiplash (“The Texas Tease”), local semi-ecdysiasts Line Chaste and La Petite Fleur, and Bunny & Dolores (“a recently reunited Mexican/Jewish half-sister act”). The SophistiCats and SophistiKittens will supply the saucy sounds. The following day, the Pontani Sisters will conduct a “Go-Go Robics” workout session at 3 p.m., followed by a 6 p.m. reading and slide presentation curated by burlesque historians Jessica Glasscock and Suzi Parker. On both evenings, filmmaker Victoria Renard will screen her Broad Daylight, a delicious confection of modern exotic dancers and modern garage rock bands.
The club has been totally renovated, says Rio: “It’s gonna look pretty awesome—sort of New Orleans brothel-y.” During Jazz Fest, Rio has booked Quintron, Greg Dulli and the Twilight Singers, Morning 40 Federation and Garage À Trois.
The fourth annual Green Street Graveyard Fest is a free Uptown block party on Green Street (between Lowerline and Pine, next to the cemetery) scheduled for Saturday, April 10, commencing at noon with raise-the-dead music by Soul Fiya, Rockie Charles, Zoom, the Bourbon Cowboys, Die Rötz (just back from a national tour that included the theft of most of their equipment), and Whiskey Bone. The succulent edibles will be prepared by that drumming caterer, Greg Surrey.
All music is music but some music is valid, especially the music released on Benjamin Lyons’ Valid Records label. Valid will host a concert/studio open house at Piety Street Recording on Thursday, April 29, at 8 p.m. featuring the label’s two main acts, Naked On The Floor and the Rob Wagner Trio. As Benjamin declares, “There’s no Valid music at this year’s Jazz Fest!”
GENEVIEVE ON WAX
In most circumstances, Mistress Genevieve is the one dripping hot wax on her devotees but in this case, Gen is the one on hot wax—immortalized via a song bearing her name on the excellent new Paradise Vendors CD. The Lower Garden District’s most dominant female joins that select cadre of actual New Orleanians with records named in their honor, including Alex Chilton (“Alex Chilton” by the Replacements), Prince La La (“Who Shot the La La?” by Oliver Morgan) and Antoinette K-Doe (“Teenage Antoinette” by Quintron & Miss Pussycat).