In New Orleans in July, it’s not the heat, but the humidity. OffBeat offers a handful of people/places/things that will persevere this summer, and may help you do the same.
Cool Legal Buzz: Buzzmatico
You’ll always remember where you were when you had your first Buzzmatico,” promises Pie in the Sky co-owner Kathleen McManus. When Crescent City temperatures soar, local coffee hounds turn to iced and frozen variations of their favorite drink, but there is no kick in town quite like the high-joltage Buzzmatico, with its four scoops of Haagen-Dazs ice cream and a quadruple espresso. According to McManus, a Buzzmatico binger is predictable: People come in and have their first one, and then for two months they’ll have one every day. There was one guy named Andre who had a buzz every day for six months-we were all shocked. But you eventually have to leam to get it under control.”
Song: “New Age Girl” by Deadeye Dick
The song itself is nothing new — Caleb Guillottte wrote it almost five years ago when he was a member of Misfit Toys, and it has been a staple of Deadeye Dick shows since that band formed in 1991. But it is quickly becoming this summer’s anthem after catching on with listeners of The Zephyr (106.1-FM) and 99X, the dominant commercial alternative stations in New Orleans and Atlanta, respectively.
Record companies were quick to take note. The Dick was grabbed by Atlanta Ichiban Records, who rushed the pop-rock band’s previously-recorded (but unreleased) album, A Different Story, into stores. “New Age Girl,” the lead track, continues to generate interest; some 70 hopefuls answered anopen casting call in Atlanta in June to star in the song’s video. (No word if the winner, like the girl in the song, “don’t eat meat but sure like the bone.”)
“When we recorded it, Fred [Leblanc, Cowboy Mouth’s drummer and A Different Story’s producer] said it would be the first singe,” says Guillotte. “Longtime fans may have other favorites, but new fans seem to gravitate to that song,”
Guitarist Guillotte, as well as bassist Mark Miller and drummer Billy Landry, are on guard against a potential novelty hit overshadowing the remainder of the band’s well-crafted catalog. and creating a one-hit wonder. “We’ve thought this was a good album since we made it,” says Guillotte. “If people buy the album, we think they’ll like it. And the second single won’t be a novelty song-there aren’t any more.”
Politician: Marc Morial
Granted, his administration is only two months old. But in that time, Mayor Morial has done nothing to spoil the honeymoon. Popping up around town sans suitcoat, in crisp dress shirt and colorful tie — be it Tulane Avenue on the first night of the new juvenile curfew, or backstage at a War show at the House of Blues — Morial projects a youthful, ready-to-work (or schmooze) image.
More so than his predecessor, Sidney Barthelemy, Morial seems to have an ear tuned to the music community. Days before taking office, he stopped by Big Moose Jamison’s ‘Jazz From the Park” show on WWOZ, and listed the Neville Brothers as his favorite group in a pre-election survey.
In keeping with his campaign promise to realize the potential for economic development the city’s music and entertainment resources represent, he has created the Mayor’s Office of Tourism, Arts and Entertainment to oversee and coordinate the promotion efforts of the city’s Film & Video Commission and Music & Entertainment Commission. And word is that Jackie Harris, a respected longtime member of the Jazz and Heritage Festival’s staff, will be appointed as the new chairperson of the Music Commission-which would be a shrewd move, indicating the Mayor has an insider’s insight to back up his intentions.With the world’s largest land-based casino being erected on his watch-bringing with it inevitable changes in the city’s entertainment, and thus music, climate–it will be interesting to see what happens
Eclectic talent line-up: Howlin’ Wolf
What started as an alternative-rock cubbyhole in Fat City has evolved Into a friendly Warehouse District cornerstone of the music scene that manages each month to offer a stylish, cutting-edge mix of music while maintaining its unpretentious air.
Thus, The Howlin’ Wolf can be both the new home of WTUL’s mostly-alternative TULbox broadcast, and host a popular (and free) Sunday evening barbecue that features country and rockabilly music.
“It all has a bit of a slant,” says owner Jack Groetsch of the music he books into his club. “Rockabilly, psychobilly, jazz, new age-it all has a bit of an edge. When we’re doing country, we’re doing Bakersfield country rather than Nashville. I love Snooks Eaglin — he’s not your ordinary R&B guy.”
The Wolf is about half the size of Tipitina’s and House of Blues, the two big rooms in town, Thus, it likely won’t host the subdudes or Radiators, but has booked Dave and Tommy Malone’s side project.
The full range of the club’s taste will be in evidence throughout July, when the Wolf has both Irie Vibrations, the club’s first reggae show (on July 2nd), and San Francisco female punk band 7 Year Bitch (on the 5th); popular local guitar-pop band Better Than Ezra (the 9th) and crazy man Mojo Nixon (the 16th); punkers Victims Family (the 14th) and John Mooney and Bluesiana (the 15th), Since Groetsch closed the original Howlin’ Wolf in Fat City, overcame reams of bureaucratic red tape, and got the OK to open in the Warehouse District two-and-a-half years ago, the club’s talent line-up-not to mention its intimate, friendly nature and easy parking-have attracted a regular following,
“[But] we still live and die by the bands,” says Groetsch. ‘There are some people who like a wide variety of stuff, but some just like one style,
‘It’s more interesting to mix it up-that makes it more interesting to me, at least. But I feel like I have to stay interested to do what I do-it’s not all for the customer.”
Local Record Label: Monkey Hill
For a while after music industry veterans Jim Ford and Frank Quintini set up Monkey Hill as a local production and management firm, they were content to steer the careers of their clients, and help them make records, while letting other companies actually put the discs out and promote them.
But as of March 1, they took the whole operation in-house, officially incorporating Monkey Hill Records, which struck an international distribution deal with Atlanta’s Ichiban. Why create the extra headaches? ‘So that we could take full responsibility for the music we represent,” says Ford.
The music on the Monkey Hill roster includes a hip cross section of regional rock talent (most are former or current management clients of Quintini and Ford), Local punk-a-billy trio Mustang Lightning’s self-titled album was the label’s first release, followed by The Chateau Chuck, the second album from Lafayette’s Bluerunners, Then came Cowboy Mouth guitarist Paul Sanchez’s second solo album Wasted Lives and Bluegrass, and the debut from Jackson Mississippi blues rock outfit The Shines.
At the end of August, the company is slated to issue the debut from all-star roots rock combo the Continental Drifters, and a disc by Massachusetts-based funk rock band The Rent Party, followed by Cowboy Mouth’s third album, Escape, in September.
Down the road, look for solo albums from Continental Drifter Hols-apple and Cowboy Mouth’s Fred LeBlanc, and follow-up albums on groups that are releasing records now, as well as new signings.
Cowboy Mouth is potentially the label’s heavy hitter. Both of the band’s two previous records have sold upwards of 10,000 copies each; a three-and-a-half hour marathon show at a sold-out House of Blues in early June indicated the band is still gaining momentum.
Ford, Quintini and office manager Carol Gniady added two more bodies to the team when making the jump to record label: Billy Pruitt, who works as the company’s in-house publicist, and Tony Poulos. who handles radio promotion.
Together, quips Ford, “We’re all just trying to figure out how much money we’ll lose, in advance,” -K.S.
Film Series: Zeitgeist
“I was tired of hearing about these great films that were playing everywhere but New Orleans.” remembers Rene Broussard, explaining the origins of his Zeitgeist Theatre Experiments. ‘And I just don’t like to be one of those people who just sits around and complains…”
In New Orleans, fans of foreign, art and experimental films don’t have to complain anymore. After a three year absence from the city, Broussard has returned to reinstate Zeitgeist (the name is German for ‘spirit of our times”), and will be inaugurating a new screening space at Mid-Gity’s Movie Pitchers on July 8 (call 524-0064 for schedule info). While operating on a shoestring budget, Zeitgeist has already become one of the South’s only full-time alternative cinemas, and programs this year have included world premieres and personal appearances by renowned filmmakers,July films include the acclaimed and controversial Chinese import The Blue Kite as well as a revival of Curt McDowell’s Thundercrack — which recalls Broussard cheerfully, ‘was the first X-rated movie I ever saw,”
Laid-back neighborhood joint: Vaughan’s
When Cindy Wood erects a swimming pool in the middle of Dauphine Street this Fourth of July, it will be only the latest in her efforts to cool off the regulars at Vaughan’s Lounge, a Ninth Ward watering hole that’s been a neighborhood tradition for nearly half a century. Irs here on the corner of Dauphine and Lesseps that, every Thursday night starting around 10pm, a hardy assortment of military folks, bikers and music fans predictably fill the small bar to soak up the cool swing jazz of Kermit Ruffins at a popular weekly gig.
Ruffins first played Vaughan’s at a birthday celebration for Wood’s father last January, and the party spirit lives on — free beans and rice are served around midnight by a cook called “Big Chris.” Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes joins Ruffins for an outdoor.block party on the Fourth-swim at your own risk.
Dining Trend: Ethnic Food
Thanks to a recent proliferation of ethnic restaurants in New Orleans, there’s a wide variety of offerings for those who can’t stand the heat and want to stay out of the kitchen. Mona’s Deli has attracted a loyal Mid-City following for budget-priced Middle Eastern food like hummus and falafel, along with pita bread that’s baked fresh daily on premises. You can pad your middle with Cafe Siam’s Pad Thai, or explore a number of brand-new African restaurants like Bennachin and East African Harvest. Wherever you choose to chow, just remember that it’s not just gumbo and po-boys anymore.
Post-Yuppie Strip: 3200 block of Magazine
Build a pasta bar, and they will come. Magazine at the intersection of Pleasant has become the place to dine and drink for pre-, post- and current Yuppies.The second installment of the ever-growing Semolina’s pasta bar chain has anchored the strip for the past two years, serving up a batch of gourmet pastas and wine. In the last six months, several new restaurants have opened nearby,creating an increase in evening pedestrian traffic, and bringing more new customers to area.
“We’ve gotten a lot of real positive comments from our customers about being able to walk in these two blocks and find something to fit every palette,” says Semolina service manager Eric Wallace. He describes the stretch’s clientele as “a neighborhood clique, a real bohemian mix.” These people have money to spend, but don’t want to flaunt it at a stuffy eatery — a fine-dining establishment on the corner of Pleasant and Magazine lasted a matter of months. More to their liking is Cafe Italiano, and The Bulldog, whose 40-odd taps dispense legions of frothy brew to the well-heeled patrons that spill onto the sidewalk. Across Pleasant Street is the stalwart Monroe’s and the new Chop Shop, and the even newer Olive’s Gourmet Pizza. All that’s missin’ is a Gap.
After-hours bar: Snake & Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge
You and your friends are cruising the backstreets of Uptown late one Saturday night, having spent the evening groovin’ at Tipitina’s. The music stopped long ago, but you’re not quite ready to call it a night. You need an oasis of cool to close out the festivities. Suddenly, on a quiet stretch of Oak Street, the answer is spelled out on a chalkboard outside a dimly-lit doorway: “Here an open bar.” In other words, welcome to Snake & Jake’s.
Indicative of the sense of humor inherent in the room was its opening event-this past Lundi Gras it hosted “Dudfest,” featuring bands that couldn’t land any other booking. Given the proprietors’ ties to the music community, it’s no surprise that the Lounge is a favorite hang-out of musicians wanting to wind down after gigs (John Mellencamp’s band dropped in after playing a private party at Tipitina’s in May). The idea is to keep it low-key, though-so don’t tell your friends you’ve been there.