It’s been especially newsworthy to anyone interested in the music scene in New Orleans to see Tipitina’s switch-over of ownership to New Orleans’ own Galactic.
Often known as the “house band” at Tip’s, the members of Galactic had been interested in buying an interest in Tip’s for quite a while.
The negotiations to buy the legendary uptown music club have been progressing since around the beginning of the year, says Stanton Moore, Galactic’s drummer. “As long-time fans—starting as kids—and patrons and musicians who played at Tip’s a lot, I think the guys in the band bring a unique perspective to what Tip’s has meant to us and music lovers around the world,” he told me.
“The idea kind of came up when we were involved with the Lakehore Landing Festival a few years back. Our manager started sort of hinting [to then-owner Roland von Kurnatowski] about buying Tipitina’s way back then…’if it would ever go up for sale’…and finally he thought the time was right. So we’ve really been working on it since the first part of this year, and only now were able to finalize the deal.”
Moore and his bandmates, Ben Ellman, Jeff Raines, Robert Mercurio and Rich Vogel, created a business at the end of September that would be the entity that would purchase the club. “we knew we were going to see some interesting times ahead,” said Moore, “thus the name Tchoupy Waters Society, LLC,” he adds with a laugh.
The new iteration of Tip’s has new owners in Tchoupy Waters, who affiliated with some “angel investors”: two local New Orleans music fans who love Tip’s but who don’t want their names revealed.
“We just met with the management team at Tip’s,” said Moore in a phone call, “and we’re keeping the current team in place. Galactic is not going to run the club. We just want to make Tip’s even better than it already is—as good as it can possibly be,” he said. “We’re going to be bringing even more music to Tip’s Uptown, maybe booking some acts that can have a multiple-day run at the club. We have some bands where we hope people will say ‘Wow, I can see them at Tip’s?!’ That would be one of our goals. We also want to use the club more, bring more music, bring it back uptown,” said Moore. “It’s crminal that there’s so little music uptown, where the music scene used to be. Having music at Tip’s more often would be another goal of ours.”
With everything that’s gone down in the last couple of weeks publicly, Moore says that the reaction to Galatic’s ownership of Tipitina’s has been amazing. “I’ve spoken to Dave [Malone], Cyril [Neville] and so many more people about our involvement with Tip’s, and the goodwill has just been fantastic.”
There’s one “old-timer” who started with Tip’s who might yet become involved, but nothing is definite yet. That’s Sonny Schneidau, who started at Tipitina’s, became its long-time talent booker, and who then moved on to create the music programming for the House of Blues. Schneidau retired from his position at HOB a few years ago, and as Moore says “he’s really enjoying his retirement.” But Schneidau has been working with the Tip’s team on the Fess Centennial at the club on December 19, and has promoted a couple of small shows in New Orleans recently (Billy Strings at d.b.a. on Frenchmen Street).
“We don’t know if Sonny would ever want to go back to a full-time job, but maybe he can do some consulting with us,” said Moore.
According to Moore, the Tipitina’s Foundation is not part of the deal [editorial note: a non-profit cannot be bought or sold but only transferred to another non-profit]. “We definitely want to have our own non-profit,” he said. Laughing, he says “My wife started at Tipitina’s Foundation [Lauren Del Rio, now Development Officer for the Ellis Marsalis Center]!”
All told, Tipitina’s has not only been saved, but is on its way to an even brighter future with Galactic as its guiding light.