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May 28, 2009

The Cutting Room Floor

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: — Alex Rawls @ 11:57 am

There was one detail that I omitted from my story on Allen Toussaint in the current issue. In the piece, he talks about how much he works, but the thought that didn’t fit was how that work related to his desire for order – something that came through when he talked about what he lost during Katrina. He spoke of having tapes he was working on all lined up, and when he checked into the Astor Crown Plaza to ride out Katrina he took family videotapes with him so he could edit them while he was waiting. It only occurs to me now that I didn’t ask how that project ended up.

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May 26, 2009

For the Love of Pete

 

When Pete Seeger performed at Jazz Fest, much of the pre and post-appearance ink had to do with Seeger the live performer and Seeger the activist; little of it was about Seeger the song stylist. The release of the five-disc American Favorite Ballads (Smithsonian Folkways) – a collection of albums he recorded between 1957 and 1962 for Folkways that presented the great American folk songs – raises this issue. It was originally marketed to libraries, and that is spot-on. The new release is a beautiful package with lengthy notes on the histories of the songs, but I’m keeping it as a reference CD because Seeger presents the songs as the curator in a museum, exceedingly careful with the songs because he’s in the business of preserving them, not bringing them to life. That was the initial intent, but time hasn’t made the recordings more poignant or affecting. His earnest, carefully enunciated singing presents the songs as crisply as possible, but the emotional weight of the songs is generally absent (then again, it’s sometimes missing from the songs themselves).

It’s the counterpoint to Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, the first two-set of which was released by Folkways in 1952. After Smith compiled six discs of the odd, personal and idiosyncratic in American music, Seeger and Folkways’ owner Moses Asch decided to assemble the commonplaces and familiar. That doesn’t mean it’s bad; I’m glad I’ve got it, but between the two collections, I know which one I’ll listen to more.

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May 25, 2009

Time for a New PR Firm?

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: — Alex Rawls @ 5:46 am

 

[Updated May 26]

I just received this hype for Better Than Ezra’s CD-release party for Paper Empire at the House of Blues Friday night:

Better Than Ezra
Along with such similarly styled outfits as the Goo Goo Dolls, the New
Orleans-based trio Better Than Ezra helped open the floodgates for
countless mainstream alt-pop acts of the late ’90s (including
Semisonic, Matchbox Twenty, and Third Eye Blind) by merging rock with
melody to create an easily digestible form of alternative music.

Could that possibly make the band sound more like a blast from past, one whose accomplishments have to be explained to kids these days? And could that sound any more detached? The writer makes a BTE show sound as joyful as a trip to the library to return overdue books.

Update: BTE’s Tom Drummond says that didn’t come from the band’s PR firm. Now the question is where it came from.

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State of the Culture Response

Filed under: Pop Life — Alex Rawls @ 4:49 am

 

There’s little to specifically address in Mayfield’s speech because it’s pretty hazy as a document. The general principle that the people and culture need to be at the center of any decision-making process is a good one, though I’m sure most politicians think they do that (even if they don’t). That general thought presents a different way to think about crime and poverty, and that’s valuable. On the other hand, the belief that a mission statement will change City Hall reflects too many management retreats.

The five-point plan makes a lot of sense, but the implication of it is that culture should be supported because it’s a salable commodity, not because it’s sustaining and life-affirming for those who live here. Lt.-Gov. Mitch Landrieu has defended a similar market-based approach to developing culture as one of speaking the language that politicians understand, and he is likely right, but that doesn’t change the fundamental misunderstanding of culture. It’s an expression of who we are now, created as a form of inter-community communication – one that secondarily has been commodified. If we emphasize the latter, the difference between real Mardi Gras Indians and a few guys with costumes who can show up at a convention for a half-hour is insignificant.

The broader question I was left with is one I’ve had since Katrina: What is the role of government with respect to culture? To a great degree, the culture of New Orleans developed in spite of power, as a response to power, despite the benign neglect of power. Mardi Gras’ origins in New Orleans are tied to money, but people have still found ways to tailor their Mardi Gras celebrations to their own needs and interests without any official sanction. Is it healthy for the government to assist traditions that existed as a form of resistance to governmental authority? That presented a different vision of the city and its inner life than the one that came from City Hall? I’m not so sure.

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State of the Culture

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , , — Alex Rawls @ 4:19 am

 

Last Thursday, Irvin Mayfield delivered what was referred to as a State of the Culture speech to City Council. Here’s the text of his speech, but for those who don’t have the patience to read it, he advocates that the city adopt the Bring New Orleans Back Culture Subcommittee’s five recommendations:

(Objective #1)

The first objective of their plan was to rebuild our talent pool in the city.

Our success as a city rests upon our ability to encourage and sustain our most talented folks.

(Objective #2) The second objective in the committee report was to support Community-Based Cultural Traditions and Repair and Develop Cultural Facilities.

This objective addresses the need to invest in our cultural infrastructure.


(Objective #3) Objective number three is to market New Orleans as a world-class cultural capital.


The message of New Orleans’ cultural vibrancy must be communicated to the world.


(Objective #4) The fourth objective is to teach cultural traditions to our children.


The educational policies of the city and state are of central importance to the cultural sector.


(Objetive #5) The final objective of the Culture Committee’s five-point plan is that we attract new investment, and information resources.

In general, he calls for city government to put culture at the center of the decision-making process, and he suggests that the city form a culture subcommittee:

I have been cultural ambassador to the city of New Orleans for over seven years now, and as the last and most important undertaking of this position, I want to work with the city council and the cultural community toward establishing a charter-sanctioned commission for culture at the level of city government.

Here’s the full text:

TOOTIE and HEROES PAST

I’m excited to be standing in front of you today and I want to thank you for the opportunity to address the council on behalf of the cultural community in New Orleans.

As you know the cultural community of New Orleans is much like its citizens: it is diverse, complex, and democratic in its makeup.

It’s challenging to give a snapshot of the culture of the city, much as it is to represent each and every citizen of New Orleans.

Unique to the culture of this city, there is always a responsibility to represent those that are no longer with us, some of whom have departed long ago, and some just recently departed. I’m speaking of the co-founder of Ashe community center and prolific visual artist, Douglas Redd, of the great trumpet player of Preservation Hall, John Brunious, and the great New Orleans saxophonist Earl Turbinton.

I’m especially humbled when I’m reminded of the big chief Tootie Montana who stood in these very chambers, to make an impassioned plea on behalf of the Mardi Gras Indians, and New Orleans culture literally with his last breath.

It is those who have sacrificed, some with their lives, who really show us the true importance of what the cultural community provides for the city.

Much like the people who make up the cultural community, the accomplishments of the organizations and individuals have been monumental.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

I’ve had the honor of participating in several cultural summits over the past few years where the cultural community has done some important work on our infrastructure. These include work with the Bring New Orleans Back Cultural Committee, which provided us with 5 key objectives that we need to consider seriously and more recently, the Douglas Red Cultural Summit that offered insight into current cultural issues. Just a few weeks ago, the University of New Orleans sponsored a Jazz Retreat where the city’s jazz community came together, including Loyola and Tulane, to look at how jazz functions as an industry.

We have reached many important milestones, such as Prospect One, the unprecedented arts exposition lead by Dan Cameron, which was a great success. We have been able to enjoy the return of essence fest to New Orleans, and 10 years of the Voodoo experience. We also marked the centennial of the Hubble library branch in Algiers, and the centennial celebration of the Zulu social aid and pleasure club.

Along the way, strategic partnerships are being created, such as the New Orleans Public Library working with Dickie Brennan, Chairman of the southern food and beverage museum, to house a significant culinary collection.

We as a community recognize that a lot of work needs to be done in the cultural arena. We face some imminent challenges, some here at home, and others outside the confines of the city limits.

Here at home, we have an institution such as La Petite Theater, facing significant issues of occupancy and revenue. Our very own Arts Council is trying to address serious funding challenges. And we face the threat of a reduction of 83% in the state arts’ budget. We applaud the house for their challenge to those cuts, and we encourage the senate to uphold that challenge.

Life has been made harder for artists across the board in the city of New Orleans. Support has not been easy to come by, as there is no relief structure for individuals. In the eyes of existing public service models, the artist is not seen for who he or she is. In the arts industry, the person is the business. An artist is the service, the product, and the entrepreneur all-in-one.

But collectively both individuals and institutions in the community continue to fight through these challenges because they love the city so much.

There is a real need in New Orleans for facilities that are dedicated to housing arts organizations from the large ones that serve the entire community, to those that are neighborhood-based, right down to the individual artist, and the organic spontaneous arts that are unique to New Orleans.

EDUCATION

There is a real need to address the decline in young people’s participation in our city’s culture. The cultural community understands the role that education plays in this issue.

Vital to this is that in every school, private, public, charter and recovery, every school, we must have dedicated music and arts programs, so that young people can benefit from their own rich heritage.

The City of New Orleans should lead the efforts to protect and advance the universities that bear its name UNO, SUNO and Delgado are all valuable assets. UNO has graduated over 70,000 students, a very large portion of whom remain in this region as productive citizens, building our economy and perpetuating our unique culture.

Despite the promise of having a major cable TV series, like Treme, being shot in New Orleans, and successfully using our artists for entertainment at sporting events like the NBA all star game and the cultural performances that accompanied the Saints on their historic venture to London, we’re still leveraging only a small percentage of the assets that the city has to offer.

There is an opportunity for greatness if we can invest in the core of our city – - our culture, instead of in auxiliary investments. By sustaining the organizations, groups and individuals who breathe life into the city everyday, culture becomes the number one investment we can make in our community.

The community feels that there is great promise in what culture can do at such a critical time for the city of New Orleans. The survey jointly commissioned by James Carville’s nonprofit research firm Democracy Now and Tulane University shows that culture is the one issue that the citizens of New Orleans are more united on.

We all know that the great culture of New Orleans represents excellence, and we feel that this culture of excellence can be a model to address many of the day-to-day challenges of life here in the city.

Interestingly enough, the issue that I’ve been urged by the entire community to address today before the council is the gap, so to speak, between culture and the city.

The cultural community shares the same concerns as all of the citizens of the city – -crime, housing, race issues, education, and business. However there is a growing gap between the discussion of the issues that plague the city and the very members of the community that are entrenched on the front lines, and face the totality of these issues on a day-to-day basis.

When these issues are discussed, the cultural community is rarely involved in finding solutions to despite the fact that they are directly concerned and affected by them.

This gap is an example of the larger disconnect the city has within itself. We have a gap problem. We in the city of New Orleans do not know each other.

The recommendation is that we reposition culture to not only close the gap between the community and the issues, but to close the gap between the city and itself.

There should be an approach of putting culture at the center.

JAZZ

When you’re talking New Orleans culture, we are not talking about some run-of-the mill or generic use of that word; We’re talking about something that has been built through innovation and dedication for 300 years. We already have an excellent culture.

Jazz is a great example of that culture of excellence.

Just like you can’t play a great jazz song without knowing what every instrument is going through, we can’t expect folks from the 9th ward to understand what folks in lakeview are going through if they don’t ever go there.

The city is just like a jazz band, neighborhoods of instruments.

Jazz has overcome many of the challenges of our neighborhoods, including challenges of race as well as political agendas to get to the truth of what is beautiful.

It is not only important that each instrument sound good individually – - but we must invest in their success as a group. For a jazz group to sound good, every member of the band must get to know and trust each other. For our city to succeed, we have to get to know and trust each other.

CULTURE OF EXCELLENCE

Using the assets of our culture of excellence we can provide a framework for the city to get to know itself.

This is a cultural issue. Just like our longstanding challenges with our educational system, it is a cultural shift that needs to be made to overcome the challenges of race.

A city that has a culture of excellence understands that the race discussion is one of triumph, although initially the discussion may be difficult and fraught with tragedy. It is an important conversation that requires a lot of give and take.

It takes a learned city to overcome the challenge.

There is no difference between a learned city and a cultural city. The tools and assets necessary for all New Orleanians to know the sounds, tastes and words that are indigenous to our city are the same tools and assets that can be leveraged to address the challenges that we face with race, crime and a faltering educational system.

These assets are available to us now, but they need to be invested in and enhanced. Our libraries, schools, need to be enhanced. Most important, we need to enhance our individual artists and engaged citizens who can be leaders in mentorship and become role models for every child in the city.

CRIME

A culture of excellence is also a culture of safety. There are long term solutions that include community policing and addressing poverty. But we can immediately start the hard conversation about safety in our community with potential lawbreakers by using our indigenous culture to stand against the violent culture of drugs. Instead of a culture that speaks to drug dealers, we must show them that they can own a culture that speaks to the angels.

A culture of excellence is also a culture of wellness. At the end of the day, if we are not healthy as a city and as individuals, all bets are off. Taking steps toward resolving our mental health and healthcare issues will ensure that we are able to reach our full potential.

This community is in the neighborhoods, and understands that the issue of violence won’t go away by neglecting or simply arresting individuals.

We must invest in ourselves.

It must be recognized that this approach is not a business approach. Much like the Brennans or the Marsalises, this cultural shift looks to the model of a family that runs a business.

HOMELESSNESS

Family takes care of one another.

A family takes care of those who are mentally or physically prevented from taking care of themselves.

A family takes care of those who have been forced to live away from home and have a desire to return.

We’ve all been homeless before.

Every time we evacuate as a city we have that experience.

Everyone has a right to live in a home. Permanent supportive housing is definitely within a culture of excellence.

In terms of this business that we as the family of New Orleans runs, culture has created the third largest Fortune 500 company in the state – tourism — worth 3 billion annually. Unfortunately politics has too often been the parent company.

POLITICS

Instead of culture at the center, we’ve had politics at the center.

Politics should be removed from the strategic center and be put along side of assets.

Along with a learned city — a safe city — politics can assist us in refining the intersection of government and the everyday citizen.

Fortune 500 companies set their direction or their culture by using mission statements. Once a company drafts a mission statement; that statement governs every aspect of the operation of that company. If we were to look for a mission statement for New Orleans, it is nowhere to be found. So a city famed for its culture has not instituted its own, by way of a mission statement.

We challenge the city to use this critical point in our history to include a much needed mission statement to be adopted by ordinance by the city council as part of the city’s new master plan.

We challenge you to ensure that the master plan puts culture at the center of our planning for the future. We challenge you to use culture as the river that feeds and nourishes the city. We challenge you to see culture in a way that not only nurtures artists, but to see culture as a catalyst that inspires individuals and inspires civic pride and engagement on the part of the entire community.

BRING NOLA BACK COMMISSION

After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the Bring Back New Orleans Commission was established to help chart a course for the future.

As co-chairs of the Culture Committee of the commission, Wynton Marsalis and Attorney Cesar Burgos worked for many months to develop a plan to repair and rebuild the cultural fabric of New Orleans. Their work resulted in a five-point plan with a series of objectives designed to rebuild our cultural infrastructure.

(Objective #1)

The first objective of their plan was to rebuild our talent pool in the city.

Our success as a city rests upon our ability to encourage and sustain our most talented folks.

(Objective #2) The second objective in the committee report was to support Community-Based Cultural Traditions and Repair and Develop Cultural Facilities.

This objective addresses the need to invest in our cultural infrastructure.


(Objective #3) Objective number three is to market New Orleans as a world-class cultural capital.


The message of New Orleans’ cultural vibrancy must be communicated to the world.


(Objective #4) The fourth objective is to teach cultural traditions to our children.


The educational policies of the city and state are of central importance to the cultural sector.


(Objetive #5) The final objective of the Culture Committee’s five-point plan is that we attract new investment, and information resources.

In 2018, just eight years hence, we will celebrate the 300th birthday of the city of New Orleans.

To mark this extraordinary anniversary, and to make a serious stride toward our future, we need to utilize the hard work of some very talented individuals and implement the recommendations of the Cultural Subcommittee of the Bring New Orleans Back Commission.

I challenge the city council to take these 5 objectives of the Bring New Orleans Back plan, and start down the path of fulfilling the promise that every citizen of New Orleans deserves.

Fulfilling these objectives will require a concerted investment. But this is all part of the unapologetic commitment we need to achieve our potential.

With the help of the city council, we can enhance and transform the culture of New Orleans.

We can show the world that New Orleans is a culture of learning, and a culture of responsibility.

We can show them that New Orleans has a Culture of Excellence.

The conversation begins today, but it is far from over.

We are pleased to announce that beginning shortly we will be holding a series of weekly town-hall forums at every public library branch to allow the public to contribute to this conversation.

The first of the “Culture at the Center” town hall meeting will take place Wednesday June 3rd from 6 to 8pm at the Main Library Branch.

These conversations will give the city’s leadership a chance to hear directly from the citizens of every neighborhood in New Orleans about their vision for a Culture of Excellence in the city.

We urge you all to remember that oil wells will eventually run dry, technologies and policies will undoubtedly change; culture alone endures the ebbs and flows of history.

Let’s make the long-term investment in what’s really important.

I have been cultural ambassador to the city of New Orleans for over seven years now, and as the last and most important undertaking of this position, I want to work with the city council and the cultural community toward establishing a charter-sanctioned commission for culture at the level of city government.

This is a mandate that must be answered to sustain and grow our cultural infrastructure for generations to come.

I thank you all for the opportunity to speak with you directly and honestly about the state of culture in New Orleans. We have serious work ahead of us, and though the challenges are great, so too is our opportunity. We in the cultural community are looking forward to working hand-in-hand with you, beginning this morning, to fulfill the promise of New Orleans.

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May 23, 2009

Two Good Nights

 

It’s nice to have two good nights of unpredictable music in a row. Thursday night at the Ogden, Jon Langford (Mekons, Waco Brothers, Pine Valley Cosmonauts) performed as an acoustic duo with violin player/frequent collaborator Jean Cook. The acoustic set dipped heavily into his Skull Orchard album, and he played an aboriginal country song that I’ve got to know more about (artist and song name to follow). The moment that took me aback was his cover of the Go-Betweens’ “Streets of Your Town” – a song I can never listen to just once. For as long as I’ve known the song, I still find it chilling when in the middle of a lovely pop song, Grant McLennan sings, “but this town is full of battered wives.” In the midst of Langford’s class-conscious set, the working class nature of McLennan’s town became clearer.

Last night’s “Musicians Bringing Musicians Home” benefit at Tipitina’s might have been the most successful yet, at least in terms of the show. In the past, the musicians involved have often performed essentially solo with a few collaborating. Last night, the MC5’s Wayne Kramer was onstage for much of the night, as was Martin Perna from Antibalas. The two most stripped-down moments of the show were Jolie Holland’s opening set (which only added Jean Cook, Laura Viers and Erin McKeown) and Kramer’s spoken word tribute to Charles Bukowski. He was accompanied by Bonerama’s Mark Mullins, but it’s hard to think of their duet as small considering the size of Kramer’s guitar and Mullins’ blowing.

The consistent upsizing of the bands meant the artists’ music was going to sound like it hadn’t before and likely wouldn’t again. The greatest beneficiary of that was McKeown, who was accompanied by Bonerama on a jaw-dropping R&B rave-up version of her own “BlackBirds.” Despite all the power around her, she was the unquestionable focal point of the song, and it was clear she was driving the band as much as it was driving her. Other high points included Scott McCaughey of the Minus 5 leading at least three guitars and Bonerama through a good natured “A Certain Girl” dedicated to Antoinette K-Doe that remained light on its feet, and Langford, whose “Sentimental Marching Song” seems to be almost infinitely plastic. He’s done it with a band, he did it acoustic at the Ogden, Sally Timms has performed it backed by Langford alone and with a band, and the army of horns onstage including Shamarr Allen only added soul and pathos to the cry, “He needs a little love at closing time.”

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May 21, 2009

Error or Pet Peeve?

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , , — Alex Rawls @ 1:24 pm

 

In the Threadheads post, Chris Joseph writes that Threadhead will help Fatien Ensemble put out an album. At Jazz Fest, Fatien Ensemble was Ensemble Fatien. The question here is which is right? Did Joseph get it wrong or is Seguenon Kone not all that fussy about his band’s name? Both are equally possible in New Orleans, where bands treat their names with remarkable and irritating – from my point of view – indifference. Is it a function of living in a place where we’ve pretty much given up on the music so there’s little point in making sure anyone gets your name right? Or is it just our sloth catching up with us?

Whatever, good to know they’re recording.

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Threadhead News

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: — Alex Rawls @ 12:43 pm

 

Here’s an email update of Threadhead Records’ activities from the label’s Chris Joseph:

To all:

Threadhead Records (THR) has a few items we are very happy to announce:

1) As you may have heard, John Boutte has completed paying THR back for his “Good Neighbor” CD, and he also wrote a check to the New Orleans Musicians Clinic for $600 (John will donate the remaining $600 of his pledge sometime this summer). We have also started receiving $$ to start paying back investors for the Paul Sanchez book project, and for the Glen David Andrews CD “Walking Through Heaven’s Gate.”

2) The Threadhead Records Foundation is still in the process of getting its 501c3 designation….we’re hoping that we get final approval by the end of this summer. No projects to announce on the Foundation side of things today, but please know that we’ve received many great ideas for upcoming projects and we’re hoping to be able to move forward on 2-3 of those later this year when all the forms and applications are completed and in place.

3) We are slowly adding more news items from Jazzfest to the Threadhead Records website, so please check back often at http://www.facebook.com/l/;http://www.threadheadrecords.com/news.htm

4) And last but not least: today we are announcing three new Threadhead Records projects, with more to be announced in the upcoming weeks and months. The three new projects are:

- Fatien Ensemble, a wonderful (and only in New Orleans!) ensemble featuring Seguenon Kone, Dr. Michael White, Jason Marsalis, Margie Perez, Matt Perrine, Marc Stone and others, that merges African drumming background with different American jazz strains. Those of you who saw them at Jazzfest and/or the French Quarter Fest know this is a special group….to quote Steve Hochman’s review of the Jazzfest show:

“Given that roster, one might reasonably expect some sort of Afrobeat with the jazz guys helping build the snaky rhythms. And at times that was the case, though not in a Fela Kuti or King Sunny Ade kind of way. More often it was a real blending of the various styles represented in the group, interlocking rhythms with melodies reaching back through New Orleans history a century or more — Afro-NOLA-jazzbeat, or something. One particularly interesting piece was sort of juju Dixieland, with Stone’s steel and White’s clarinet at the fore. And to bring it all together, a version of the New Orleans standard ‘St. James Infirmary’ somehow wove Perez’s somber blues vocal, White’s mournful clarinet and Marsalis’ tolling vibes into a mosaic of African percussion, like a parade starting in Abidjan and ending at St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 across town here.”

- Matt Perrine’s new CD project, a follow-up to the highly-acclaimed Sunflower City!  Offbeat Magazine said about Sunflower City: “From the songs with simple instrumentation to the full-on 14 piece juggernauts, this record takes some of the traditional music of New Orleans and makes it sound reborn.”

- Mary Lasseigne and her band, The Kinky Tuscaderos. Some of you know Mary from this band; others have seen Mary sing and play bass guitar as part of the Paul Sanchez Rolling Road Show, and know what a special talent she is. Mary’s project is already fully funded by a very generous fan of hers, and her band will go into the studio on June 5.

We’ll be updating our website in the next couple of weeks with more info on these projects….for now, if you want to contribute, please use the general fund button on the THR website.

More announcements in the coming weeks…..as always, thanks for your support of New Orleans music!

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May 18, 2009

Fun with Grammy

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , , , , — Alex Rawls @ 3:35 am

 

Last week, the members of BeauSoleil received their Grammy awards while on tour. David Doucet brought his boxed, unopened Grammy home to New Orleans on a flight with members of Dr. John’s band including Herman Ernest and John Fohl, both of whom wanted him to open the box. They won a Grammy for Dr. John’s City That Care Forgot, but they had yet to receive the statues yet.

He held out and instead brought the box to the Milan Lounge and Ryan, the bartender who first told him he’d won the Grammy for Best Cajun or Zydeco album. When they finally hauled out the trophy, they found it was awarded to “BeauSoleil with Michael Doucet” as instead of the preferred “BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet.” Evidently when MunckMix released the album, they did so using “with,” and since the CD was nominated without the band’s knowledge – David hadn’t even heard it until last December after it was nominated, and once he did, he remixed it – they didn’t get a chance to correct the billing.

The Grammy Uptown tour ended up in the Kingpin, where he texted me to let me know the Grammy was there because I told him he didn’t win after the L.A. Times incorrectly Twittered that the award went to Steve Riley. For the rest of the evening, he and the Grammy posed for photos until the Grammy was tired and needed a bite and a bed.

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May 16, 2009

The Great Divide

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , , , — Alex Rawls @ 5:34 am

 

I’ve made no secret of my hostility toward Jazz Fest’s VIP package that allows high rollers to buy their way into a special enclosure in front of the stage. It not only takes the front row away from the band’s biggest fans, but it backs those fans further away from the band because of the space created by the pen. It turns out I and fans aren’t the only ones displeased by this development. Onstage, Britt Daniel of Spoon commented on the gulf between the band and the audience, and in Keith Spera’s story today at Nola.com, so did Wilco’s John Stirratt:

Stirratt picked out “tons of familiar faces” in the Jazz Fest crowd. He liked the standing-room-only space adjacent to the barricades, but was thrown off by the premium ticket corral directly in front of the stage.

“The premium area wasn’t very well-attended — not that many people ponied up the premium money for Wilco. It was weird to see faces in this sparse area, then it was jammed behind it,” he said, adding that some guys in the premium area “were moving and wrestling around. Looked like they got their money’s worth.”

 I’ve never had an issue with the Big Chief package, and if I were a business owner, I’d purchase a pair of Big Chief tickets so I could sit comfortably with a client, drink beer and watch the show. Those grandstands aren’t taking prime real estate from diehard fans, so I have no issue with them. but if the VIP pens in front of the Gentilly and Acura stages diminish the experience for fans and distract bands, they’re a really bad idea.

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