Music Was the Word

Welcome to the Word

Welcome to the word!

This is a place to come and see some of the design work i do, and hear the ramblings of a music head. Click on the tabs to see the design work or learn about any production / management services you might need.

 

Thanks and keep it funky!

 

Ron Ronson

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The Vidacovich Wolves

On any given Thursday night one can make their way over to the Maple Leaf and find something interesting. One of my weekly favorites, Johnny Vidacovich and George Porter host “the Trio” usually rotating out another musician each week. Over the years there have been an endless number of guests just blowing the roof off the club with that late night improvisations. Off the top of my head Luther Dickenson, James Singleton, and Johnny Vidacovich was a standout. . . as was Raymond Weber, Robert Walter, and George Porter Jr. Most recently we were treated to the sounds of Hammond B3 Master Ike Stubblefield with George and Johnny.

In a funny way I like to look at Thursdays nights as a New Orleans Interview.  .  . So I’ve heard your music and seen you play, but can you come down to the leaf on Thursday and really hang? I mean George Porter Jr and Johnny Vidacovich are two pillars of New Orleans Music. Johnny’s played with everyone from John Scofield, Astral Project, Professor Longhair, Dr. John, and the list goes on. George held down the beat playing Bass for the Meters,  and later worked with Warren Haynes, Dr John, Professor Longhair, and on top of all that he’s one of the hardest working musicians in town.

The way these two musicians lay down a rhythm section for their guest is just outstanding. One of the items that carries over week to week is how well both Johnny George and whomever they invite to play all perform seamlessly as if they were just friends conversing over drinks at a table.

Anyways so tonight George will be out of town reuniting with The Meters (If only i had a plane ticket) so Johnny has invited The Ghost Wolves, and Austin duo to perform with him.  The duo featuring guitarist Carley Wolf and drummer Jonathan Konya has a distinct sound of its own that conjures thoughts of whiskey saloons and good old fashion rock n roll.
I’ve known Ghost Wolves Drummer Jon Konya for the better part of five years now, having met him as we were both freshman music students at Loyola. The guy has a very good flow to his playing, and  from his work with American Gypsy blues band the Belleville outfit to his college  days of improv jazz with the Two Headed Boy Quintet, I’m very interested to see him play opposite Johnny V tonight at the leaf.

So make sure to come out and see some double drum madness tonight, cause nothing else in town measures up.

Here’s a track of Johnny with John Scofield
Cissy Strut (John Scofield, Johnny Vidacovich)

And one of the Ghost Wolves

Spotify!!

Everyone is buzzing that Spotify is here to change the face of music. I’m still not sure how its going to change an industry that is tanking for better or for worse. I am happy to say that I received my invitation to the free service not to long ago and haven’t really caught on to the whole craze. It seems incomplete to me. It’s great that I can stream as much as I want for free (wasn’t that what everyone did with napster?) but I need to be connected to the internet to use it.

Also the free service offers a low quality stream (160kbs) that is acceptable for many situations but you can tell when you amplify the sound on a pair of good speakers that something is lacking. I’ve also heard that they boast a much better streaming rate for their paid membership, but many articles say that this is only half true with about 30 to 50 percent of the songs actually playing at the higher 320kbs stream.

It has a diverse group of music in its catalog and I’ve only had a few misses and I hear they are taking great efforts to work with major labels to include their catalogs. This is where their dance with the devil kicks in. There have been more than a few complaints of independent artists and independent labels that they do not receive a fair share of revenue. Apparently by their formula an artist would need to have their songs streamed around four million times to gross over 1000.00 dollars. That’s roughly .00029 cents a song. How this is acceptable and how long it will stay that way is a good question. There has been a movement by a Indie Label rights group to change this in Europe. Many artists have also pulled their catalogs from the service in protest of their compensation practices.

The social aspect of the service is most interesting to me. By linking with Facebook, one can see what all of their friends are listening to and make playlists from that. This is very cool and leads to interesting ways to discover new music. I think expanding on this feature will allow users to share and introduce their friends to to new music in ways that will help emerging artists.

I’ll come back to Spotify after I have some more time to play around with it. I’m definitely intrigued by the  service, and think it has some great potential, but their are glaring holes in their business plan and in how they compensate artists so I’m not sure I’m totally sold just yet.

I also don’t want to come down to hard on the service, I like it, they have a great idea and I’m going to be using it. What do ya’ll think?

The Last Watusi Was a Doozie!

Life is a never ending race to see how many different things we can all juggle. I wish I had the resolve to keep this page updated in a more frequent manor but hey, life’s a ride and sometimes all we can do is hang on.

Photography by Bob Compton

Over the last few years I have had the pleasure to work as a simple loader and stage hand for The Radiators. Everyone in New Orleans knows the band, and they have been a prominent part of the scene for over 33 years. Those who came before me tell tales of their humble beginnings at a now defunct pizza parlor over by UNO, then graduating to The Boot, Jimmys, and The Dream Palace. The band also became regulars at a new club started by a bunch of music fans known as Tipitinas. Its of note that the birth of both Tipitinas and The Radiators took place the same year, and their relationship with the club has been steadfast through the years.

Both in New Orleans and around the country, the band began to pick up steam. Their fans, dubbing themselves “Fisheads”  began to show a loyalty to the band following them on tour, and even panned a Fishead Manifesto  (Link Here). While some die hard fans of both bands may crucify me for the comparison, the New Orleans Radiators had a very “Grateful Dead” New Orleans feel for me. In a city who’s musical heritage includes Professor Longhair, Louie Armstrong, and Wynton Marsalis, rock music isn’t what everyone thinks of New Orleans is mentioned. To me there are those individuals who somewhere along the line gain the essence of what it is to be a New Orleanian, and when they play it doesn’t matter the genre of the music, it just is New Orleans. The Radiators had this quality.
My first encounter with the band was their 28th anniversary gig at Tipitinas. At the time I was a young intern, always eager to see new bands and work my way into the club’s good graces. I volunteered to handle will call for the show, which turned out to be in the pouring rain. After hours of handing out tickets to very wet fish head fans I was finally let go to enjoy the music.

The night was as fun as any at the Rads show and I was quickly impressed at how many people knew every single song the band played. I had heard that they had several thousand originals and probably new at least a thousand covers, yet every single sweaty intoxicated soul in the place was singing at the top of their lungs. While I had fun, I knew I was missing something as I was the only person unfamiliar with the music in the room.  It came to my mind that The Radiators wasn’t just the 5 guys up their ripping their instruments. It was also the 800 fans packed in to see their umpteenth Rads show and they knew everyone, sang every song, and drank and partied as hard as the band played.  Needless to say I left very intrigued.

Photography By Bob Compton

Over the next few years I saw the band around town many times, but didn’t really start paying attention till my very good friend took over as their drum and keyboard tech. I began to attend the shows and get to know the band more and while I enjoyed their music, they were never really a stand out band in my mind. The band and its fans had embarked on their journey over 30 years ago and me as a young man just starting to sink his teeth into the music world I felt as though I had missed the train. Sometimes I felt they were just going through the motions and other times I’d get lost in the sway of the crowd enjoying the night but never being blown away.  I only really was completely engaged after I saw Reggie’s solo project The New Orleans Suspects which was a very different beast but I thought it really let Reggie step outside the behemoth of being the Bass player in such a monumental act. While I have friends who would tell me endlessly about shows they’ve seen over the years and how the Radiators just killed it over and over, I never was moved by the music. That being said, the last run of shows was an experience I will not soon forget, and the music was every bit the hype they received for their farewell shows.

As I said before, I have had the pleasure of working with the band for a number of years loading and as a stagehand, and I was glad to be with them at the end.  The Rads while never my favorite, have a mammoth presence in New Orleans, and in the country.  Seeing these men who have spent their lives playing their music and now ending that journey was inspiring. Tips was packed and the band carried an energy that must have been reminiscent of their hay day, I can say I have never seem them preform with such vigor. I suppose we only appreciate things when they are gone, and I really was sad by the end of the run that I would never see The Radiators again. . . . But who really believes that?
Now that the band is disbanded, for me, its all about the Suspects. I hear that Camille has a new album and is playing around town with some great musicians in a trio format that is about as far from the fish head brand as one can go. I enjoy it but as a drummer with the low intensity of the music, its not really for me. The Suspects on the other hand are just a powerhouse that is downright dangerous.  Jake Eckert and CR Gruver both bring unique personalities with dynamic but different vocal styles and equally versatile instrumental skills. All of the musicians have a resume worthy of the Rock N Roll Hall of fame, and its such a great collaboration because of the subtle difference in their interpretations of the New Orleans styles.  A short while ago at D.B.A. the band  played Big Chief, a song as familiar and New Orleans as Po boys to the audience, yet they had a sound that was all their own. Its hard to make a song such as Big Chief sound like your own because everyone’s played it. In short, The Suspects make it their own without breaking a sweat.  Willie Green of the Neville Brothers, Kevin Harris of the Dozen, Jake Eckert and CR Guver, and Reggie really make a damn good team, and I hope that this band gets to keep pushing ahead and can work around the hectic tour schedules of its memebers.

So let me say fair well to the Radiators, while I wasn’t there for the beginning I”m glad I caught the end. I’d also like to thank Josh, Kenny, Phil, Steveo, and Pete for the good times and the load in in calls.

Today’s Word

So It was a great weekend full of BBQ music and friends, and I’ve been recovering on the couch and haven’t really had the time to delve into anything for the word.

Some things on my mind this week and things I’ll be covering over the near future:

Who is Leo Watermeier and why does he hate New Orleans Music?

Just a quick preview about this guy, he is a former mayoral candidate and constant curmudgeon to the local community. He has been involved in numerous actions and suits and filed grievances against King Boldon’s, WWOZ, and  most recently Donna’s Bar. He is an outspoken critic of any and all live music, and has stated that most New Orleanians don’t like “Jazz.”

Artist Development and New Orleans

Why is there no culture of Artist Development in New Orleans? Opening Acts are rarely given opportunities in a setting that will bring new fans to their music. There also doesn’t seem to be any sense by local venues of a strategy to help garner new fans for opening acts. More on this soon.

French Quarter Festival Previews!

On the music front!

There’s a James Black tribute featuring some new transcribed pieces of his work at Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse on March 29th. I love James Black, and he’s one of those cats you never heard of but kills it in so many ways. The musicians playing will be Steve Masakowski on guitars, pianist David Torkanowsky, and drummer Ricky sebastian.

This weekend the Radiators are performing two nights at the Maple Leaf, HoneyBoy Carencro is releasing a CD at the House of “Rules” and even though I can’t stand the venue for a myriad of different reasons, some acts you jsut have to bite your teeth and go. I’m not to familiar with Honeyboy, but on the first listen he sounds pretty good,he’s backed by some great musicians, and Khris Royal’s Dark Matter will be opening, so enough said.  This weekend seems to be the calm before the storm as next week is stacked full of awesome shows that I wish I could attend, however I will be in New York.

And Thats the Word.

Welcome to the Word!

New Orleans is a woman, calling and leading you to many places: bars, smokey music venues; the entire city is a labyrinth of mystery and muse. The Word is my thoughts and musings on life in New Orleans, both the shiny and the grimy alike. It’s a place for those who love music, life, and New Orleans to come and spark a conversation about the happenings of our beloved Crescent City. New Orleans is a special place, one of the few left that carries itself on its own terms. Things are different here, the air has a certain energy and I swear I’ve seen magic in the wee hours of Mardi Gras and Jazzfest. 

Every year on Mardi Gras day, my good friend Bob Compton tells me, “Just think. . . everywhere else its just a fucking Tuesday.” From the traditions of Congo Square and the Mardi Gras Indians, to the second lines and their sounds that fill the streets New Orleans is my muse, my soulmate, my mother and my whore. As unrepentant as it is forgiving, this is a city of a mystical nature.

Here at The Word I will be trying to seek out those who have had a hand in shaping the great culture of our city and document their journeys through the city. To really try and document those who have defined our city, and how it has defined them. I’ll be posting photos, opinions on the music industry, show listings, interviews, videos, and whatever else perks my interest. I always love to discover new music, and would love to hear from anyone who has something new and interesting.

On the downside I feel that even  our great Crescent City can sometimes fall into a pattern of repition and glorification of the past, while neglecting the future. How many recordings of Cissy Strut do bands here need to record before we realize that one song doesn’t define us. Now don’t get me wrong I’ve probably listened to the classic Meters tune a few thousand times, but like anything else, over indulging will just make what was once special, just another mundane part of the day.

Specifically I remember being at a very respected music club in the city and the bartender was complaining to some customers about how the band from the previous night was just more of that “heady New York Jazz.” The band he was talking about was Khris Royal’s Dark Matter. I’ll put a disclaimer here stating that I really believe this band is on the cutting edge and is the kind of inspiration I think this city needs. Anyways back to the New York Jazz comment, how can a group of musicians born, bred, and schooled in New Orleans, who consider it there home, and are the next generation of musicians in this city make anything other than New Orleans Music? New Orleans is unique, if your a musician and from any other city and you go out and sit in with a band, people just say “oh thats how that cat plays,” now when your from New Orleans and you sit in the comment changes just a bit to, “man thats how cats in New Orleans Play,” Look around and see how many musicians from our great city who have become famous, and realize that New Orleans is never far from their heart, their playing, and usually their marketing scheme.

I as a musician, promoter, an lover of all music see this time see the present as a time for real music lovers, musicians, and those involved in the business can reclaim music from the establishment and purge it of all the materialistic cookie cutter crap that has infected the soul of the average listener. Its a scary time, where venues have forgotten their roots, musicians play the same played out sets time and time again, and your average listener can’t even recognize music that’s truly special.

In a time where there’s a Bieber on every corner, and Glee at every bend, its getting harder and harder to find what is true and special, and what is just complete bullshit.

I invite everyone who reads this to do their part and start speaking about what we can do to help protect some of the greatest music on earth, and to foster a new generation of musicians who can carry the torch farther. Change starts here at home, and if everyone starts at home in no time we can organize a second line to shake things up.

Leave a comment about what you’re listening to or what great music is coming up. Please feel free to send me ideas of people to talk to, music to see, or your take on the scene. I’d like to have some more voices talking about the scene. Now is a time for interaction and I want to hear what you think.

It is my hope that people will realize we are at a crossroads and that we can take the reins, we just need to speak out. It’s up to us to raise it from the ashes with a new face and a new vibe.

Now Go Out and Make it Funky!

Here Come Dem Injuns. . . Them Injuns on Fiya!

Everyone lined up at Washington and Lasalle this year. We got there around noon because not one of us had a coconut radio so there was no telling when they would come out. When usually all it takes is two clicks on google to find out the start time of anything, this was different. These men march on the time of one man, the Big Chief. Lined up with hundreds of others we all exchanged pleasantries and sipped on Bloody Mary’s while waiting for the time when the Mardi Gras Indians would start their march. Every year on St Joesph’s day, or Super Sunday as its called in New Orleans hundreds of men and women suit up in handmade Indian suits and march their way down the street in all the glory that is the Mardi Gras Indians.

Few people outside of New Orleans know anything about the men and women of the feather, those who carry on a tradition that dates back to the arrival of the first slaves in the early 1700s. Perhaps one of the greatest examples of the melting pot of America, the Mardi Gras Indians while small in number have impacted our lives in a big way.

A long time ago when the French arrived they took the Native Americans as slaves to provide labor. One thing they didn’t count on was the natives need for freedom. Plagued by constant runaways and a dwindling workforce, many of the French landowners sought slaves from Haiti and the coast of Ghana to fill their ranks. Upon arriving the slaves at some point came across the Indians who would later help them escape into the Bayou where most wouldn’t be hunted for fear of the Native Americans. To the settlers, the Bayou was unfamiliar territory where the would be outmatched against a people who knew the land very well. After arriving the slaves as a show of gratitude would don traditional Native American ceremonial costumes for feasts and holidays. This comes from a custom in Africa where visiting guests of a different tribe would change into the host’s clothing as as sign of respect and thanks. This is were the Mardi Gras Indians were birthed.

Records show that as early as 1722 references to “Black Indians,” that would come out during carnival time in Congo Square. This tradition would grow and grow and both cultures would continue mixing until Gov Bienville declared it a crime to suit up for the Carnival Season. This came out of the uproar over “Creoles” being able to sneak into some of the Uptown parties because as decedents of slaves and Native Americans their skin was quite light. For a long time masking became a tradition that was kept hushed and only in the black neighborhoods as not to attract attention of the white population.

In modern times, the Indians who call themselves “gangs” have evolved a hierarchy and tradition that has come to define Mardi Gras Day for many people. In your typical (if there is such a thing as a typical Mardi Gras Indian) gang, the youngest members would be called the Spy Boy, and their job was to scout ahead for other gangs and police. Following him would be the Flag Boy who would signal the Chief of any problems and when it was time to move. Next came the Wild Man or War Chief who was the muscle of the group, sometimes donning horns to show they meant business. Last in line, in all his regalia, the Big Chief would be last an the most decorated. Sometimes the Big Chief’s wife was allowed to march too and she was called his squall. While each tribe spends all year making their suits with painstaking detail, the Mardi Gras Indian Tribes are more than pretty beads and feathers.

Big Chiefs are usually neighborhood leaders who help look out and take care of their neighbored, a role needed among the African American population as they were subject discrimination and oppression for so long. The tribes are a family and if not by blood, they are bonded by community. Men like the famous Big Chief Monk Boudreaux still walk the neighborhood every day checking on the local kids and helping a hand where needed.

In the past it was also common for the Indians to suit up and settle disputes on Mardi Gras day as most police were tied up with parades, and would be hesitant to respond to calls in a black neighborhood. This tradition has been laid to best, and the only scores that are settled in the present day is who is the prettiest chief.

Mardi Gras Indians also hold a place in American musical history that few even know. Their melding of the traditional African music with that of the Native Americans, and some Caribbean influences too is a foundation for what would later become blues and later rock and roll. The Wild Magnolia’s  Handa Wanda, and Wild Tchoupitoulas Self titled album are great records that should be in every music lovers collection. The Wild Tchoupitoulas were also backed by musicians who would later become the Meters, and after that the Neville Brothers.

Here’s A Great Video from the Times Picayune showcasing some of the Indians:

Here’s a track from Galactics From the Corner to the Block featuring Big Chief Monk Boudreaux “Second and Dryades”

Another great act worth mentioning here is the 101 Mardi Gras Indian Runners. This group, led by Chris “BTO” Jones is unique in that the music features members of different tribes playing together. Its something that is very unique to New Orleans, and can without your own knowledge cause severe boogie of the hips and bottom.

All Photos taken by Bob Compton: Check out his work HERE!