Jello Biafra releases NOLA recording in time for Jazz Fest

Lágbájá, Nigerian afro-beat artist, performed on the first day of Jazz Fest.

The 2015 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival kicked off today at the fairgrounds with 11 music stages and goes full tilt until 7 p.m. Jazz Fest carries on through Sunday before taking a three day break, then picking up for four more days starting Thursday, April 30. Here’s the lineup.

This year, I decided to go to the earlier French Quarter Festival and while I have no regrets, I can’t help but wish I was still in town for Jazz Fest–particularly as I listen to the WWOZ broadcast from the festival grounds.

Perhaps the most intriguing artist for Thursday is Lágbájá, a Nigerian afrobeat musician known as the “masked one” who has been outspoken in his country’s politics. He takes the Congo Square stage during the afternoon. Headliners for today are Keith Urban, Wilco and Jimmy Cliff. Saturday and Sunday features The Who, John Legend, Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga and Jimmy Buffett. But those are just the headliners, there are many gems in the schedule and I encourage you to stream WWOZ during the festival to get a sense of the fun and flavor of Jazz Fest.

On another note, the long awaited recording of the 2011 Mother’s Day performance of

JELLO BIAFRA AND THE NEW ORLEANS RAUNCH & SOUL ALLSTARS
JELLO BIAFRA AND THE NEW ORLEANS RAUNCH & SOUL ALLSTARS

Jello Biafra (think Dead Kennedys ) with Bill Davis (Dash Rip Rock), Fred Le Blanc (Cowboy Mouth)  and the horn section from Egg Yolk Jubilee at the 12 Bar has been released. Perhaps you’ve seen the video of Biafra goofing with Ooh Poo Pah Doo. Now there is a marginally better audio version available on Alternative Tentacles and I’ll play a couple of cuts on Monday’s show.

Finally, having just completed our spring membership drive, I want to thank those of you who have supported community radio, either KAOS, WWOZ or your own community radio.  Membership drives are hard on everyone but a necessary chore to ensure that we can demonstrate listener support to other funders. If you haven’t had a chance to be a member of community radio, I invite you to be a KAOS member.

I still have lots of sorting through of my recordings and notes I took while in New Orleans. I hope to start sharing soon. For now, I’m going to enjoy my community’s Procession of the Species and get ready for Monday’s show. Listen to the recorded, edited version on Mixcloud.

KAOS is the world’s window to our community

The Internet has made it possible for community radio to be our window to the world . . . and the world’s window to us.

Reader Alert: Tim’s getting on his public media high horse.window to the world_327x216

True dat! The KAOS Spring Membership Drive begins Friday (April 17)  with a week of regular encouragement to listeners to pony up and become a KAOS member  and support community radio.

If you’re a regular listener to public radio, you know the many arguments for doing this. I’m hoping one or more of those have been persuasive enough to prompt you to support KAOS in the past and future. Here’s one you might not have heard yet.

KAOS listeners know we bring a diverse array of the world’s voices, rhythms and melodies to Olympia. But you might not know about how our station projects the culture of Olympia to the world.

That’s right!

kaosEarlier this week, I was at a community station in New Orleans, WWOZ, which boasts that about half their donating members live outside their broadcast area. That means people from all over the world tune into that station by streaming it on the Internet. That got me thinking.

KAOS streams too at www.kaosradio.org. Some shows are available as podcasts (including some of my episodes) and the station is working with a provider that will allow all our programs up to two weeks old to be replayed after their original airing.

A number of our dedicated, long-time volunteers have developed a loyal following that extends beyond the station’s broadcast boundaries. Programs like J.J. Syrja’s roots rock Retroactive, the Bollywood-focused Junglee Hour, Scott Steven’s world music Spin the Globe and Raven Redbone’s show on First Peoples  Make No Bones About It followed by G.W. Galbreath’s View from the Shore are just a few examples.

These and many other programs are carefully curated by KAOS volunteers who live in our community. During the show, they read local announcements, talk about upcoming events and generally convey who we are and what we care about in Olympia.

If the Internet really is making it possible for people worldwide to understand each other better, then radio shows with real live hosts delivered over the Internet expand on that through the power of music which throughout the ages has been a unifying element.

So when you hear Vertis on the Old Ship of Zion, Anabel on Folkin’ Around or even me bumbling through Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa, think about how listener supported and volunteered powered KAOS is sharing with the world the things we care about, providing a window into our community.

Along with other volunteers, I’ll be answering phones this week. I hope we talk.  And, just wait till you hear some of the great music I picked up in New Orleans this last trip on my next show this Monday.

Music and history carry on despite rain during French Quarter Festival

In New Orleans, the show must go on unless you can’t keep the musicians dry or if lightning threatens the audience. Over the course of the 2015 French Quarter Festival in New Orleans, we had a good bit of rain and a few lightning bolts.

So periodically, stages have been closed, including Tricia Boutte’s show right as she was beginning. Bummer!

A hard rain on Friday pushed crowds under cover. Saturday and Sunday also had rained out venues at times.
A hard rain on Friday pushed crowds under cover. Saturday and Sunday also had rained out venues at times.

The highlight for me today was indoors though when Allen Toussaint and Deacon John sat down with author John Broven. The one-hour program started with Toussaint going right to the Steinway and banging out his hit originally done by Irma Thomas, “It’s Raining.” This time, Deacon John sang it, with a few appropriate ad libs.

The stated purpose of the program was to reminisce about Cosimo Matassa and the heyday of New Orleans R&B and early Rock n’ Roll–a period of time that launched the careers of both Allen Toussaint and Deacon John. More on Mr. Toussaint and more on Mr. Matassa.

Allen Toussaint (piano) played
Allen Toussaint (piano) played “It’s Raining” and Deacon John sang at the French Quarter Festival Conversations on Louisiana Music.

Of Cosimo and his studio, Toussaint said “It was our doorway and window to the world . . .He and Dave Bartholomew put us on the map. . .He (Cosimo) saw the big picture long before we did cause we were just having fun. “

Deacon John described getting discovered by Toussaint at the Dew Drop Inn one night and the next day going into Matassa’s studio to help Ernie K-Doe record “There’s a will, there’s a way.”

As I mentioned in my previous post, I won’t be hosting this Monday’s show. Anch of Sundrenched will handle affairs and I plan to call in during the show. Consider subscribing to this blog so you can be alerted the next time I post. (see upper right hand of page)

First impressions of French Quarter Festival

With some time to catch up this morning on day three of the 2015 French Quarter Festival, I’ve had a chance to reflect on my first impression of the largest showcase of Louisiana music in the world

The fest started on Thursday with five stages operating mostly in Woldenberg Riverfront Park near the old Jax Brewery and the Audubon Aquarium. Friday, the festival added seven more stages and 11 more open today. This exponential stage growth levels off at 23 stages, otherwise there might not be any place to walk.

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Actually, there’s lots of room to walk. Anyone intent on catching music at all the stages needs to be prepared to hustle or rent a pedicab.  Stages are grouped together but those groups are scattered over the full river length of the French Quarter from Canal to Esplanade and moving away from the river, there are stages on Royal and Bourbon Streets. Like most music festivals, tough choices have to be made cause you cannot catch it all.

In its four days, French Quarter festival attracts more audience than the better known seven-day New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival that starts  later in the month.  But now that I’m here, its quite obvious why.  Jazz Fest participants have to make a conscious effort to get out the Fair Grounds and pay the $70 to get in for a day. As a result, I suspect that Jazz Fest is responsible for drawing in more folks to the city specifically for the festival.

John Boutte performing at French Quarter festival this week.
John Boutte performing at French Quarter festival this week.

At French Quarter Festival, many of the attendees appear to be here for other reasons. And therein lies the genius of this event. Like a gill net that traps salmon headed to spawning grounds, the free French Quarter Festival snags tourists as they innocently stumble out of their hotels and bars and provides them with a taste of music they might not otherwise catch.

With the exception of one small stage featuring international acts, the French Quarter Festival showcases local talent. This means the festival provides local musicians with a chance to build a following outside the city.  The fact that the festival can keep 23 stages busy with local talent provides some sense of how deep the musical talent. This year’s lineup includes Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Eric Lindell, Hot 8 Brass Band, John Boutte, Flow Tribe, Bonerama, Little Freddie King, Guitar Slim Jr. and on and on.  All music, by the way, that we play on Sweeney’s Gumbo Ya Ya.

I’m still in New Orleans during the next show but I hope to call in with a brief report. You’ll be in capable hands with Anch who hosts Sundrenched on Tuesdays.

Easy to catch a lot of NOLA music in a short period of time

Catching as much music as possible in New Orleans ain’t hard. But some stamina comes in handy at times.

We arrived on Friday night and hustled down to see late night show of the Soul Rebels at d.b.a.  I’ve yet to catch them at their home bar, Les Bon Temp Roule but its always fun to hear and feel this talented brass band.

Saturday, we took the “Freret Jet” (#15 bus) to the annual Freret Street Festival, getting there in time to catch the swinging last half of the Mississippi Rail Company set. This New Orleans  R&B group is on my list to pick up when I get to the Louisiana Music Factory.

Mark Mullins (left) and Craig Klein are two of the "bones" of Bonerama. Billy Iuso, fronting his own band earlier, added some licks to a Bonerama number.
Mark Mullins (left) and Craig Klein are two of the “bones” of Bonerama. Billy Iuso, fronting his own band earlier, added some licks to a Bonerama number.

One of the advantages of visiting New Orleans is to learn about musicians that don’t get airplay outside of the area. Billy Iuso and the Restless Natives is one of those blues groups that sneaks up on you, starting off without much fanfare but blowing you away by the final beat.

The headliner for the festival was Bonerama — three trombones backed up by guitar, bass and drums. This group, which has played the Winthrop Blues Festival, was in excellent form.

We finished the day back at Frenchmen Street with The Maison’s evening closer Austin soul group The NightOwls.  They put on an energetic show that was almost overshadowed by some of the Spring Break-like antics of the crowd.

On Sunday evening, we braved Northwest-style rains and winds to sit in Bacchanal’s open courtyard to see The Roamin’ Jasmine.  Now, I’ve aired the Jasmine many times on the show but as usual its a delight to see the band in action, particularly with Taylor Smith, bassist and bandleader, singing.

Yesterday, we rented bikes and pedaled uptown to Carrollton, up Jeff Davis Parkway to City Park and back down Esplanade, stopping at Three Muses where Bart Ramsey, who fronts a Gypsy Jazz band called Zazou City, played a solo piano and sang for the early evening audience. I will definitely be playing some of his music when I get back on the  show in two Monday’s from now.

King James & the Special Men at BJ's Lounge
King James & the Special Men at BJ’s Lounge

I can’t close without mentioning my evening at BJ’s Lounge where King James and The Special Men held court for their regular Monday session.  This was bluesy, boogie woogie rock n’ roll fronted by Jimmy Horn,  who lived briefly in Seattle before stumbling into New Orleans in the 90’s. A disciple of Ernie  and Antoinette K-Doe, Horn seems to possess some of that same confident but endearing swagger. There is no stage at BJ’s.  No barrier between audience and musician and the give and take was, to be understated, uniquely entertaining. As his piano player banged out Fats Domino-like triplets on Blue Monday, I marveled at how I was probably no more than two miles from the Ninth Ward neighborhood bar that Antoine “Fats’ Domino was first discovered by Imperial Records while banging out the beat that became part of rock n’ roll history. A special treat was Jason Mingledorff sitting in with his saxophone.

Kim and I are chilling today but we’ll be catching a lot more beats in the days to come. Keep up with my posts by subscribing (upper right hand side of page.)

Freret Street event marks the start of NOLA festival season

If Mardi Gras marks the start of the Lent season, you could argue that the Freret Street Festival marks the end of it.  But Easter tends to wander about on the calendar so some years that just doesn’t work.

Freret Street Festival is usually the first weekend in April. This New Orleans neighborhood event heralds the start of the festival season.

What’s more clear is that the annual Freret Street event heralds the beginning of the New Orleans festival season. Later in the month, New Orleans will kick into festival high gear with the French Quarter Festival and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival–two events that together attract over a 1 million attendees. You won’t see that mass of humanity on Freret Street this Saturday (April 4), but this is not your usual neighborhood party.  According to organizers, eight blocks of the street will be blocked to car traffic, from Napoleon to Jefferson.  Three music stages will feature Mississippi Rail Company, Tank and the Bangas, New Breed Brass Band and Bonerama (to name a few).

Bonerama will close out the Freret Street Festival.
Bonerama will close out the Freret Street Festival.

I’m making it a point to be at this year’s event, even though the festival is 2,600 miles from my house. The corner of Napoleon and Freret is where I went to kindergarten and elementary school when the school there was called Our Lady of Lourdes. Yep, I wore the Catholic student khaki uniform.  (I’m also in town for the French Quarter festival. More on that soon.)

In those days (we’re talking 60’s) my home was a lot closer. I could buy a soft-serve ice cream cone across the street from the school (now a parking lot and site of a monthly art, food and flea market) and then, having spent my bus fare on that treat, walk past an odd assortment of businesses and store fronts to my house on Nashville Avenue. After Katrina, the district was revitalized. New clubs moved in like the acoustically excellent Gasa Gasa and the Freret Street Publiq House. Restaurants like High Hat Cafe, Freret Street PoBoys and Sarita’s Grill headed up a vanguard of excellent eating.

If the technology works for me this weekend, I’ll have a report from Freret Street that will air on my show this Monday. Ruby Ru, KAOS station manager and NOLA music lover, will host the show.