Marc’s Musings: Up From The Bayou

Helping Those Who Make Us Dance: Up From The Bayou Benefit @ the Canal Room (Wed 10/5/11)

“Some people have a hard time explaining rock ‘n’ roll. I don’t think anyone can really explain rock ‘n’ roll. Maybe Pete Townshend, but that’s okay. Rock ‘n’ roll is a lifestyle and a way of thinking… and it’s not about money and popularity. Although, some money would be nice. But it’s a voice that says, ‘Here I am… and fuck you if you can’t understand me.’ And one of these people is gonna save the world. And that means that rock ‘n’ roll can save the world…”

Can rock and roll change the world? Jeff Bebe seemed to think so in Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical flick Almost Famous. The Boss, The Police, U2 and Peter Gabriel thought so on the Amnesty International tour. And of course Band Aid and USA For Africa tried to feed a starving African continent with Feed The World and We Are The World. But that was in the fictional ’70s and the much-mocked big hair and neon-clothed ’80s. Perhaps in 2011, with a collapsing economy, goals shouldn’t be so lofty. But being charitable is good karma. So targeting a niche is what it’s all about.

[All photos by Marc Millman]

The New Orleans Musicians Assistance Fund aims to get medical care to the entertainers of the Big Easy. Musicians are notoriously underpaid (unless they can headline sheds, arenas & stadiums or have semi-autobiographical movies based on their careers). And since August 29th, 2005 the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of New Orleans have been a struggle beyond what most Americans can imagine.

Four years ago, The Howlin’ Wolf club in New Orleans started promoting The Down On The Bayou benefit show during the annual Jazz Fest week. JoJo Hermann, the keyboard player of Widespread Panic, hosts the event. In that tradition, the NYC event was presented by the Jeffrey A. Altman Foundation, Justin Marcus and Shari Frank. What the near-capacity crowd was treated to was 17 songs played over a period of two and a half hours featuring an incredibly talented house band that hadn’t performed as a unit before.

The band had no rehearsal time, just a few minutes in the dressing room to walk through song choices that were emailed back and forth. But the combination of The Radiators guitar players (Dave Malone & Camile Baudoin), Dumpstaphunk’s leader and bass player (Ivan Neville & Tony Hall) and Lettuce’s ace funk drummer (Adam Deitch) blended almost seamlessly. The Saturday Night Live band’s singer Christine “The Beehive Queen” Ohlman was the perfect choice to sing alongside Malone, Neville & Hall giving the high-testosterone band a needed injection of estrogen.

Born On The Bayou

The band kicked things off appropriately with a rousing rendition of the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic Born On The Bayou. After a take on The Radiators Where Was You At, the band launched into its first killer funk jam of the night. Tony Hall handled the lead vocals for the latter-day Temptations Shakey Ground which segued into Sly Stone’s Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin).

Ivan Neville took over Dave Malone’s guitar for some great chicken scratch playing. Mr. Neville proved himself the versatile musician that made him a favorite of Keith Richards back in the days of the X-pensive Winos by playing Hammond organ, guitar and even taking over Tony Hall’s bass towards the end of the second set (Mr. Richards in fact, slipped into the venue and sat in the VIP area watching his bandmate have some serious fun while raising money for musicians from a city the Stones always felt strongly about).

The second set was more of the same. They opened with a take on a song by the King of the Funky Drummers, Zigaboo Modeliste. After another CCR cover and several Crescent City standards, the audience was finally treated to a real taste of “The Beehive Queen.” First Ms. Ohlman & Mr. Malone sang a duet version of Feelin’ Alright and then she led the band through a funky cover of the King Floyd classic Groove Me.

Feelin’ Alright

The real treat of the show was an over-the-top version of James Brown’s Sex Machine. Mr. Hall proved he’s much more than just a bass player, handling the lead vocals for the second time. And his lock-step rhythms with Mr. Deitch generated the hottest, most propulsive funk beats I’ve heard in quite some time. Lettuce is a band that is only just beginning to reach a wider audience as it plays around as part of the Royal Family. And although the guitar player Eric Krasno seems to get most of the attention, Deitch, who comes across as a very mellow fellow offstage, is a beast once he sits behind his kit. When Mr. Hall asked if they could “take it to the bridge,” this band took it right over the top of the Brooklyn Bridge. Then they carried the audience off on a final flight back to the Big Easy where they touched down around 1:15am to the final chords of The Rads’ Papaya.

For those in attendance, this was a very special evening of music. For those who weren’t, you should be on the lookout for next year’s shows both in NOLA and NYC.

About the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic and Foundation:

NOMC is shepherded by the not-for-profit New Orleans Musicians Assistance Foundation, which provides access to occupational medical services in partnership with a network of community medical providers and volunteers. Dedicated on May 2, 1998, NOMC addresses the social and health care needs of musicians and their families. Not only do they strive to affect an agenda of wellness in our musician patient population, they encourage musicians to become advocates for early detection, prevention, and treatment for others facing the same risks. For more information, please visit http://www.nomaf.org or http://www.NewOrleansMusiciansClinic.org.

Setlist

Set 1: Born on the Bayou, Where Was You At?, Shakey Ground > Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)

Set 2: Welcome to New Orleans > Fortunate Son > Iko Iko> The All Ask’d ForYou > Jambalaya, Feelin’ Alright, Groove Me, Spanish Moon, Sex Machine, Sittin’ on Top of the World, Let the Good Times Roll, Big Chief, Papaya

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2 Responses

  1. Marc–Honored to be there as the evening’s MC and as a performer. I support and participate in BOTH “Down On The Bayou” AND “Up From The Bayou”. Urge everyone to support the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic!!

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