The website for the performance space at the Old U.S. Mint, www. musicatthemint.org, greets visitors with a declarative sentence by Louis Armstrong: "To jazz, or not to jazz, there is no question!" There is one question: What in Crackity Jones are Marnie Stern and Charles Thompson (pictured) — she the metal-guitar banshee, indie rock's reigning lord of the fretboard; he Frank Black Francis, the Spanish-spewing, mutilation-waving Pixie who started it all — doing on a Louisiana State Museum concert lineup?
The answer involves a kinship between a production engineer and a talent buyer, some calendar kismet and yet another question. The engineer is the Mint's Danny Kadar, whose credits include Band of Horses, Grizzly Bear and My Morning Jacket. The talent buyer is Jason Songe, who fielded an offer from Kadar after the latter attended rock shows earlier this year by the Whigs and Floating Action, two bands Songe had booked at the Circle Bar. The second question: What could you do with the most state-of-the-art music studio in New Orleans?
That answer will come Saturday, when Stern plugs her Fender Telecaster into the Mint's third-floor, 48-channel Meyer Sound system and conjures Eddie Van Halen for the solo that opens "Nothing is Easy," from her new album The Chronicles of Marnia (Kill Rock Stars). The next day, Charles Thompson — not the famed jazz pianist, but the former Teenager of the Year who wrote "Here Comes Your Man" as a high-school sophomore — settles in for Sunday service, counting five-six-seven on Cinco de Mayo. Habitat opens for Marnie Stern Saturday. Tickets $12. Reid Paley and Kim Shattuck open for Black Francis Sunday. Tickets $25. — Noah Bonaparte Pais