How much difference can a year make? Ask Lil Wayne. For New Orleans' biggest musical star, 2009 began with a sold-out celebration of the bestselling album of 2008 at the New Orleans Arena. It ends with Wayne awaiting a prison sentence and welcoming another Carter III — Neal, his third child and second in '09.
Ask Quintron and Miss Pussycat. For the city's most representative underground musicians, the year opened with an unhinged Dec. 31 soiree at the Ernie K-Doe Mother-in-Law Lounge. It closes with Q and P planning a most-unpredictable coming-out party at the New Orleans Museum of Art and remembering their friend Antoinette K-Doe, who died of a heart attack on Mardi Gras morning.
Personal reflection is the No. 1 New Year's pastime. It's only natural, considering Nos. 2, 3 and 4 are guzzling cheap bubbly, making out with strangers and harmonizing schmaltzy Scottish hymns while fireworks explode over the Mississippi. Personally, I'd rather look forward. With an eye on the year that was, and as a farewell to the "aught" decade, here are some suggestions for what area pop/rock players ought to be planning for 2010.
Talent buyers ought to keep it up. 2006 was a marvel and 2007-'08 had their moments, but 2009 was the year Crescent City nightspots returned to pre-Katrina form. The most exciting thing about this concert renaissance was that it occurred on every level, from the eight-days-a-week lineup at the tiny Circle Bar to the every-so-often showstoppers at the New Orleans Arena.
The Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts set the tone with a triumphant return in January, hosting an Irma Thomas-led revue and narrowing the gulf between clubs and stadiums (next up: the Saenger). New Orleans' newest micro venue, the AllWays Lounge, opened in February and ingratiated itself by luring Philadelphia's A Sunny Day in Glasgow and Brooklyn's Here We Go Magic. One Eyed Jacks picked up well-traveled talent buyer Scott Simoneaux (ex-Republic, TwiRoPa, Howlin' Wolf, et al.) in May and anchored a slate of fall concerts that bordered on historic. For one absurd 19-day stretch (Sept. 22 to Oct. 10), at least 20 quality bands stopped in our swamp, including Tipitina's Lindsay Adler booking two of the year's premier tours — Phoenix and Andrew Bird/St. Vincent — 48 hours apart.
Bands ought to bust out. New Orleans has produced vanloads of stellar rock bands in recent years, but strangely, few of their records have wafted far beyond parish lines. In lieu of a best-of list — which, short of some wonderful but abbreviated EPs, wouldn't require both hands — I submit a 10-pack of artists who emerged in 2008-'09 and are poised for breakout performances in '10: Givers, Giant Cloud, the Pharmacy, Caddywhompus, Rougarou, Pumpkin, Loren Murrell, Hurray For the Riff Raff, Generationals and MyNameIsJohnMichael.
Generationals and MNIJM ought to swap secrets. It's an only-in-NOLA paradox: Likely the year's top local pop/rock platter, Generationals' July debut Con Law (Park the Van) has yet to jell onstage, while MNIJM, whose live shows feature a polish and kinetic prickle that are unmatched here outside of jazz circles, loses something in recorded translation. Both have sophomore efforts and extensive tours on their 2010 dockets.
Lil Wayne and Quintron ought to go half each on an LP. Yes, one will soon be the toast of the art world and one will be stewing in the slammer. So what — do it Postal Service style. Stranger things have happened. (OK, maybe they haven't. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't.)