Mount Carmel High School junior Amanda Shaw might be the most together and polite New Orleans musician working today. There's not a person living in the city right now that hasn't had an eventful year, but Shaw's is up there in terms of shake-ups. Not only has the Cajun-fiddle prodigy had to reassimilate as a musician into a scene with a drastically shrunken footprint; she's also had to go back to high school. Most musicians 10 years her senior are still working things out, but Shaw, hanging out at the S. Carrollton Avenue Rue de la Course in a Girl Power T-shirt, listening to her new iPod, is upbeat, on point and awesomely self-assured.
"It's definitely, definitely been very busy," she says of the past year. "I've been really lucky." Right now, her focus is on the IMAX film Hurricane On The Bayou, for which she and Louisiana blues guitarist Tab Benoit worked on the music. "It's really going to start getting crazy in December when it opens nationally. I saw it, and I'm really proud of it. Everybody working on it was just great."
Shaw's other big news is her recent signing to the diverse roots-music label Rounder: she's getting ready to start work on her second full-length LP and debut for the new label. "We're going to go into the studio sometime in the next couple of months. I'm going to cowrite some stuff with Shannon [McNally] and Anders [Osborne]. Miss Shannon is so awesome. I want to be just like her." The sound, she says, is going to branch off from her Cajun-steeped earlier work.
"A lot of the songs have come out of jamming," she says. "The more we work on it, the more rock it becomes. It still has those Louisiana roots, but there's something more mainstream about the sound that I really like." The project was doubly postponed; once for the storm, and again, sadly, due to the unexpected death of Shaw's longtime guitarist Scott Thomas, whose shoes will be filled by Cranston Clements. "We were lucky to have Mr. Cranston there," she says. "He's awesome, always coming up with cool chords. We had planned on using him on the CD, and it was weird almost that he was right there, ready and available. He was just what the doctor ordered."
For all of Shaw's impeccable New Orleans-bred politeness, there's definitely more than a hint of an emergent rocker in this uncommonly self-possessed teenager, especially when she talks about going out to hear music in her hometown. "A couple of weeks ago I went out to see George Porter and Snooks Eaglin play. That was so awesome -- Snooks is so cool. His hands were just going at it. School definitely comes first, but I always go hear music." So what's in that iPod?
"I listen to classical, but mostly I like to rock," she says. "I really like Prince ... I love Miss Shannon; I just saw her at Louisiana Music Factory. I like Donovan, ... Alice Cooper, The Pretenders," she says, her eyes lighting up with something that confirms she wasn't lying with the title of her first LP, I'm Not a Bubblegum Pop Princess. "I love Chrissie Hynde. She's so cool. She's like, 'I'm me -- take it or leave it.'" So, one suspects, is Amanda Shaw. -- Alison Fensterstock
1:15 p.m. - 2 p.m. Sat., Oct. 28
Guitar master Ernie Vincent is best known for bringing the low-down, fiery funk masterwork "Dap Walk" into existence in 1972. If that were his only contribution to the annals of music, he'd still be in credit -- but going above and beyond, Vincent's back, and set to tear up the stage at the Voodoo Music Experience, along with many other legends of New Orleans rock, funk and soul.
"I was honored to find out I was playing this year," says Vincent. "This is the first year I've played the Voodoo Fest, and I believe it'll go over very well."
Vincent's New Orleans pedigree includes backing the legendary Ernie K-Doe with his crack band the Top Notes when the Emperor of the Universe first opened his Mother-in-Law Lounge in the early '90s. Since the storm, he's been shuttling between Tennessee and New Orleans, where he's helping relatives rebuild their home as well as hosting jam sessions most Sundays at Bocat's on St. Philip Street in Treme. He's also getting set to release his first full-length album in many years, City Moves, which he says still has the patented deep funk and wah-wah guitar that fans remember, but tightened up for the 21st century.
"It's the same vein of stuff. I put a new twist on it to upgrade it, the technology part of it," he says, "and bring in a little of the commercial sound. We clocked it this time. We still do the street sound, but we go by the numbers. It's been hard [since Katrina] finding guys, musicians to do what I want them to do. It has been difficult, but I managed it, and I'm pleased with the product." -- Fensterstock
1:15 p.m. - 2:15 p.m. Sat., Oct. 28
Preservation Hall Stage
"We come from different worlds," Zydepunks songwriter and accordionist Christian Kuffner says of his bandmates, referring to both cultural and musical upbringing.
The result is nothing short of otherworldly. The New Orleans-based Zydepunks inhabit a realm where driving rhythms and ingenious melodies patch together scenes as foreign as life on the Louisiana bayou, Celtic jigs, klezmer on the kibbutz and Old World waltzes -- all delivered fast and furious via a punk rock energy and ethos.
Inspired by a lineage of punk/folk bands including The Pokes and The Ukranians, the Zydepunks (drummer Joe Lilly, fiddler Denise Bonis, bassist Paul Edmonds and accordianists Eve and Kuffner) formed in 2003. Over the last three years, the band has produced a reputation for fiery live shows with a sonic synergy ideal for intimate clubs such as the Circle Bar and Dragon's Den. Kuffner admits the band "at first was nothing more than a glorified cover band," performing traditional folk tunes by obscure artists.
The Zydepunks now have 45 originals in their canon, which can be found on their first album, And The Streets Will Flow With Whiskey, and an album to be recorded later this fall.
Songwriting is primarily shared by three members: Eve, who comes inspired by Jewish and Eastern traditions; Lilly, whose style lies in punk/indie sensibilities, but whose writing comes with the band's unique instrumentation in mind; and Kuffner, whose main interest is technical compositions of varied folk forms.
"It's kinda like starting with a palette that already has a framework on it," Kuffner says.
But drawing from such traditions doesn't mean there isn't plenty of inspiration stemming from the heady mood of post-K New Orleans.
"It's a hectic time to be living here, that's for sure," Kuffner says. "All this murder and death. It's a strange time -- pretty insane. The new lyrics reflect that." -- Frank Etheridge
2:25 p.m. - 3:05 p.m. Sat., Oct 29
Everything true that you say about Wardell Quezerque's storied career sounds like hyperbole. But what can you do? The bandleader, writer, producer, arranger and all-around rhythm wizard -- who Allen Toussaint once dubbed the Creole Beethoven -- really is the man. After an ignominious evacuation to Houston via the Superdome, Quezerque, with a little help from his friends, has rebounded onto the scene and is getting back to what befits a legend most: simply getting out there and doing what he's legendary for. From the lazy rhythm and blues of the '50s up to the dirty-dog funk of the '70s, Quezerque's magic touch graced the careers of local legends like Irma Thomas, Willie Tee and Raymond Myles, among many others, and we haven't heard the last of him yet. Indeed, Quezerque might be just getting started.
A few months ago, Quezerque headlined an all-star revue at Preservation Hall (where he shared the bill with his Voodoo Music Experience roster-mates Rockie Charles and Ernie Vincent) that announced his re-emergence onto the music scene. The New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund (NOMHRF) and Preservation Hall, working with the Mystic Knights of the Mau Mau, put together the event as the first step into what they hope will be a renaissance for vintage New Orleans rhythm and blues. After Voodoo, Preservation Hall plans to host monthly shows like that initial revue, with Wardell at the helm of a core backing band, spotlighting different vocalists and frontmen.
"The idea behind the whole project is to reach out to our elder musicians who want to stay active," says NOMHRF's Jordan Hirsch. "But it's also about legitimizing New Orleans R&B as a traditional, indigenous New Orleans style," much as the Preservation Hall band helped revitalize traditional jazz for mainstream ears in the '60s.
"In a way, Voodoo is an event born of the kind of music Wardell helped create," Hirsch says. "When Wardell's band gets going, they rock in the most elemental, fist-pumping kind of rocking. I have absolute confidence that once that band gets onstage, they will knock people out." -- Fensterstock
4:45 p.m. - 6 p.m. Sat., Oct. 28
Preservation Hall Stage
Hot 8 Brass Band
Representing the New Orleans brass-band scene at the Voodoo Music Experience will be the smooth yet funky Hot 8 Brass Band. Formed as two other brass bands, the Looney Tunes and the High Steppers, were breaking up, the Hot 8 has been getting its roll on across town since before 2000. It plays everywhere from neighborhood cookouts to back-of-town clubs to Sunday second lines, although many of its bookings now are out of town, says leader and sousaphonist Benny Pete.
"Now that almost everybody is back in town, we're working, but it's a stressful situation with the lack of housing and cars and people living with their families," he says. "We're trying to deal with the basics." This is a common problem in post-flood New Orleans. Despite all that, Pete says, "We're looking forward to the Voodoo fest. With all the acts from the Wu Tang to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, it's like a gumbo, and we're the brass band flavoring."
The Hot 8 has all that flavor and more. Its CD, Rock With the Hot 8, covers the gamut of modern African-American music. The band sounds great whether doing traditional numbers such as "Fly Away" and "E-Flat Blues," old-school rhythm and blues like Maze's "We Are One" and Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing," or original numbers such as "Skeet Skeet." Pete likes the variety in the record. "We did some old R&B tunes for the old people and did some rap and hip hop for the youngsters." The band has plans for a new record, but they're still on hold. "It's too chaotic now. We've got to take care of each other before we put away money for a record."
The record has its rewards, but that's nothing compared to the payoff of hearing the band live. Recently at the Young Men's Olympian Social Aid and Pleasure Club second-line parade, the Hot 8 provided the forceful music for the last of the five divisions in the parade. When things slowed near the end, band memebers just marched and played their way past the groups that were in front of them, even getting up on the sidewalk to blow their instruments at the band that was next in line. When they get it going like that, they are a funky, brassy force to be reckoned with. -- David Kunian
12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. Sun., Oct. 29
Morning 40 Federation
When you talk about rock bands that have been playing together for as long as the Morning 40 Federation has -- almost a decade now -- it's tempting to use the dysfunctional-family model. Living within blocks of each other for years, drinking in the same circle of bars, plus touring and playing together breeds that special familiarity. After a successful summer tour of the West Coast and the release of its first full-length album on M80 records, though, it looks like the Ninth Wards' favorite sloppy drunks are, for all their boozy braggadocio, a highly functional little family -- seasoned, self-assured and potentially ready to flex a little muscle.
After a few independent releases and tours, the band is a proven draw in cities it's visited multiple times, not to mention at home, says guitarist Bailey Smith -- a plus members enjoy capitalizing on in the aid of bands they like.
"Now that we have a wider fan base, it's nice to be able to use that draw and help out our friends' bands," Smith says. "We can control the bill opener and be able to pay them a guarantee." The Americans, for example, who open for the 40's this week, hosted them in New York and let them use their rehearsal space to write; Smith was happy to return the favor. And most of the touring bugs have been ironed out already.
"All that f***ed-up stuff has already happened," says Smith. "We'll book our Friday, Saturday shows in the big cities now, and save the lame-ass shows for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday nights."
Ticonderoga, 40s' latest record, had markedly higher production values than earlier self-released stuff, including more studio effects. Has that been harder to reproduce on the road?
"We've had piano stuff in the studio that we don't do live," says Ryan Scully. "'White Powder' has some weird Moog shit. This time we had a really good producer, and it showed ... but in the past we've recorded with other musicians, horns and piano, that we don't have live."
"We're much louder and more garagey live," says Josh Cohen. "We're a dirty band live, that's for sure."
With a more widely distributed album than ever before, the band has had to deal with the slings and arrows of the press turning a fresh ear to the 40's special brand of hedonistic sleaze. Google the band and the first page to come up is a review calling Ticonderoga "wrong on so many levels" -- a quote the band has seized on pretty happily.
"I'd say we were wrong on some levels. Not too many levels, really," says Scully.
"Getting loaded has always been a staple of our lyrical content. So championing an unhealthy lifestyle in that way, putting it on a pedestal ... some people aren't going to like that." But is that the most hatred the band's expanded public presence has engendered?
"I hope not," Scully says.
Back in town and with time to breathe, the band is hoping to work on writing new material and working on songs that got started during the tour.
"I finally wrote a song about being here after the hurricane," says Scully. "It's a sad song written with a fun melody, a goofy kind of melody."
"Like 'Rubber Ducky,'" interjects Mike Andrepont.
"When we get together, we'll always write something," says Smith. "We had a lot of new ideas, a lot of energy going in New York, and right now we just need a rehearsal space."
Toward the end of our interview, jazz singer Linnzi Zaorski sticks her head into the bar to say hi to the band on her way to a gig at Preservation Hall.
"I partied with her on Tuesday," notes Scully.
"I know you did," retorts Cohen. "You told her that she should do a duet with you instead of me, because you're more talented."
"Did I say that? I didn't say that," answers a bemused Scully. Well, no family is completely functional. -- Fensterstock
2:30 p.m. - 3:30 P.M. Sun., Oct. 29
Kings of Leon
These Tennessee-bred kings arrive at Voodoo as bona fide rock royalty. An amazing feat considering they're just princes, if age is your measuring stick, as most members only recently left their teenage years behind. But their New Orleans appearance comes at the end of a fall touring schedule that found them opening for Bob Dylan.
Comprised of three Followill brothers, lead singer and rhythm guitarist Caleb, drummer Nathan and bassist Jared, along with first cousin and lead guitarist Matthew Followill, the band rides no coattails. They have taken the fast train to rock stardom on their own terms, forging a style that defies description by virtue of obvious influences or genre. Caleb's swagger and slur is Southern rock, for sure. The rapid-fire blast of high-energy songs as a hallmark of the band's live show has a punk rock feel to it (fans of the Kings live should check out Day Old Belgian Blues, an EP recorded in 2004 and now available on iTunes). But the sound is all their own. It's marked by smart songwriting that spans the emotional bridge between the party and the hangover, and first-rate musicianship that's equally adept on tunes such as the down-tempo, contemplative "Milk" ("She'll lend you her toothbrush/She'll bartend your party") and the rollicking "Holy Roller Novocain," from which the driving bass line was used during a racing scene in Talladega Nights.
The Kings of Leon remained in relative obscurity stateside while their first release, Youth And Young Manhood, found instant success in England, where it's now gone double platinum. The follow-up Aha Shake Heartbrake is smarter and more mature. Expect a no-frills, all-rock run down of the majority of both albums for this show. -- Frank Etheridge
6:30 p.m. Ð 7:30 p.m. Sun., Oct. 29
Duran Duran never broke up? Really? Yep, it's true. Though the popularity of spin-off group Power Station might confuse you, the band never officially disbanded. But clearly there's a huge gap in output between the British band's series of smash hits in the '80s -- when the group virtually defined the decade's sound with its complex, multilayered blend of punk's idealism, disco's dance grooves and David Bowie's glamour -- and the past few years, marked by a new album and reunion tour with all five original members. (This includes a sold-out, crowd-pleasing romp at UNO's Keifer Lakefront Arena two years ago following the release of Astronaut.) But this band shows no sign of slowing down, with another new album with all original members -- at first keyboardist Nick Rhodes and bassist John Taylor, with the duo later joined by drummer Roger Taylor, singer Simon Le Bon and guitarist Andy Taylor -- slated for release in early 2007.
While the band members might cringe today at the excessive hairstyles of their early days, there's no question Duran Duran's image-conscious collaboration with famed designers and stylists that took them fashionably far ahead of their peers in the school of groups dubbed the New Romantics. This played out perfectly for the then-blossoming MTV generation and the boy band-crazed girls that ushered in the teen magazine era. But there's plenty of musical substance behind that style, as the band pioneered studio efforts to create an elaborate sound in the days before sampling. The band's self-titled debut release made all of them stars in their native England in 1981, and just two years later the release of Rio, which included "Hungry Like a Wolf," put them at the top of the charts in America, where audiences still have an appetite for that classic sound. -- Etheridge
7:30 p.m. Ð 9 p.m. Sun., Oct. 29