Music & Nightlife

Thursday, May 18, 2017

With We Are Stars, Water Seed prepares for lift off

Posted By on Thu, May 18, 2017 at 8:00 PM

Water Seed celebrates the release of We Are Stars at Blue Nile May 20. - PHOTO COURTESY WATER SEED
  • PHOTO COURTESY WATER SEED
  • Water Seed celebrates the release of We Are Stars at Blue Nile May 20.

Lou Hill once compared Water Seed's upcoming album to Prince's 1999 — a preview of what's to come from artists coming into their own, with something bigger on the horizon.

"This is the setup," says drummer and bandleader Hill. "Where we really want to take you, this is just your ticket to the theme park ... Get to the theme park, you’re cool. We’ll get you to Space Mountain. We have this amazing thing planned. Get on board."

Water Seed's We Are Stars — out May 19 — is the latest genre-spanning full-length album from the New Orleans funk band, remodeling retro-futurist funk and building ecstatic, maximalist pop in the vein of band heroes like Cameo, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Gap Band and Prince, but it's firmly and inextricably linked back to its New Orleans hometown, from its loose, shoulder-rolling funk to the gospel, jazz, and inventive, playful spirit weaving through the album's 14 songs.
The band formed as a songwriting team at Xavier University. They're now joined by J Sharp, flutist Cinese and vocalists Berkley the Artist and Shaleyah.

"The New Orleans connection is a big part of it," Sharp says. "We’re proud of it. We cut our teeth in New Orleans. It’s ingrained in us. It’s a flair. It’s an ideal. No matter what genre or style we play, New Orleans has some of that. New Orleans probably started it. Our ability to move with fluidity in and out of genres and styles is an inherently New Orleans tradition. It’s a big part of how we came to realize what we’re doing now."

We Are Stars begins with an opening duet of big band funk on "Open Sesame" and "Bollywood," followed by a gospel-inspired piano blues of "Home to You" and the bass rich futurefunk of "Arithmetic." Mid-album standout "Duke'ish" blows up Stevie Wonder's R&B into a starry-eyed jazz breakdown. The band's progressive arrangements don't linger or get too comfortable, nor do they drift into jams or unfocused half-thoughts, though they never settle for a singular interesting riff or harmony.

They rely on a full-band dynamic, one that's been polished over the course of their exhaustive live shows, to find their singular voice — one that's inspired and instructed by their New Orleans roots but looking outward and forward. "It's what our instructors would want us to do, expand their concepts and what they taught us," Hill says.

"The nuances of each person making a contribution in real time has a lot to do with how we achieve the sound," Sharp says. "I’m not even sure we could achieve the same things."

"We wanted [the album] to have a live feel," Shaleyah says. "Because our show is so dynamic and energetic, we wanted to bring that to the recording process and reflect that on the album."

Live, Shaleyah says, the band takes what it learns from the audience. "It helps us to know, 'OK, people are really responding to this,'" she says. "'We can juice it a little more.'"

The band celebrates the release of We Are Stars at 10 p.m. Saturday, May 20 at Blue Nile with Cyril Neville. Water Seed is likely to play the entire album, Hill says, "plus anything we can throw at that stage we think is funky."

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Grizzly Bear announces new album and world tour that stops in New Orleans

Posted By on Wed, May 17, 2017 at 11:30 AM

Grizzly Bear performs at the Civic Theatre Nov. 12. - PHOTO BY TOM HINES
  • PHOTO BY TOM HINES
  • Grizzly Bear performs at the Civic Theatre Nov. 12.

Grizzly Bear returns in August with its first album in five years, Painted Ruins, which will be followed by a world tour in the fall that stops in New Orleans.

The band performs at the Civic Theatre on Nov. 12. Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 24.

Painted Ruins, the band's fifth studio LP, is its first for RCA Records and follows 2012's acclaimed Shields. The band — Chris Bear, Ed Droste, Daniel Rossen and Chris Taylor — recently premiered the album's first single, "Three Rings," a propulsive and dreamy psychedelic glimpse of the band's latest iteration.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Thundercat returns to New Orleans on 2017 North American tour

Posted By on Tue, May 16, 2017 at 11:37 AM

Thundercat performs at Tipitina's Oct. 6. - PHOTO BY EDDIE ALCAZAR
  • PHOTO BY EDDIE ALCAZAR
  • Thundercat performs at Tipitina's Oct. 6.

Thundercat returns to New Orleans this fall on a North American tour following the release of his acclaimed February release Drunk.

The virtuosic Brainfeeder bassist and bandleader's cloudy jazz and pop-centric R&B arrangements span 23 songs and harmonize with album guests Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell, Kamasi Washington and Flying Lotus, as well as a resurrected Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins for the inexplicably gorgeous single "Show You the Way." The album has held the No. 1 on WTUL-FM's rotation for several weeks.

He's at Tipitina's Oct. 6. (He'll also be at the Varsity in Baton Rouge Oct. 8.) Fan club presale opens today through 10 p.m. May 19. A Spotify presale opens 10 a.m. May 17 through 10 p.m. May 19.

Thundercat was among the headliners at the 2017 Buku Music + Art Project, and he recorded a set at One Eyed Jacks in 2014 as part of Pitchfork's Nightcap series. 

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'Cherry-Oke' karaoke party May 19 benefits STAR

Posted By on Tue, May 16, 2017 at 11:00 AM

ANDREW YEE / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0
  • ANDREW YEE / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0

Have you recently brushed up on your Madonna lyrics, or do you know all the words to R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World As We Know It?" Bust them out at NOLA Cherry Bombs' second annual karaoke party to benefit Sexual Trauma Awareness & Response (STAR), the group which advocates against sexual violence.

The party returns to Igor's Buddha Belly May 19; its first installment took place last summer. The NOLA Cherry Bombs marching and dance group has made a point of hosting events that benefit women-centric organizations — a 2014 event benefited The Birthing Project, which works to improve birth outcomes for women of color.

The party begins at 9 p.m. Friday. Admission is $5. Just for fun, here's a '90s-heavy BuzzFeed list (and accompanying Spotify playlist) of solid karaoke songs.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

NOLA Caribbean Festival is June 24-25

Posted By on Mon, May 15, 2017 at 11:43 AM

PHOTO COURTESY NOLA CARIBBEAN FESTIVAL
  • PHOTO COURTESY NOLA CARIBBEAN FESTIVAL

The NOLA Caribbean Festival is June 24-25 at Central City BBQ. The lineup includes bands and DJs from Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Puerto Rico, Honduras and the U.S., including Etana, I-Majesty, T-Rock, Alexey Marti, Yard Squad Band, Merengue 4 and others.

There will be food from local restaurants and food trucks, a kids' area, a salsa dancing tent, African drumming lessons and a Dancehall Queen competition. The festival is open from 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, June 24 and 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Sunday, June 25. Admission is $10.

This is the fourth annual Caribbean festival. Its organizers also created the NOLA Jerk Chicken Festival.

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Stevie Wonder returns to Jazz Fest with message of peace and love

Posted By on Sun, May 7, 2017 at 10:00 AM

A skywriter wrote above the Fairgrounds during the closing acts on Jazz Fest final Saturday. - WILL COVIELLO
  • WILL COVIELLO
  • A skywriter wrote above the Fairgrounds during the closing acts on Jazz Fest final Saturday.

A clear blue sky offered a bit of insurance for Stevie Wonder's return to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival after heavy rains canceled his set in 2016. HIs set would have followed the death of Prince, who loomed over festival stages last year like a sheer purple shadow. Wonder paid brief tribute to the artist last year with a rendition of "Purple Rain" at his sound check and with a megaphone to the audience at his would-be headlining set. Before he smiled and joked and played the crowd as if it were an instrument made of a sea of vocals, Wonder — sitting among a dozen musicians joining him onstage — started his 15-song service of gratitude and love with a brief sermon to reflect on 2017's shadow.

"I'm very happy I'm here, I'm very thankful I'm able to come again, and fulfill my promise," said the 66-year-old singer-songwriter, returning to the Acura Stage May 6 . "We have some great musicians, some great singers, some of my family is here — then again all of you are my family, We have a lot to talk about, we have a lot to sing about, we have a lot to pray about. We have a lot to do."

First, he said, he wanted to ask a question: "How many of you in here are about unity? Wait a minute, don't bullshit me."

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Aurora Nealand and New Orleans artists present live music and dance performance at Marigny Opera House

Posted By on Fri, May 5, 2017 at 5:00 PM

Aurora Nealand's latest is The Monocle: KindHumandKind. - COURTESY AURORA NEALAND
  • COURTESY AURORA NEALAND
  • Aurora Nealand's latest is The Monocle: KindHumandKind.

Artist, bandleader and composer Aurora Nealand will partner with choreographer Shannon Stewart to perform music from Nealand's latest album The Monocle: KindHumanKind.

A fleet of New Orleans musicians and dancers join Nealand for two performances at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, May 6 at Marigny Opera House (725 St. Ferdinand St.). The piece "explores the concepts of hysteria and media, and how they affect intimacy, vulnerability, and gendered roles."

Performing with Nealand are singer-songwriter Julie Odell on vocals and keyboards, GIVERS' Tif Lamson on vocals and percussion, Stephanie Nilles on vocals, keyboard and percussion, keyboardist Will Thompson, guitarist Cliff Hines, bassist Nathan Lambertson
and drummer Graham Hawthorne.

Tickets are $15 for students and seniors, $20 general admission.

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Editorial: Remembering Deborah "Big Red" Cotton

Posted By on Thu, May 4, 2017 at 2:22 PM

On the evening of Deborah Cotton's death, musicians, friends and neighbors gathered in Treme to remember her, stopping outside her old apartment for a tribute. - CLANCY DUBOS
  • CLANCY DuBOS
  • On the evening of Deborah Cotton's death, musicians, friends and neighbors gathered in Treme to remember her, stopping outside her old apartment for a tribute.

“With each second line that rolled down Ursulines Avenue, New Orleans lured me from my dark brooding funk and tossed me into the fire of dancing Black folks and brass instruments bobbing down the street, burning, sweating, marching from one end of town to the other. This went on for months until one day, between the parades and sessions with my shrink and onset of Spring, I began to feel alive again. And the haunting images of dead floating bodies faded away.

“This is the beauty — and the problem — with living in New Orleans. At any moment, life and death change places with each other when you least expect it. And try as you may to control what you let enter your life, you never know what’s waiting around the corner that will either thrill you — or level you to the ground.”


Deborah “Big Red” Cotton wrote those words in 2007, in her book Notes From New Orleans — six years before the Mother’s Day second line tragedy in which she and 18 other people were shot by two men who fired into the crowd. She took only one of the many bullets that were fired, but no one was injured more severely than Deborah. In the years that followed, she underwent dozens of surgeries to repair internal organs. Last week — nearly four years to the day since the shooting — Deb succumbed to complications from those injuries four years ago. She was fearless, fierce, compassionate and taken far too soon at the age of 52. She still had work to do.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Ponderosa Stomp 2017 lineup announced

Posted By on Wed, May 3, 2017 at 5:45 PM

Barbara Lynn performs at Ponderosa Stomp.
  • Barbara Lynn performs at Ponderosa Stomp.

The Ponderosa Stomp announced the lineup for its Oct. 5-7 festival, which moves to The Orpheum Theater. The festival celebrates early rock ’n' roll, swamp pop, one-hit wonders and more. There are concerts Oct. 6-7 featuring artists including garage rockers The Mummies, rock, blues and R&B singer Gary U.S. Bonds, Texas psychedelic rocker Roky Erickson, Louisiana country fiddler Doug Kershaw, singer and guitarist Barbara Lynn, singer Roy Head, R&B singer Archie Bell and many others.

There's a concert (meant to preview the talent announcement) at 9 p.m. tonight at Ace Hotel. It features Lazy Lester, the bluesman who sang "Ponderosa Stomp," for which the festival is named. Also on the bill are Spyder Turner and Lil Buck Senegal and his Buckaroos.

The festival also features a music conference and a record show at Ace Hotel.

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Y@ Speak: taking them down

Posted By on Mon, May 1, 2017 at 6:45 PM


The Liberty Place obelisk came down in the wee hours of April 24, and gun-carrying, Confederate-flag-waving, false-Yelp-review-leaving encampments popped up at the Jefferson Davis monument. Meanwhile, Jazz Fest survived the rain, and everyone roasted Vogue.

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