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Posts Tagged ‘New Orleans’

Prospect.1 New Orleans, which called itself the premiere biennial of international and contemporary art in the US, was a giant success when it launched two years ago.  Between November 2008 and January 2009, it featured an international line-up of 81 artists who exhibited in small venues and open spaces around the city — including vacant lots and abandoned homes in the Lower Ninth Ward.

Prospect.1 artist Katarina Grosse added some color to a shotgun house in the Ninth Ward

The event got city-dwellers to spend Saturday afternoons exploring unfamiliar neighborhoods and experiencing  art in pretty non-traditional places — like an abandoned school and the tops of random buildings.  And perhaps even more important for the city, organizers say it brought in a ton of visitors (42,000) and money ($23 million) key ingredients to getting The Big Easy back on its feet.

This was supposed to be the year for Prospect.2. But because of a drop in arts funding nation-wide and the crippled economy, founder Dan Cameron announced in the February he’d need an extra year to find the $4.5 million needed for the exhibition.

But we know New Orleans is a town full of resilient folks. Until the big show is back on track, a mini-biennial has popped up in its place: Prospect.1.5 starts tomorrow.

Prospect.1.5 will be smaller and shorter then its predecessor, but it will still pack a mighty punch. Fifteen weeks of exhibits, symposiums, and block parties will promote the work of contemporary artists born and currently living in New Orleans.

Jessica Bizer will bring her brightly-colored installations to Prospect.1.5

“Fresh off the Turnip Truck” — an exhibit of eight young, recent arrivals to New Orleans — kicks things off.  The gallery is actually an 18th Century Creole townhouse, one of the last surviving buildings from the fire of 1788, that nearly destroyed the French Quarter.  Each artist will be given an entire room in which to display their work.  Accomplished painter and installation artist Jessica Bizer will combine conflicting materials and textures into her signature playful and absurd, brightly-colored creations:  “My goal is for these scenes to represent personal fantasy worlds, where a variety of visual elements simultaneously play and conflict, forming enthusiastically divergent narratives,” she says in her artist’s statement.

According to Cameron,  Prospect.1.5 will cost just $20,000 (that’s .4% of Prospect.2’s projected budget) raised through contributions from foundations (including The Annenburg Foundation, which supported Prospect.1) and hundreds of individual donors. Sure, a smaller festival will mean smaller returns.  But just having a mini-biennial will preserve some momentum for the New Orleans arts scene.  And that’s of tremendous value as well.

And, fingers crossed, Prospect.2 will arrive in late 2011.

-Julia Botero

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In 1966, when Britain’s The Troggs hit it big with their classic tune “Wild Thing,” the members of the Austin-based garage rock band The Strange Boys had yet to be born. Thanks to the lasting power of records and a strong Texas scene, the group is now poised to inherit garage rock’s musical legacy.

Lead vocalist Ryan Sambol and drummer Matt Hammer were only in 8th grade in 2001 when they started as a punk duo. That year, music by bands like The Strokes and The Hives was being consumed in mass quantities, helping to usher garage rock back into the mainstream — soon the group incorporated the trademark fuzzy guitar sound into their music. In 2008, The Strange Boys released their first full-length album, just in time for Sambol’s 21st birthday. The band has since played alongside respected Texas rock n roll acts Daniel Johnston and Roky Erickson.

I had the great fortune of watching the Boys kick off a month-long tour for their new album Be Brave at The Saturn Bar in New Orleans. These days, their sound is a gritty combination of roots music, 1960’s R & B, and dirty southern soul — a sharp contrast to the precious baby-faced innocence the group evokes on stage. Sambol’s early-Dylan drawl is instantly recognizable and their twangy-guitar and up-beat tempo in songs like “Woe is You & Me” and “I See” are reminiscent of The Velvet Underground. For Be Brave the band has added a saxophone to the mix, played by Jenna Thonhill-Dewitt, former member of the Californian punk band Mika Miko. Midway through the group’s languid title track, Thonhill-Dewitt broke out into a warbling saxophone solo and proved their music is developing in a surprising and unique direction. Even as Sambol’s Fender string snapped halfway through the show, the group played on, referencing everything from free-jazz, to soul to good old fashioned rock n roll.

The Strange Boys are inching their way northward after a line of performances in the South. Check them out tonight in Ithaca, NY before they make their way to Montreal and continue on through the Midwest. Their full schedule is here.

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Cracked Maps and Blue Reports
Rotary Downs

Hurricanes and oil spills won’t stop this New Orleans band. They embrace city’s gumbo-like spirit layering each tune with a jillion textures and the odd horn riff. Through it all, they never lose their rock n’roll cred. Take “Montrez-Vous:” it’s got a seriously danceable hard-driving percussion but also includes xylophone, cowbell, maracas, bongos, organ, and a chorus in French. The final track “Indian Summer” makes time for trumpets, gorgeous vocal harmonies, whimsical lyrics, and messy jam-bandy moments. Worth putting on repeat in any season.

– Michele Siegel

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Troy Andrews earned his nickname at a jazz funeral.  Only four years old at the time, Andrews was parading with a trombone almost twice his size – his older brother spotted him and shouted “Trombone Shorty!”

A couple feet taller and twenty years older, Shorty still hasn’t outgrown that exclamation, or its roots.  A bona fide New Orleanian, he’s a consummate trombonist and trumpeter who’s been playing instruments since he could walk. Now, thanks to a boundless enthusiasm and an awe-inspiring talent, his new album Backatown has been sitting comfortably near the top of the Billboard Jazz chart for six straight weeks.

See how I called him awe-inspiring?  It’s a loaded label, I know.  But anyone who can do this…

Yeah.  Pretty nasty.  It’s a technique called circular breathing, which is more often reserved for instruments like the didgeridoo.  Circular breathing allows a wind player to sustain a continuous tone or tones for an ungodly amount of time – it’s extremely difficult to master and utterly hypnotic to watch.  Shorty’s got it down cold.

In addition to the new album, Shorty’s also making waves with a new collaboration.  In light of the massive oil spill in the gulf, Shorty recently teamed up with Lenny Kravitz, Mos Def, and the immutable Preservation Hall Jazz Band to record a benefit song for the catastrophe.  Check out “It Ain’t My Fault” to hear this bittersweet take on a classic New Orleans sound.

You can also catch Trombone Shorty on HBO’s new series Treme, where he and a slew of other local musicians constantly pop up around his old hometown.  Producer David Simon and cast member Kermit Ruffins talked with Studio 360 earlier this year about the importance of having New Orleans natives on the show.

– Stephen Reader

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New Orleans is in the midst of a week-long party.  Between last weekend’s Super Bowl win for the Saints and next week’s Mardi Gras festivities, the city has a lot to celebrate.  But revelers, make sure to save some energy for a live performance by local singer Theresa Andersson, at Le Petit Theatre on February 28.

Andersson stopped by Studio 360 a while back and told Kurt Andersen about her journey to the Crescent City.  Born in rural Sweden, Andersson moved to New Orleans when she was 18 and considers it her American home.  It was there that she developed the skills to produce the sound of a full live band (complete with drums, guitar, and violin) all on her own, by using electronic looping pedals.

Check out her performance here:

[YOUTUBE= http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPVn_Qvw3DY&%5D

Andersson told Kurt that the audience always becomes a part of her performance, because anything people happen to shout out is recorded and looped in with the music.  She said she erases those recordings at the end of each show – but fortunately, we’ve managed to hang on to her performance.  Listen to her full conversation and more of her performance here.

[AUDIO= http://audio.wnyc.org/studio/studio091908f.mp3%5D

– Michael Guerriero

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On December 3, the United Nations named Stevie Wonder a Messenger of Peace.   “We all know Stevie Wonder is a musical genius whose songs have given pleasure and hope to millions of people around the world,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated. “He is also a great humanitarian who has campaigned against apartheid, for children in need and for persons with disabilities.”

And I feel lucky to have had my own brush with greatness.  In 1997, during a cold and misty Mardi Gras in New Orleans, I stood watching the Krewe of Orpheus. My favorite float, the magical Leviathan had just passed and a wave of energy followed. Like a steady pulse, the crowd picked up a strain coming from the next float that carried that year’s King. We exploded:

“Here I Am BABY…Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours!”

The float carried Stevie Wonder. I don’t remember ever feeling such unbounded joy as we danced and sang with strangers down the street to his happy anthem.

If there is anything the world needs right now, it’s the big hug that is Stevie Wonder and his music.

Here’s Stevie at the UN:

– Susie Karlowski

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