No Genre, No Peers: Egg Yolk Jubilee Celebrates 20 Years

For 20 years now, the members of Egg Yolk Jubilee have practiced in the “Jefferson Orleans North” ballroom in Metairie, performing their songs for what looks like an empty senior prom. The seven current band members set up their gear on the dancefloor. Long white drapes frame the vast main room. In the hall’s center a glimmering chandelier hangs near a spiral staircase that rises to the white heavens. The sound of horns warming up fills the vast space. Behind the band, at every single practice for 20 years, has loomed a full bar. This alone would have killed a lesser band long ago.

But here we are, celebrating the 20-year anniversary of Egg Yolk Jubilee, and the hard-to-describe yet consummately New Orleans band’s closing set at the Lagniappe Stage (5:30 to 6:30) at Jazz Fest on May 4.

I made the sacrifice and drove out to Metry just to listen to them practice their upcoming set. This year will represent only the third time EYJ has performed at Jazz Fest. “I think the last time was in 2008,” sax man and guitarist Paul Grass struggles to recall. “I can’t speak for anyone else in the band, but I can’t remember anything about it. Not even because I was fucked up. It was just so great! I just remember I couldn’t believe I was playing at the fricking Jazz Fest! I remember we pleaded with drummer Charlie Kohlmeyer to play that gig with us and he learned all our songs in two weeks.”

Since then, much has changed for the band, mostly for the better.

In their beginnings, you might have described Egg Yolk as what Zappa woulda sounded like had he procured a wicked New Orleans horn section and concerned himself a bit more with making people dance. They were fast, and they were funny. But EYJ has also always had what they call their “roast beef set” down pat. “The roast beef part of the set list is all the old-sounding stuff, our old originals, like Paul’s ‘Candy Store’ from [1999’s] Champions of Breakfast,” says bassist Mike Hogan. “When you’re playing events, like weddings or Mardi Gras corporate events, there is always the ‘roast beef’ collection of music you’d play while everyone is at the carving table, eating, before they get liquored up. The more trad stuff gets pushed to the roast beef part. Then when they get liquored up you can push into the more experimental territory.” CLICK HERE to read the rest of the article at OffBeat.com…

OR CLICK HERE check out this video of Egg Yolk playing at VooDooFest in 2010! 

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A Rare Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle tag-team set in New Orleans (Paste Magazine. March 2017).

I grew up in Ft. Myers, Florida, a retirement town at that time, though the gorgeous beaches and bountiful fishing there might’ve tricked you into thinking Florida was America’s greatest state. The area was also bountiful with professional wrestling, which as a kid I loved. On its tours, the then-peaking WWF almost always filmed in Ft. Myers, and only on TV were belts lost, friends transformed into foes and new alliances forged, officially, for the world to see. And so, I was lucky to see Hulk Hogan himself fight in steel cages at least twice. I witnessed all two minutes and 30 seconds of the first-ever televised match by The Ultimate Warrior. I saw the Iron Sheik vs. Hacksaw Jim Duggan main event where, directly afterwards, police famously caught the two driving around, blackout drunk, snorting coke.

I offer this reminiscence as the only comparison I can make to the surprises that unfolded Saturday night at the first of three New Orleans shows on comedian Chris Rock’s Total Blackouttour.

Emotions had already been running high for Rock’s return. He hadn’t toured a new standup act in almost a decade. His new set reportedly detailed his divorce from his wife of 15 years—I say was, because I still haven’t really seen it, despite buying tickets. News reports have described the new set as maintaining his usual levels of funny, despite being decidedly… different. For a true fan, it’s not fun to think of Rock getting a divorce—though true fans surely saw it coming, given jokes like, “Only people who are married know what it feels like to love someone and hate them at the same time.” I was certain, though, that one of my favorite comedians could deftly navigate this sad territory.

And so I found myself lost in my feelings, sitting in the balcony of the gorgeous Saenger Theatre in New Orleans, a constellation of fake stars above me. I laughed at half of Eric Andre’s opening jokes, anxious to finally see Rock for my first time ever.

A muffled voice finally, suspiciously announced Rock’s name as if reading the title of some quiet storm slow jam. A giant set of letters blazed across a digital screen—”CR”—-and out onto the stage strode…

Dave fucking Chappelle!

CLICK HERE to read the rest of the article at PASTE MAGAZINE! 

OR CLICK HERE to listen to Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle talk on Q-Tip’s podcast! 

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Protests escalate over Louisiana pipeline by company behind Dakota Access (The Guardian UK. Jan. 2017).

“This is like 50 times the amount of people we have at most of these meetings,” said Eustis, adding that the proposed pipeline was “the biggest and baddest I’ve seen in my career”.

The company behind the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), had seemed to turn its attention to Louisiana just one day after Native American protesters thwarted the company’s Dakota Access project last month.

A spokeswoman for ETP, Vicki Granado, said the Bayou Bridge pipeline extension was announced in June 2015. If approved, the project will run though 11 parishes and cross around 600 acres of wetlands and 700 bodies of water, including wellsthat reportedly provide drinking water for some 300,000 families.

At the public hearing in Baton Rouge on Thursday, the first speaker, Cory Farber, project manager of the Bayou Bridge pipeline, said it was expected to create 2,500 temporary jobs. When Farber then said the project would produce 12 permanent jobs, the crowd laughed heartily.

“Those who have airboat companies and equipment companies that specialize in putting in equipment, they’re not opposed to pipelines because of the short-term jobs,” said Jody Meche, president of the state Crawfish Producers’ Association, one of dozens who spoke at the hearing.

“But once that pipe is in there, the jobs are gone.”

Other attendees applauded in favor of the pipeline, and former US senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, a supporter, was in attendance. But Native Americans also dotted the crowd, many of them fresh from Standing Rock.

“The Native Americans in North Dakota get a lot of credit for showing people their power,” Eustis said. CLICK HERE to read the rest of the article at The Guardian…

OR, CLICK HERE to take a beautiful video tour of the Atchafalaya Basin.

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Sex Workers Expect to Struggle After the Backpage Crackdown (VICE. Jan. 2017)

Sex workers across America were left scrambling on Monday after Backpage.com, an online advertising clearinghouse, closed its controversial “adult” section following years of intense US government and law enforcement pressure.

In my city of New Orleans, professional dominatrix and masseuse Mistress Genevieve needed a ride to an emergency meeting of local sex workers spooked about the news, so I picked her up at her tasteful Seventh Ward dungeon, appointed with a working stockade. “Before Backpage, there was no site for anyone who wasn’t a full-service provider,” she explained as we drove to the meeting Wednesday. “Backpage was the only place I was finding work as someone who doesn’t provide [traditional sex]. It gets so much traffic that you’d get guys who were  just looking for domination, or specific other stuff. The other sites don’t generate enough traffic for that.”

But according to a report released Monday by the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations after a 20-month investigation, Backpage is also involved in 73 percent of all child trafficking reports that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children receives. The report also cited Backpage’s own estimates that it once edited up to 80 percent of its “Adult” ads to remove words that allude to sex trafficking. In the face of such intense scrutiny, the site acquiesced and shut down its Adult section.

It’s important to note, however, that none of the sex workers I spoke to for this article say they’ve ever seen evidence of human trafficking on the site, and Backpage’s official statement accompanying the “adult” shutdown was one of defiance. “For years, the legal system protecting freedom of speech prevailed, but new government tactics… have left the company with no other choice but to remove the content,” it read.

Either way, the mess leaves many consenting adults in the lurch, wondering how they’ll do business without taking on excess risk in one of America’s more dangerous black markets. Sex workers have endured in the face of many crackdowns over the years, of course, but rarely have they experienced a potential economic shockwave quite like this one.

Genevieve has worked as a dominatrix for 23 years, starting her BDSM career working from the backs of nightclubs. “This was already my only job before the internet even came along,” she recalled. “And I was one of the first mistresses with a website. I also did really well with print ads in the back of local magazines like  Gambit and  OffBeatand in turn, escort ads are what paid the bills for a lot of those magazines. Today, I was wondering if I shouldn’t try print ads again…” To read the rest of the article at VICE.COM CLICK HERE!

Or check out how this “Backpage.com pimp is living”

 

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My students write raps about the 2016 election (Vice. Nov 2016).

When I saw the election, I saw Drumpf winning /
And after that my head got to spinning.
Drumpf is bad / Drumpf is sad too
Drumpf look like Hitler from World War Two.
He won the election because he cheated /
It’s the only reason he didn’t get beated.
–Jaylon, fifth grade

At the Spanish-language immersion school where I currently teach kids to write rap songs, most of my students are black or Latino. The school’s staff is made up almost exclusively of immigrants from Mexico, Spain, Honduras, and other Spanish-speaking countries. And so I felt extra nauseous on Wednesday, the day after Election Day, going into work. They all must have been wondering who in their American midst could have possibly voted for that racist monster. I, the only white man, would be the only real possible suspect.

But instead of calling off work and sautéing myself in red wine and white tears, I got in my car. New Orleans’s unusually silent, lonely streets felt a lot like Ash Wednesday, the day after every Mardi Gras: like a bomb went off. Like the party was clearly over.

At school I was still greeted warmly. And after taking roll and passing out snacks and joking with the fifth graders about their very real election frustrations, I slowly began to realize… no other day would be better for writing raps. America’s Reagan years had worked like steroids on both hip-hop and punk rock. Rap was first forged specifically as a tool to express the kinds of feelings so many of us shared. Hip-hop was made for today.

As we sat down with our drum machine, paper, and pencils, I made a point not to tell the kids my own political opinions. I wanted the thoughts and words in their couplets to be wholly their own. But since not a lot of Drumpf voters send their kids to Spanish immersion schools, my students’ opinions weren’t very surprising or dynamic. Kids like Evin were as mad and let down and worried as any of us:

Tuesday was Election Day / On that day, I lost my way.
He dislikes the way I look / Sometimes I think he is a crook.
Donald Drumpf is a clown / I hope he doesn’t let us down.
Clinton is a great lady / We all know that Drumpf is shady.

Hillary Clinton should have won / After that election, I think I’m done.
I feel bad for my country / I thought this was the home of the free.

CLICK HERE to read the rest of my students’ raps about the election at Vice…

Or watch this cute music video my students made some years back during summer camp:

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Interview with New Orleanians who have met or worked with Prince (OffBeat. June 2016).

Here in the world’s music capital, many of us, whether we knew it or not, lived just one or two degrees separated from The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.

I myself have always made a point to shake any hand that has shaken Prince’s. Prince meant so much to me in fact that I’ve performed his music in one form or another since 2002, most recently singing and playing guitar in Fleur de Tease’s burlesque tribute to the man I considered the world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll musician.

All four of Prince’s grandparents were born in Louisiana, and one of his grandfathers sired 11 children. I once taught a music student who claimed to be Prince’s niece. But rather than attempt to climb Prince’s family tree, I chose to gather memories from New Orleans musicians, and others who have worked with, or even just met, His Purple Majesty.

 Michael O’Hara

In the ’70s and ’80s, singer Michael O’Hara led legendary New Orleans band, the Sheiks. After moving away for many years, O’Hara recently returned to live in New Orleans. A two-time Grammy and American Music Award nominee, O’Hara wrote for Patti LaBelle, Jody Watley and Bobby Brown, among many others:

“Prince’s manager Jaime was a friend of mine from St Louis. When Prince toured here in New Orleans she wanted me to come see him. But then the night before he actually snuck into Jimmy’s club to see us. Afterwards he told Jaime, ‘Tell him to come to my show and I want to speak with him afterward.’

So I went to the concert and sat with Jaime and afterward she said, ‘Prince wants you to ride in the limo back to the hotel with him.’

Jamie had left with him an 8-track recorder and a tape of his show, and he found the spot he wanted to listen to that said, ‘Down with politicians that want to send us off to war.’ And he kept rewinding it, over and over, to hear that one certain thing: ‘Down with politicians that want to send us off to war.’ To this day I don’t know if he was getting some kind of inspiration… Whatever was in that statement he made at his concert, it meant a lot to him, and he just kept rolling it back and back and back…

And finally I said, ‘Turn that off. Talk to me.’

And he just kind of smiled.

He said, ‘I loved your performance last night.’ And he went on to ask me how I wore my sheik scarves and my makeup and stuff like that.

I said, ‘Do you really wanna know?’ And I said, ‘Wash your face.’ Cause he had on makeup.

And I did his face. CLICK HERE to read the rest of this article at OffBeat Magazine, featuring interviews with Trombone Shorty, Ani DiFranco and more…

Or watch this awesome 20-minute interview with Prince, featuring some great concert footage. RIP to the GOAT:

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An oil lease sale in the Gulf, and a protest (Guardian UK. March 2016).

On 23 March, around 300 protesters in New Orleans aimed to shut down a reading of oil company bids for 44m acres (180,000 km², the size of the entire state of Missouri) in the Gulf of Mexico.

At grassy Duncan Plaza near New Orleans city hall, groups from all over the southern US gathered for a protest called New Lease on Life. “I have really bad sinuses and I hate smoke,” said 18-year-old Howard Johnson. The young activist from Biloxi had boarded a bus and rode for hours to be in New Orleans by sunrise to join dozens of other members of green coalitions, local churches and members of the Houma Indian Nation.

Zipping all around Duncan Plaza in bright green safety vests were the protest’s de facto hosts, members of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. Bucket Brigade founding director Anne Rolfes had written a letter to Barack Obama, a desperate last-minute prayer, asking him to cancel this Gulf lease sale and halt drilling in the Gulf, as he had in the Arctic region and more recently in the Atlantic.

Her prayer unanswered, Rolfes promised me: “We will engage in civil disobedience at the lease sale. We’re going to try and stop the auction.”

Unfortunately for her cause, all the bids had been finalized that past Tuesday. Open public meetings had been held on the issue, but no protesters had shown up. The groups on hand at the day’s event would essentially be booing the movie as its credits rolled. CLICK HERE to read the rest of this piece at The Guardian UK…

Or watch this great video compilation of footage from that day:

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