“PopSmart NOLA,” Ep. 24: Harlem String Quartet, David Kunian on Pete Fountain, and Jenna Guidry and Paul Sanchez

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For what by pure coincidence turned into “An All-Music Episode,” we welcomed a varied assortment of guests with local and national connections. First we welcomed the Harlem String Quartet, which performed at Loyola’s Roussel Hall to conclude the Friends of Music 2016-2017 series. We sat down to chat about that visit, as well as the diversity of this troupe, which you can see in their membership and in their musical selections.

Next we asked David Kunian, longtime WWOZ radio host and documentarian, and more recently, curator of Music for the New Orleans Jazz Museum, to ruminate on the recently opened exhibition of the late, great Pete Fountain — just in time for the French Quarter Festival. The result is a personal and professional recollection about Pete Fountain and his place in New Orleans music as well as his national imprint.

And finally we visited the home of 18-year-old singer-songwriter Jenna Guidry, a Houma native and New Orleans transplant who graduated from the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts and now at Loyola University. Guidry has released a four-song EP, “Back to Me,” produced by her friend, mentor and collaborator Paul Sanchez. They discussed their work together and performed “Precious” from the EP.

Below you’ll also find this week’s Relevant Link, which had to be cut from this week’s show due to time constraints.

SEGMENT ONE: Harlem String Quartet
Harlem Quartet advances diversity in classical music while engaging new audiences with varied repertoire that includes works by minority composers. Their mission to share their passion with a wider audience has taken them around the world; from a 2009 performance at The White House for President Obama and First Lady, Michelle Obama, to a highly successful tour of South Africa in 2012, and numerous venues in between. The musically versatile ensemble has performed with such distinguished performers as Itzhak Perlman, Ida Kavafian, Carter Brey, Fred Sherry, Misha Dicter, Jeremy Denk, and Paquito D’Rivera. Their most recent recording, Hot House, with jazz master Chick Corea and percussionist Gary Burton was a 2013 multi-Grammy Award winner.

For their performance tonight at Loyola’s Roussel Hall to conclude the Friends of Music’s 2016-2017 series, Harlem Quartet has a special program planned:

Concert Program

  • A. Mozart – String Quartet No. 17 in B-flat major, Op. 27 “The Hunt”
  • Antonio Carlos Jobim arr. Dave Glenn – The Girl from Ipanema
  • Guido Gavilan – Cuarteto en Guaguancó
  • Edvard Grieg – String Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 27

I sat down with the Quartet Thursday inside their rehearsal space near the Hall. I basically reserved one question each — so you’ll be hearing from cellist Felix Umansky, viola player Jaime Amador, and violinists Melissa White and Ilmar Gavilan. We discussed the Harlem Quartet’s eclectic musical approach that includes serious jazz influences, collaborating with legends such as Yitzhak Perlman, playing in the White House, and why diversity matters – not just in their musical lineup and their musical approach, but also in their outreach to audiences.

SEGMENT TWO: David Kunian
When Pete Fountain died Aug. 6, 2016, New Orleans lost more than one of the few traditional jazz musicians to chart a Top-40 hit. The city lost a beloved and colorful personality who, despite international fame, never lost his love of the Crescent City — perhaps best known to many through his whimsically named Carnival walking troupe. In tribute, the Louisiana State Museum’s New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U. S. Mint presents “Pete Fountain: A Life Half-Fast.” This modest exhibition, which includes posters, albums, doubloons and other artifacts, comes complete with a musical soundtrack pulled from recently digitized archival music.

The museum’s curator, David Kunian, has been playing and chronicling music for a quarter century, offered personal and professional thoughts on Pete Fountain from the perch of the museum’s performance space. Those thoughts started with Kunian’s first encounter with Pete Fountain’s museum upon his arrival to New Orleans back in 1992 as a white hipster looking for the city’s coolest music.

SEGMENT THREE: Jenna Guidry and Paul Sanchez
Welcome back to “PopSmart NOLA.” I’m your host, David Lee Simmons. Our next guests are a study in contrasts. Our first guest, singer-songwriter Jenna Guidy, already has a decade of musical experience under her belt at the ripe old age of 18. Her friend, mentor and collaborator, Paul Sanchez, already was a couple years removed from his 16-year-run with Cowboy Mouth, in pursuit of his own solo efforts. Their friendship, sparked by a Facebook message, has helped Guidry along an already impressive career path.

I first came across Jenna Guidry when she performed with Michael Cerveris at his appearance at NOCCA, where Guidry was then a junior. Now the Houma native has graduated and is studying music at Loyola, and already having performed at Buffa’s, with Sanchez at her side. Last week marked the release of her four-song EP, “Back to Me,” which was produced by Sanchez. I visited with Guidry and Sanchez at her home in Lakeview, with her mother nearby as we chatted about her nearly decade-long career, what “Back to Me” means to her, and the challenges of being a young female artist in an often unforgiving music business and world. And we even took a moment to listen to a song.

SEGMENT FOUR: Relevant Link
For our Relevant Link this week, I wanted to revisit a post on NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune last week that raised the question, “Does New Orleans have too many festivals?” In some ways, it’s a trick question, right? I mean, New Orleans and Louisiana already were synonymous with festivals, and since Katrina there’s been a boom in festivals and most of them have welcomed packed crowds. Maybe too crowded, yes, but you can’t argue their success.

Nor can you argue, necessarily, with how they help hard-working musicians. In the article, musicians made the point that it’s the spring festival season that has become their most consistent financial pipeline, and are far more reliable income stream than regular club bookings.

And for the most part, fans of festivals were pretty vocal in their support in the comments section of the article. For many, it’s a no-brainer. But while those who loved festivals LOVE festivals, there was an undercurrent of opposition to so much fun. It should be noted that the attendant poll showed 47 percent in support of festivals, while 34 percent “absolutely” thought there were too many — and, interestingly, 16.5 percent chose “Maybe”, apparently agreeing with that choice’s caveat: “ I like the old standards, but these new kids on the block are too much. See y’all at Creole Tomato Fest!”

Some of the complaints about so many festivals were not too surprising — they’re too crowded, food and ticket prices are high and sometimes the portions are small, the festivals are becoming so narrow in focus they minimize the idea of cultural celebration. But one comment caught my eye: “Feel like New Orleans keeps partying as the ship is sinking. We have a deteriorating wetlands problem with water lapping at the Levees. Band plays on, people keep partying. Dont look behind the wall. Most of the festivals will disappear when next hurricane hits and half the non-locals move home or to Portland.” It taps into a notion, as one other commenter put, that we’re embracing Rome’s “bread and circus” mentality of amusing ourselves to death in light of grave concerns facing the city.

That’s all to say, as with so much about New Orleans, maybe all things in moderation?

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV, Ep. 23: Maxwell Williams, No Ring Circus, and “You Don’t Know the Half of It”

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Even though we had folks come in to talk about two shows at Le Petit on this week’s “PopSmart NOLA” we had a lot to talk about.

Maxwell Williams, artistic director of Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré, which debuted Horton Foote’s “Dividing the Estate” during last week’s Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, and which continues — with the exception of a break for next weekend’s French Quarter Festival — through April 15.

We also welcomed Daphne Rose Malfitano and Eli Rose — aka Fiddles & Bo — who present their show, “Fiddles and Oboe’s Clown Orchestra & No Ring Circus,” April 6-8 and April 13-15 at the The Fortress of Lushington performance space at 2215 Burgundy St. in Faubourg Marigny.

And finally, we welcomed Cecile Monteyne, creator of the amazing, seasonal improv show, “You Don’t Know the Half of It” along with improviser Lynae Leblanc, and Amanda Wuerstlin of the You Don’t Know the Band — all discussing next Sunday’s show at Le Petit.

SEGMENT ONE: Maxwell Williams
Maxwell Williams is in his second season as Artistic Director of Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré. He’s directed the company’s productions of “The Glass Menagerie” and “Our Town,” and co-directed the world-premiere adaptation of “Sleeping Beauty (An American Panto).” Now Max is back again in the director’s chair for “Dividing the Estate,” the final Broadway hit for the late playwright and author, Horton Foote.

“Dividing the Estate” is the story of a family in Texas, hit hard by an oil bust in the late 1980s, and whose siblings are anticipating their inheritance from their aging matriarch — all with varying agendas. What starts as a wacky family comedy turns dark in the second act in this play featuring Brenda Currin, Carol Sutton, Harold X. Evans, and Silas Cooper. The New Orleans Advocate says of this show: “What makes ‘Estate’ so charming is the bumbling incompetence of its conspirators. The hilarity of the action increases as the urgency of the circumstances compound.”

Maxwell Williams, it should be noted, served as associate director for the Tony-nominated Broadway production of this play, and he joined us in the studio. 

SEGMENT TWO: No Ring Circus’ Daphne Rose Malfitano and Eli Rose
Our next two guests have been a part of New Orleans’ burgeoning variety scene over the past few years, collaborating with circus, sideshow and burlesque performers in various shows while doing their own touring across the U.S. Now the husband-and-wife team of Eli Rose and Daphne Rose Malfitano are back in New Orleans with a new and fascinating show. Performing as two very different clowns, they will bring us “Fiddles and Oboe’s Clown Orchestra & No Ring Circus” on April 6-8 and April 13-15 at The Fortress of Lushington performance space at 2215 Burgundy St. in Faubourg Marigny. I visited the couple at their own space in the Marigny, and here’s an excerpt from that interview. I’ll also have an extended version in the podcast in this post later in the weekend.

SEGMENT THREE: “You Don’t Know the Half of It”
Our final guests represent several components of the deceptively complicated show that is the 5-year-old “You Don’t Know the Half of It,” in which writers present original comedy sketches — and with actors given half of those lines, and with improvisers are challenged with filling in the other half.

Joining us in the studio:

Creator Cecile Monteyne, a Big Easy Award-winning actress and regular performer with “The NOLA Project.” With her are one of the improvisers, Lynae Leblanc, as well as one of the musicians from You Don’t Know the Band, Amanda Wuerstlin. I should first note the entire lineup for Sunday’s show:

The Writers: James Bartelle, Alicia Hawkes, Helen Jaksch, and Mark Routhier
The Actors: AJ Allegra, Joy Lynn Andersen, Robert DoQui and Mallory Messina
The Improvisers: Chris Kaminstein, David James Hamilton, Lynae Leblanc and Josh Toups
You Don’t Know the Band: Andre Bohren, Michael Girardot, Alexis Marceaux, Stephen MacDonald, Marc Paradis and Amanda Wuerstlin

SEGMENT THREE: Relevant Link
For our Relevant Link this week, I wanted to go back a few years as we note that the downtown Super Sunday will be held this weekend on Bayou St. John – a couple weeks after the Super Sunday on St. Joseph’s Day. Both days are known for amazing suits for all of the Mardi Gras Indians, with their intricate beading and feather work. As you may have noticed a couple weeks ago, it’s a smorgasbord for amateur and professional photographers alike.

On that note, it’s important for those capturing the images of this cultural with deep and historic roots that they are being created by culture bearers who, to put it politely, barely survive from check to check. Too often they don’t see a dime for their professional use of the imagery for which they’re responsible in creating. And it’s like the city is necessarily giving them back money by using their imagery in their marketing. (Are they?) That’s why it’s important to read a “green paper” created by the Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame that lays out ways professionals can compensate these culture bearers for any profits gained from the selling of these images. You can check out this green paper, and its context, when the post for this show goes up later today on PopSmartNOLA.com.

Oh, and, the downtown Super Sunday starts at noon on Bayou St. John, with a second line by the New Orleans Bayou Steppers, around 2 p.m. Good luck figuring out the route!

Those are our Relevant Links for this week!

CLOSING
I want to remind everyone that if you like what you hear on “PopSmart NOLA,” we’re here every Friday from noon to 1 p.m. — yes, our new day and time! — right here on WHIV (102.3 FM). You can listen to the archived, podcast version of the show on my SoundCloud account, “dlsnola.” Also, you can visit the website at popsmartnola.com, and like our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Instagram at “@popsmartnola” and I’m always blathering away on Twitter at @dlsnola504.

Also, if you like our show, we’d love your support in the form of underwriting; email me at dlsnola@gmail.com for more info.

Our theme music is “Summertime” by Robin Mitchell.

Up next: Chris Lane with “Eat, Pray, Fight!”

Thanks again for joining us, y’all. For “PopSmart NOLA,” I’m David Lee Simmons, reminding everyone to keep the intelligent discussion going.

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV, Ep. 22: NOLA Disability Pride Festival, art magazine The Iron Lattice, and movies in Venice

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For Ep. 22 of “PopSmart NOLA” as we continue to settle into our new day and time (Friday from noon to 1 p.m.) on WHIV (102.3 FM), we welcomed an awesome array of guests:

Jane Rhea Vernier, founder and chairperson of the inaugural NOLA Disability Pride Festival, which debuted Saturday (March 25) at the Advocacy Center of Louisiana and featured lots of cool entertainment and information about disability issues.

Stephanie Pearl Travers, editor-in-chief of the recently launched Iron Lattice art magazine, which will celebrate the release of its third issue on Saturday at Barrister’s Gallery.

Laszlo Fulop, associate professor of Documentary and Video Writing at the University of New Orleans and curator of a film series that began Friday (March 24) with “The Wings of the Dove” as part of both Friday Nights at NOMA and as a companion to NOMA’s “A Life of Seduction: Venice in the 1700s.”

We also featured this week’s Relevant Link, and, a had quick check in on some “Best Bets” for tonight and the rest of the weekend.

SEGMENT ONE: Jane Rae Vernier, NOLA Disability Pride Festival
Jane Rhea Vernier, founder and chairperson of the NOLA Disability Pride Festival, as well as the Founder and Head Honcho of the Quirky Citizens Alliance. The QCA’s mission is to foster equality without sameness for people with Disability and Neurodiversity and cultivate a strong, cross-disability culture in the city of New Orleans. She is an autism self-advocate and affirmative activist with nearly ten years personal and professional experience working with adults and children with Disabilities. Jane Rhea is committed to Disability awareness and building a stronger culture. (Check out this feature on the festival by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.) NOTE: While we did not get a chance to cover it during our segment, Vernier pointed out the National Center on Disability and Journalism, a very helpful website for journalists covering disability issues. I hope to use this for future reference when covering the subject.

SEGMENT NO. 2: Stephanie Pearl Travers, The Iron Lattice
Stephanie Pearl Travers is editor-in-chief for the New Orleans-based art quarterly, The Iron Lattice. This relatively new publication enjoyed its Volume 3 Release Party on Saturday at Barrister’s Gallery on St. Claude Avenue. This issue features the works of Douglas Bourgeios, Frank Relle and Malik Rahim. When she’s not working on the latest issue, you can find Stephanie Pearl Travers teaching a yoga class at Wild Lotus Yoga or pouring a customer a glass of wine at the neighborhood wine shop. Before the Iron Lattice, she was a freelance writer and editor who helped create marketing strategies for small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

I spoke with Stephanie at her home in the Musicians Village, and the tapping sound you might hear comes not from her typewriter, but her very friendly and vigilant dogs moving around as we chatted.

SEGMENT THREE: Relevant Links
For our Relevant Links this week, I’d like to point your attention to a story by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune this past week about a record-breaking year for New Orleans tourism in which the city welcomed a whopping 10.45 million visitors in 2016. Hey, that’s great.

“These achievements are the result of a strategy that attracts a combination of carefully targeted convention business and leisure travelers through tactics which leverage paid media, earned public relations exposure and special events to market New Orleans to the world,” said New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Stephen Perry.

It also is another indication of the prevalence of short-term rentals (STRs) that helped host these visitors, raising the ire of the many residents — as well as the rent — in those neighborhoods. It remains to be seen how the newly passed STR regulations by the City Council will affect residents and neighborhoods moving forward.

But then there’s another relevant link, in which the New Orleans Advocate noted that for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, more people are leaving New Orleans than coming into the city. Jeff Adelson writes:

For New Orleans, the main source of growth in recent years was what is known as “domestic migration”: people moving into the city from other areas of the United States. In 2011, for example, the city gained about 9,700 more people that way than it lost to other parishes and states, amounting to about three-quarters of the growth the city saw that year.

At that time, some former residents were still returning home and many new residents were being lured in by the city’s culture or to work on the recovery with nonprofits and other agencies.

But with affordable housing in scarce supply and nearly half of the city’s job growth coming in low-wage sectors such as hospitality and retail, the city may no longer have the allure it once did. About 760 more people left the parish for other areas of the country last year than moved in, according to the estimates.

While the tourism industry is a vital economic engine for the city, you have to wonder at one point how much is too much — a question that, frankly, should be asked about a lot of the culture of post-Katrina New Orleans. If the city is so flush with tourism (and tourism dollars, yet we’re seeing a first-time post-Katrina reversal of the net gain of residents — with them, a potentially dwindling tax base — what kind of city will we wind up having? Given the rise in housing costs and the decrease of well-paying jobs, we have good reason to wonder whose New Orleans this really is. Something to ponder moving forward.

Here’s the link to the NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune article.

SEGMENT FOUR: Laszlo Fulop, UNO; curator, Venice film series at NOMA
Laszlo Fulop, Associate Professor of Documentary and Video Writing at the University of New Orleans, curated a series of three movies that prominently feature the Venice, starting with tonight’s screening of the adaptation of the Henry James novel, “The Wings of the Dove,” which was part of the Friday Nights at NOMA activities. It’s tied to NOMA’s “A Life of Seduction: Venice in the 1700s.” Here Fulop walks us through the creative process of curating this series, why Venice is so special, and what about these films together and separately resonated with him most.

CLOSING
I want to remind everyone that if you like what you hear on “PopSmart NOLA,” we’re here every Friday from noon to 1 p.m. — yes, our new day and time! — right here on WHIV (102.3 FM). You can listen to the archived, podcast version of the show on my SoundCloud account, “dlsnola.” Also, you can visit the website at popsmartnola.com, and like our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Instagram at “@popsmartnola” and I’m yammering away as always on Twitter at @dlsnola504.

Also, if you like our show, we’d love your support in the form of underwriting; email me at dlsnola@gmail.com for more info.

Our theme music is “Summertime” by Robin Mitchell.

Up next: Chris Lane with “Eat, Pray, Fight!” I’m preparing to do all of the three, just not here.

Thanks again for joining us, y’all. For “PopSmart NOLA,” I’m David Lee Simmons, reminding everyone to keep the intelligent discussion going.

Evan Spigelman on “PopSmart NOLA”: Life with creeps, life in drag, and life helping queer youth with LOUD

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“CREEP CUTS”
WHAT: Cabaret and drag show from Evan Spigelman and Dylan Hunter with karaoke hosted by Kimberly Clark
WHEN: Thurs.-Sat. in March; karaoke 9:30 p.m., show 10:30 p.m.
WHERE: Mudlark Public Theatre, 1200 Port St.
ADMISSION: $10-$20 (sliding scale)

I first came across Evan Spigelman when he was a “draguate” of Vinsantos’ New Orleans Drag Workshop (which I covered for the New Orleans Advocate as well as here), and I was struck by how his performance in particular stuck out in an evening of incredibly varied performances.

It wasn’t until later that it became apparent that this was the first formalized drag training for Spigelman, despite his Big Easy Award-winning turn in the title role in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch back in 2011.

He wears many hats. Spigelman is a performer, light designer, co-founder of New Orleans performance collective Skin Horse Theater and of LOUD, the New Orleans Queer Youth Theater. (Breaking news: He received another Big Easy Award nomination for Best Lighting Design for The NOLA Project’s “Flood City.”

He bills his latest venture, “Creep Cuts,” as a “cartoon cloud of dada and drag.” In the show, Spigelman performs as Mz. Asa Metric opposite En Between (played by Dylan Hunter) as “New Orleans’ premier electro-cabaret-dada-freak-drag-extra-hyphenated-caffeinated- duo-from-out-of-the-blue-o.” They create a show filled with sketch comedy, lip synch and original electronic music to create a wholly new form of drag cabaret to confound the senses. Bonnie Gabel of the Pelican Bomb calls “Creep Cuts” ‘Virtuosic’ and says it ‘… challenges our perceptions of drag.’ I should add the show is preceded by a karaoke hour hosted by drag performer Kimberly Clark.

In this expanded version of the segment that ran on the March 17 episode of “PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3) — complete with new day and time, Fridays at noon! — Spigelman touched on all of this work, ending with interesting insight on his work with LOUD at a time when LGBTQ youth seem in particular peril these days.

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV, Ep. 21: Winston Ho, Evan Spigelman and John Waters on a new day and time!

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This week’s show came to listeners on a new day and time: Friday at noon on WHIV (102.3 FM)! While I will miss hanging out on Saturday afternoon, I have to say I’m thrilled with the opportunity to precede one of WHIV’s coolest shows, Chris Lane’s “Eat, Pray, Fight!” and, hopefully, to follow a very cool new show we hope to announce some time in the future.

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Peter Holsapple on “PopSmart NOLA”: “It’s kind of on my own terms at this point”

John Gessner Pic

Peter Holsapple (Photo by John Gessner)

PETER HOLSAPPLE
WHAT:
Singer-songwriter and former db’s and Continental Drifters bandmate joins in on Alex McMurray’s weekly show
WHEN: Monday (March 13), 8 p.m.
WHERE: Chickie Wah Wah, 2828 Canal St.
MORE INFO: Visit the website link

While he’s been back to New Orleans off and on over the past since leaving for Durham, N.C., singer-songwriter Peter Holsapple hasn’t gone solo in the Crescent City for a while. And now, he figures, is the right time, given a renewed focus on his solo work in recent years — a focus he’ll sharpen for his guest spot at Alex McMurray’s Monday night session at Chickie Wah Wah on March 14.

At 61, he noted in a recent phone interview, he’s done just about everything he’s been able to do to achieve artistic and commercial success in that bands he’s either co-founded (the ’80s indie-rock band the db’s, New Orleans roots-rockers the Continental Drifters) or served as a sideman (R.E.M., Hootie & the Blowfish). He hasn’t shut all of this previous work down, having performing in some form of reunion work or another with everyone except perhaps R.E.M., and remains a go-to sideman when Hootie & the Blowfish call.

But now he’s ready to do his own thing, in a way he probably hasn’t done in decades. He’s liking what he’s hearing, and will bring a freshly pressed 7-inch vinyl 45 rpm record with him to the gig.

“I’m excited to play new songs for people,” said Holsapple, who has sharpened his work through his affiliation with the Radio Free Song Club, a podcast that features writers who work on a monthly song deadline to help connect their songs with their audience. Participating artists include such familiar names as Howe Gelb, Freedy Johnston and Victoria Williams, and guest stars have included Holsapple’s old db’s bandmate Chris Stamey, XTC’s Andy Partridge and Glen Hansard of “Once” fame.

“It’s important for me to get people to the show to prove to them that I haven’t just been, y’know, sleeping in hammock since I’ve been gone,” he said. “It’s kind of on my own terms at this point. There’s nothing left to lose. … At this point, I’m just glad I have the ability to play it, and to play it for people who’ll listen. That’s exciting for me.”

The 7-inch features the haunting “Don’t Mention the War.” Lightly inspired by the catch-phrase from the British sitcom “Fawlty Towers,” the song tells the story of a family member who’s an otherwise creative, compelling figure but suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome from a horrific war experience. (The song is played out in an epic, six-minute video available on YouTube and featured here.)

“It was a ‘Song Club’ song,” he said. “I was working under a deadline. But it had swarmed pretty solidly in my head before I even ran tape on it. That was kind of a good sign. The songs that write themselves I think are implicitly worthy of trust. I think there’s something else happening there, y’know. The ones that you labor over? A lot of those are really good, too. The ones that are just borne … of whole cloth, I think that’s something remarkable. And I’m so lucky to still have that happen, y’know?”

I asked Holsapple what if anything unified all of his work — whether in the bands he’s formed or the one’s he’s contributed to as a sideman.

“If I was going to say one thing that made sense that went over all four of those groups … I would say the interplay between the melody that the singer is singing and what the bass player is doing,” he said. “I think that is really what unifies a great song, certainly, and I think all four groups … place a great emphasis on getting that part right.

“It’s the top and the bottom. It’s what the people here.”

Here in this podcast segment recorded for Sunday’s (March 11) episode of “PopSmart NOLA,” Peter Holsapple discusses more about his solo work, his time with the db’s and the Continental Drifters, some of his New Orleans friends, and life in Durham, N.C.

(NOTE: “PopSmart NOLA” moves to new its new day and time, Fridays at noon, on March 17.)

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV, Ep. 20: Peter Holsapple, Sideshow, and Sacred Music

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Saturday show covered a lot of cool things going on in New Orleans over the next few days, including one that started Friday night, two at Café Istanbul, and one that might make your Blue Monday a little less blue. That said, we welcomed:

Mistress Kali of Freaksheaux to Geaux and Tommy Breen of World of Wonders to discussed her third annual event, the Southern Sideshow Hootenanny, which kicked off last night at Café Istanbul and continues through Sunday.

We also welcomed Sean Johnson of Wild Lotus Yoga and co-founder of the 6th Annual New Orleans Sacred Music Festival, which takes over Café Istanbul and other parts of the New Orleans Healing Center on Saturday.

Also finally, legendary singer-songwriter Peter Holsapple discussed a career that includes incredible work in the db’s and New Orleans’ own Continental Drifters as well as collaborations with R.E.M. and Hootie & the Blowfish. Peter Holsapple plays his first solo show in New Orleans in over a decade when he performs Monday night (March 13) at Chickie Wah Wah.

SEGMENT ONE: Mistress Kali and Tommy Breen
Mistress Kali has spent several years in the nation’s sideshow scene, producing shows that feature fire-breathing, sword-swallowing, knife-throwing, human blockhead and other feats of human strength and general craziness. New Orleans has a history of sideshow performer, and the sub-culture has enjoyed an ebb-and-flow kind of existence over the decades but currently seems in ascendance.

Mistress Kali’s been at the forefront of this scene here in New Orleans, producing such regular events as Freaksheaux to Geaux and “Storyville Rising,” but especially her third annual Southern Sideshow Hootenanny, a three-day affair at Café Istanbul. Along with celebrating the great American art form of sideshow, the Hootenanny fosters growth in the community and among individual performers through workshops, panels, peer review, and one-on-one consultations with some of the top performers and producers. It also seeks to educate the general public about sideshow, its history, and traditions.

This year’s event will also serve as a tribute to legendary Ward Hall. Several of the performers will come from the popular “10 in 1” touring sideshow troupe World of Wonders, and so I met with Kali and World of Wonders partner and manager Tommy Breen down at Café Istanbul as they prepared for Friday’s opening.

SEGMENT NO. 2: 6th Annual Sacred Music Festival
So, I had this idea: to conduct a brief interview with Wild Lotus Yoga’s Sean Johnson about the 6th Annual New Orleans Sacred Music Festival, which runs today from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., at the New Orleans Healing Center. (Johnson co-founded the festival along with Sallie Ann Glassman.) And then Johnson would perform a tune from the Wild Lotus Band’s 2014 CD, “Unity.” But the full band wasn’t yet available, and so Johnson did the next best thing, and gathered a about 10 friends in a semi-circle to help lend their voices to a song that Johnson says is tailor-made for a call-and-response engagement with the audience on Saturday.

The New Orleans Sacred Music Festival spans the spectrum of the city’s spiritual communities, with nods towards Western Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Japanese drumming and much more. There also will be rituals, art and altars, crafts, food, prayers, and workshops, according to its Facebook event page. The producers noted that the festival is in its second year without charging an admission fee, thanks to underwriting support from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, Call and Response Foundation and Wild Lotus Yoga.

Sean Johnson’s passion for music ranges from a deep appreciation for the transcendental power of rock, Irish folk music, Indian and Sufi devotional music. He’s been leading kirtan for the last seventeen years. His voice is equally influenced by his roots in New Orleans, vocal exploration of his ancestral Irish heritage, as well as study in Indian vocal music and love of the path of bhakti yoga– the yoga of the heart.

Meeting me to discuss the festival was, along with Sean Johnson, Brandon Curran, Marketing Manager and Events Coordinator for The New Orleans Healing Center Brandon oversees all events, services, classes and workshops at The New Orleans Healing Center. He strives to use the community to lead the direction of the various services, events and offerings of the Healing Center.

Here’s our discussion, and their performance, at Wild Lotus Yoga.

SEGMENT THREE: Relevant Link
Last week’s Relevant Link was to a story about a controversy brewing from the appearance of Tales of the Cocktail founder Ann Tuennerman after she recorded, and commented on, a Facebook Live video of herself and her husband, Paul, costuming and riding in the Krewe of Zulu parade on Mardi Gras. In accordance with Zulu costume, this included wearing a form of blackface makeup that’s distinct for Zulu tradition. However, a comment by Paul, and repeated by Ann, drew a fierce backlash on social media, which included an exchange with a recently transplanted bartender from Chicago that led to a Facebook Live exchange all its own in which the two discussed the controversy itself as well as issues surrounding race, privilege and consciousness.

I watched the entire exchange on Facebook, after the fact, and I have to say, it’s a fascinating hour on so many levels. I’m not sure if there are any plans to post the video to an even more public site like YouTube, although anyone connected to the two participants on Facebook can download and upload it accordingly.

And then what caught my eye was a column in the news website, The Lens. The column, titled “Behind the Zulu blackface flap: liberal guilt, clueless outsiders,” contributing writer C.W. Cannon uses his participation in the Krewe du Vieux parade as a way to consider issues of cultural subversion, transgression and expropriation and argue that many people got what Tuennerman did, and said, wrong on many levels. That includes, I should point out, her husband Paul’s key comment, “Throw a little Black Face on you and you lose all your Media Skills” — which, when discussed out of context, is obviously a problematic comment. Cannon writes:

“To me, Paul Tuennerman’s comment is a critique of media, not a critique of blackness. It suggests his awareness that certain forms of expression are so explosive that they can’t be digested at all by national media, with its inability to process the ironies and inversions of carnival expression. It shows his well-founded fear that the frightened and dishonest world of America’s ‘conversation about race’ is likely to cry ‘racism’ whenever it sees an image that might be racist in some other, very different context.”

An objective observer might suggest that Cannon, who I believe is white, can offer this perspective from his own particular vantage point, while others might come to it from another place in which blacks historically have had their intellectual capabilities called into question as one of several forms of oppression and subjugation.

Regardless, Cannon’s column and Facebook Live video exchange between Ann Tuennerman and the bartender offer two fascinating and compelling elements of a dialogue about race, culture and history in New Orleans.

Read the article here.

Oh, and, apparently the Confederate monuments are coming down. What a week!

SEGMENT FOUR: Peter Holsapple flies solo Monday at Chickie Wah Wah
Our next guest could be called a legend you might not have heard of, but you’ve certain heard at least a little bit of his music. Singer-songwriter Peter Holsapple was a founding member of ‘80s indie-rock band the db’s, and later became a founding member of the roots rock band the Continental Drifters that, after setting up in New Orleans, featured Susan Cowsill as well as Vicki Peterson of the Bangles. Along the way, Holsapple served as a sideman with R.E.M., and more recently has performed with Hootie and the Blowfish, both as a keyboardist. The db’s and the Continental Drifters were critically praised bands who never seemed to get the commercial success they deserved, and now, at age 61, Holsapple — who left New Orleans for Durham, N.C., after Hurricane Katrina — is content to focus on his solo efforts. That leads us to his Monday night appearance at Chickie Wah Wah, in which he’ll offer a little overview of his work but also preview some of his most recent solo efforts, including the haunting single, “Don’t Mention the War.”

I spoke with Holsapple by phone while he was still at his home in Durham, where he juggles his projects with his life as a husband and father.

AND IN CLOSING …
Before closing Saturday’s show, I noted that, this is our 20th episode, which means we’ve been doing this for five months. Wow. So, in order to shake things up and maybe even snag a few more ears, we’re going to be moving to Friday afternoon at 12 p.m. That means our show will precede the freakishly popular “Eat, Pray, Fight” hosted by the illegally talented Chris Lane. I should also note our show will soon follow something else that’s pretty cool, so please stay tuned for more news on that front.

It’s been great doing the show on Saturdays, especially to help get folks excited about the show that follows, “La Chancla NOLA” with the very cool Mid-City Martha. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to pop back in and say hi from time to time over the weekend. So farewell, for now, from Saturday, and please tune in to “PopSmart NOLA” at its new time: Fridays from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. starting this week!

So that was our show for this week. Stay tuned for info on next Friday’s episode; I’ll give details about later in the week.

I want to remind everyone that if you like what you hear on “PopSmart NOLA,” we’re here every Saturday from 3-4 p.m. on WHIV (102.3 FM). You can listen to the archived, podcast version of the show on my SoundCloud account, “dlsnola.” Also, you can visit the website at popsmartnola.com, and like our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Instagram at “@popsmartnola” and I’m yammering away as always on Twitter at @dlsnola504.

Also, if you like our show, we’d love your support in the form of underwriting; email me at dlsnola@gmail.com for more info.

Our theme music is “Summertime” by Robin Mitchell.

We closed the show with Peter Holsapple’s single, “Don’t Mention the War.”

Thanks again for joining us, y’all. For “PopSmart NOLA,” I’m David Lee Simmons, reminding everyone to keep the intelligent discussion going.

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV, Ep. 19: Nick Stillman (ACNO), James William Boyd (LPO) and Gene Meneray (The Ella Project) on federal funding for the arts

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For the March 4, 2017, episode of “PopSmart NOLA,” we decided to focus entirely on one subject: funding for the arts. It will hopefully be the first of several conversations about the subject, as it appears that, among many other things, funding cuts loom on the horizon thanks to early signals from the new Trump administration and the Republican-led Congress.

No sooner did Donald Trump get sworn in as the 45th president of the United States that a story published by The Hill suggested the administration with the help of Congress begin the downsizing or elimination of funding for the National Endowment of the Arts, the National Endowment of the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Soon after supporters of the Arts Council of New Orleans received an email noting this possible action, and calling for a push-back, and it included a series of steps in alliance with Americans for the Arts Action Fund. Here to discuss the situation, our guests:

Nick Stillman is president and CEO of the Arts Council New Orleans. He has served as the Visiting Critic of Modern and Contemporary Art at the University of New Orleans. Prior to that, he was Managing Editor of BOMB magazine in New York. Between 2006-2007, Stillman curated eight exhibitions at PS1 Institute of Contemporary Art in New York, including the debut museum solo shows by Kalup Linzy, Amy Granat, and Joe Bradley as a member of the museum’s initial cohort of Curatorial Advisors. Stillman is also active as an art critic, regularly contributing to Artforum, Pelican Bomb, and several other publications. Arts Council New Orleans is a private, multidisciplinary, nonprofit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council’s mission is to support arts and culture and demonstrate how they transform communities.

James William Boyd. Chief Executive Officer with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) since July 2012, Boyd has enjoyed a varied career as an administrator, performer, and educator. Prior to his engagement with the LPO, Boyd was Director of Artistic Planning and Production with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. Hallmarks from Boyd’s time in Tucson include a special program in celebration of the State of Arizona’s centennial, featuring a photo-choreographed version of the Grand Canyon Suite by James Westwater (a co-commission with the Phoenix Symphony) as well as the stabilization and expansion of the orchestra’s primary symphonic and chamber orchestra series.

And finally, Gene Meneray, co-founder of The Ella Project, a statewide arts business and legal pro bono program that serves artists, musicians, and grassroots nonprofits. He is also Director of the Louisiana Crafts Guild, and serves as Chair of Louisiana Citizens for the Arts, the state’s arts advocacy organization, and is Louisiana’s state captain with Americans for the Arts State Arts Action Network.

RELEVANT LINK
And also, each week I take an interesting read I found that’s worth sharing with listeners, and found one at the 1tth hour, so speak. While there’s a lot to unpack from this Carnival season, one of the most fascinating aspects flared up when word came Friday that the chief business officer for Tales of the Cocktail was resigning over a comment he apparently made during a Facebook Live video taken during the Zulu parade on Fat Tuesday.

Paul Tuennerman is the wife of Ann Tuennerman, executive director of Tales of the Cocktail, an annual trade convention about all things spirits. While “interviewing” his wife, who is white and who, adhering to Zulu tradition, was wearing blackface, made a comment about how wearing blackface apparently hindered her speaking skills. The combination of Ann Tuennerman wearing blackface and the comment by her husband set off a social media firestorm this past week, leading first to an apology by Ann and the resignation announcement by Paul.

You can read more about it in an article by New Orleans Advocate food writer Ian McNulty. Apparently no one has asked Zulu itself for a comment, though I did make that request via email last night and will check in by phone with their rep over this weekend.

Ann Tuennerman will apparently return to Facebook Live on Monday in a discussion with an African-American bartender who criticized her actions. I’ll have more on that on Sunday. Until then, I’d encourage discussion about all of this, but with the focus of the discussion being generated by the communities, cultures and organizations that created Zulu in the first place. It’s great that people are talking about this, but without the people of color at its center driving the conversation or being at the heart of it, it rings a little hollow.

I want to remind everyone that if you like what you hear on “PopSmart NOLA,” we’re here every Saturday from 3-4 p.m. on WHIV (102.3 FM). You can listen to the archived, podcast version of the show on my SoundCloud account, “dlsnola.” Also, you can visit the website at popsmartnola.com, and like our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Instagram at “@popsmartnola” and I’m yammering away on Twitter at @dlsnola504.

Also, if you like our show, we’d love your support in the form of underwriting; email me at dlsnola@gmail.com for more info.

Thanks again for joining us, y’all. For “PopSmart NOLA,” I’m David Lee Simmons, reminding everyone to keep the intelligent discussion going.

ADDITIONAL LINKS
David Boas on “Separation of Art and State” (Cato Institute)

Ian McNulty on Ann and Paul Teunnerman and Tales of the Cocktail (New Orleans Advocate)

Trump reportedly wants to cut cultural programs that make up 0.02 percent of federal spending (Washington Post)

Trump team prepares dramatic cuts (The Hill)

Arts Council of New Orleans helps national arts organization sound call to fight potential funding cuts under Trump Administration (PopSmart NOLA)

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV, Ep. 16: Will Coviello on Krewe du Vieux, Leslie Castay and John Pope on “Sweeney Todd” and Alison Logan on “The Original Classy Broad”

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We had a lot of fun on Saturday’s (Feb. 11) episode of WHIV (102.3 FM), in which we welcomed a wide range of guests:

Will Coviello, arts and entertainment editor for Gambit, as Krewe du Vieux prepared to roll in the Marigny and French Quarter that night. (Coviello also is a member of the sub-krewe Spermes).

Leslie Castay, who played The Beggar Woman in the New Orleans Opera Association’s staging of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd,” and writer John Pope, who offered his take on the blurred lines between opera and musical theater for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.

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“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV, Ep. 15.: Focus on Oscar-nominated documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” (podcast)

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“I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO” (PG-13)
WHAT:
Documentary about writer and social critic James Baldwin; Raoul Peck directs, Samuel L. Jackson stars
WHEN: Opens Fri. (Feb. 3)
WHERE: Broad Theater, 636 N Broad St.
MORE INFO: Visit the Broad Theater website

UPDATE: The podcast is up! Listen to the complete show, and individual segments, below …

I’m very excited to announce Saturday’s episode of “PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM) focused exclusively on the Academy Award-nominated James Baldwin documentary, “I Am Not Your Negro,” which premiered in New Orleans at the Broad Theater on Friday (Feb. 3).

The episode will be presented in two segments — the first one featuring perspectives from those familiar with Baldwin’s work as an essayist and social critic, and the second one focusing on “I Am Not Your Negro” from a more cinematic perspective in a year when the Best Documentary category in the Academy Awards is dominated by works about (and by) people of color. And so we’ll welcome:

Jarvis DeBerry, deputy opinions editor and columnist for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. DeBerry wrote a fascinating piece during last year’s protests against police violence, referencing the 50th anniversary of Baldwin’s essay in The Nation, “A Report From the Occupied Territory.”

Felipe Smith, associate professor in the Department of English at Tulane University, and one of the founders and a past director of the Program in Africana Studies at Tulane. His 1998 book, “American Body Politics: Race, Gender, and Black Literary Renaissance (University of Georgia Press), addresses the cultural politics of the racial and gender classification of American bodies as a shaping influence in the development of writers such as W.E.B. DuBois, Charles W. Chesnutt, Pauline Hopkins, and James Weldon Johnson around the turn of the last century.

Angela Tucker, an Emmy-nominated producer, writer and director. Her directorial work includes “(A)sexual,” a feature-length documentary available on Netflix and iTunes; “Black Folk Don’t,” a documentary web series filming its fourth season featured in Time Magazine’s “10 Ideas That Are Changing Your Life”; “The Older Fish,” a short documentary for TIME Inc.; and “Just the Three of Us,” a short fiction film starring Leslie Uggams. Tucker is the Series Producer for the PBS documentary series, “AfroPop,” and a Co-Producer on “The New Black.” She is currently directing and producing “Paper Chase,” a feature-length comedy written by Tucker and collaborator Lauren Domino. She received her MFA in Film from Columbia University. Continue reading