“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?

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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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“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 (102.3 FM), Ep. 14: Michael Aaron Santos on “A Few Good Men,” Kathy Randels & Sean LaRocca sing, Damien Moses on “Jelly’s Last Jam,” and Alex Rawls on Jazz Fest

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Saturday’s show the “All the City’s a Stage Episode” to help celebrate so many impressive stage works opening and closing across the Crescent City, which included the openings of:

* “Jelly’s Last Jam” at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré. (Read the glowing review by Ted Mahne.)
* “A Few Good Men” at Delgado Community College. (Read my feature preview.)
* “Niagara Falls” at The Theatre at St. Claude
* “On an Average Day” at the Happyland Theater

… as well as the concluding performances of …

* “Billy Elliot” at Rivertown Theaters, including an added Sunday show
* “Disney’s The Lion King,” which I caught Thursday, at the Saenger Theatre
* “Gomela” which we discussed last week, at Ashé Powerhouse Theater
* “White Rabbit, Red Rabbit” at St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church
* … and ArtSpot Productions’ “Sea of Common Catastrophe” at UNO

On “PopSmart NOLA,” we welcomed:

Michael Aaron Santos, who stars as Col. Jessup, speaker of the infamous “You can’t handle the truth” speech in “A Few Good Men,” which is being staged at Delgado Community College’s Timothy Baker Theater and runs through Feb. 11. For more information, visit www.nolaproject.com.

Kathy Randels and Sean LaRocca of ArtSpot Productions, and “Sea of Common Catastrophe“ — which Gambit’s Will Coviello described as “an abstract, figurative work about New Orleans and some of its inhabitants, who are drawn to the sea and affected by it.” While the show closed Saturday, we had Kathy and Sean discuss the production for a final push, and they favored us with a song from the show.

Damien Moses, cast member of “Jelly’s Last Jam,” the Tony Award-winning musical about the life of legendary New Orleans pianist, bandleader and composer Jelly Roll Morton. This is, amazingly, the New Orleans premiere of this work, which, among other things, delivered star Gregory Hines his lone Tony Award. Damien A. Moses is a New Orleans native. His portrayal of Hedley in “Seven Guitars”, directed by Tommye Myricke, afforded him the privilege to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D. C. as an Irene Ryan recipient. His most notable performance as Mister in “The Color Purple The Musical” at Anthony Bean Community Theater, earned him a Big Easy Award nomination. The show runs at Le Petit Theatre through Feb. 12. For more information visit http://www.lepetittheatre.com/.

Alex Rawls of My Spilt Milk paid us a return visit to to help break down the recently announced lineups for the French Quarter Festival and of course the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. My Spilt Milk covers the music and culture in New Orleans. Alex has written for almost every New Orleans-based publication (including our years together at Gambit-then-Weekly), as well as Rolling Stone, Spin and USA Today — AND he guest-edited The Oxford American’s Louisiana music issue. He’s also done some really fascinating work examining the booking choices at Jazz Fest, is here to discuss their recently announced lineup as well as that of the French Quarter Festival, which precedes Jazz Fest this spring.

CLOSING
That’s “PopSmart NOLA” for this week. I want to again thank our guests — Michael Aaron Santos from “A Few Good Men,” Kathy Randels from ArtSpot Productions and “Sea of Common Catastrophe,” Damien Moses from “Jelly’s Last Jam” and Alex Rawls of My Spilt Milk.

Stay tuned for next week’s episode, which include a focus on the upcoming James Baldwin documentary “I Am Not Your Negro,” which hits New Orleans, and this show will include some really exciting guests. Stay tuned on that.

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.

INTERVIEW: Stephanie V. McKee and Sunni Patterson discuss “Gomela,” at Ashé Powerhouse Theater

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“GOMELA”
WHAT: Junebug Productions’ presentation of dance, spoken-word and music as an examination of space and place
WHEN: Jan. 19-22 & Jan. 26-29
WHERE: Ashé Powerhouse Theater (1731 Baronne St.)
TICKETS: $30
MORE INFO: Visit the Facebook event page

“Gomela/to return: Movement of Our Mother Tongue” is an intriguing collaboration developed by poet Sunni Patterson, dancers Kesha McKeyKai KnightJeremy Guyton, and drummer Jawara A. Simon and directed by Stephanie V. McKee. The show runs this weekend and next (Jan. 19-22 and Jan. 22-26) at Ashé Powerhouse Theater. Billed as a a journey through time and space, “Gomela” is another intriguing exploration of the African Diaspora one comes to expect from Junebug Productions.

Pulling from the Bantu word “gomela,” meaning “to go back to/to return,” the show promises a mix of percussive music and storytelling that connects Africa’s past and present traditions that include the use of spoken word, hip-hop and jazz. There are two dual themes at work here: “It illuminates ‘Place Matters’ — gentrification and the ‘Right of Return’ of New Orleanians displaced after Katrina; and Black Lives Matter — the beauty and resilience of black people, past and present,” the release states. The show, it continues:

… is an experience of collective memories passed down from generation to generation, a tapestry woven by a group of multi-disciplinary artists who represent the diversity of African Americans who call New Orleans home. “Gomela” is based on hope, survival, courage and the resilience that exists in the face of oppression. It is about the heartbeat of a people that will never die, the culture and traditions that continue to evolve, grow and survive the test of time.”

The production crew features lighting designer Evan Spigelman, sound designer Muthi Reed, projection designer Jason Foster, costume designer Janese Brooks-Galathe of Aya Designs and recorded music by trumpeter Troy Sawyer and singer Sula Janet Evans of Zion Trinity.

Here McKee and Patterson discuss this collaboration.

There are a lot of great moments in the interview, but Patterson in particular was eloquent when speaking about the duality of trauma and celebration in the show: “There’s still a lot to celebrate, and I don’t think that, that has to get lost while we are remembering trauma, while we are addressing trauma, while we are calling out oppression, while we are calling out injustice … I’m always reminded of Lucille Clifton and her poem (‘Won’t You Come Celebrate with Me’: ‘Every day something has tried to kill me and has failed.’”

Patterson was also kind enough to recite her mesmerizing poem “Black Back.” Check out the video of that in this post.

NOTES: The podcast audio incorrectly states the second weekend runs through Jan. 26; it runs through Jan. 29. Also, McKee and Patterson will discuss the show as well as artistic and creative expression in a Trump presidency on the next episode of “PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM), from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM), Ep. 12: Christy Hackenberg, Rebecca Snedeker, Wayne Phillips on Carnival

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For this week’s episode of “PopSmart NOLA” we continued our look at Carnival with two new guests and the return of another:

Christy Hackenberg, director of public relations and information technology for the Pussyfooters marching group — which helped spark a massive wave of marching groups in Carnival parades that continues to grow in 2017, but might be facing a turning point.

Rebecca Snedeker, director of “By Invitation Only,” landmark documentary about an insider’s look at the old-line Carnival scene that has defined her family, and why she left it.

And a return visit with Wayne Phillips, curator at the Louisiana State Museum, this time offering us an update on the gay Carnival culture that once featured a dozen krewes but has shrunken to a few, proud group of me also facing their own turning point. And, a new book!

We also had a ticket giveaway for Sunday’s 5-year anniversary production of “You Don’t Know The Half of It.” Big thanks to Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré and Cecile Monteyne for making this happen.

SEGMENT ONE: CHRISTY HACKENBERG
I was happy to welcome our first guest, Christy Hackenberg, and not just because she’s a fellow Florida State University grad. (Go ‘Noles.) Christy moved to New Orleans in 1992 and adapted to the unique life led here. She became very involved with various graphic design organizations. After Katrina and the Federal Flood, her focus became more about New Orleans and she got involved with socially minded groups and the New Orleans blogging community. In 2008 she joined the Krewe of Muses. In 2009 she join Krewe du Vieux and currently serves as secretary of Krewe of Spank. In 2010 she joined the Pussyfooters and currently serves as the PR and IT chair. She is working to compile a comprehensive history and archive of the Pussyfooters. In this pre-recorded interview, we discussed the impact of the Pussyfooters on Carnival parade culture, and what she sees happening with the group marching forward.

The Pussyfooters Blush Ball 2017 will be held Saturday (Jan. 20) at Generations Hall, with proceeds to benefit the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children. Visit the Facebook event page for details.

RELEVANT LINK
I introduced a new segment on “PopSmart NOLA” in which I share an interesting story I’ve come across over the past week. First up:

Kevin Alexander’s piece in Thrillist, titled, “There’s a massive restaurant industry bubble, and it’s about to burst.” This is a notion that was on my mind as soon as I returned to New Orleans in 2013 after being away for seven years, and I was constantly hoping for a localized version of this. Alexander cites “[r]ising labor costs, rent increases, a pandemic of similar restaurants, demanding customers unwilling to come to terms with higher prices” as root causes.

Alexander has several New Orleans connections in the piece, including an interview with chef James Cullen (previously of Treo and Press Street Station) who, as noted in the article, “talked at length about the glut of copycats: “If one guy opens a cool barbecue place and that’s successful, the next year we see five or six new cool barbecue places,” he told Alexander. “… We see it all the time here.”

You’ll also find references to Company Burger and St. Roch Market in the piece, which is very much worth the time. Highly recommended.

SEGMENT TWO: REBECCA SNEDEKER
Joining us in the studio Saturday was Rebecca Snedeker, the Clark Executive Director of the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University. Through her work as an independent documentary filmmaker, writer, and program curator, she has cultivated a body of work that supports human rights, creative expression, and care for place in her native city, New Orleans. Snedeker co-authored Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas (University of California Press, 2013), a book of 22 imaginative maps and essays, with Rebecca Solnit. She produced several documentaries that take place in the Gulf South, including Preservation Hall (commission, 2000), By Invitation Only (PBS, 2007), Witness: Katrina (National Geographic Channel, 2010), and Land of Opportunity (ARTE, 2010) and contributed to many others, including Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans (PBS, 2007) and A Village Called Versailles (PBS, 2008). Snedeker served on the Steering Committee of New Day Films, a filmmaker-owned educational distribution company, and the boards of the New Orleans Film Society and Patois: The New Orleans International Human Rights Film Festival. She is the recipient of an Emmy Award and director of projects funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“By Invitation Only” was a seminal work in the way it brought viewers into the secret world of old-line Carnival culture, one that, while blessed with incredible history, pageantry and beauty, had another side that included racism, sexism and classism. A decade later, we discussed how in her mind does the work still resonate with viewers, and New Orleanians? What has been the fallout since?

SEGMENT THREE: WAYNE PHILLIPS, LOUISIANA STATE MUSEUM
For our final segment for this, our second consecutive show dedicated to New Orleans’ Carnival culture, we once ago spoke with Wayne Phillips, who has served as the Curator of Costumes & Textiles and Curator of Carnival Collections at the Louisiana State Museum since 1998. Wayne is responsible for a collection of over 30,000 artifacts, including historic and contemporary clothing, accessories, and textiles of all kinds, as well as an encyclopedic collection of artifacts documenting all aspects of Louisiana Carnival celebrations statewide. Wayne has made strides in expanding the State Museum’s holdings documenting the LGBTQ community in Louisiana, with particular interest in gay Carnival krewes. In 2014, Wayne served on the Steering Committee that founded the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana, and he serves on the board of directors for the organization today. I spoke with Wayne about how the gay Carnival culture has evolved over the past few decades, and about its interesting future — which includes the release a book on the subject, hopefully later in 2017.

BEST BETS
Before closing I offered suggestions on what’s going Saturday in the Crescent City if you were looking for something fun to do:

Paul Oswell and Benjamin Hoffman bring you the second show of “Local Uproar” for 2017 over the AllWays Lounge. I interviewed Paul about the show in particular and New Orleans comedy in particular this week on PopSmart NOLA.

The new play “Red Rabbit White Rabbit” premieres this weekend over at the St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church. I also offered details on this new play and a new theater company, at PopSmart NOLA.

Something I did not write about for PopSmart NOLA (but wish I had) is tonight’s opening reception of New Orleans-born artist Rashaad Newsome’s interdisciplinary presentation, “Mélange,” figuring a series of films and works on paper in conversation with Newsome’s upcoming performance of FIVE. That’s at the Contemporary Arts Center from 7 to 9 p.m.

CLOSING
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. Happy Carnival!

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM), Ep. 11: Kim Vaz-Deville, Virginia Saussy, Wayne Phillips on women and Carnival

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Carnival season is upon us, and I thought this was a good opportunity to discuss some of the more intriguing aspects of Carnival culture with some of its most notable figures. Because that’s a lot of ground to cover, I hope to dedicate the next two shows on this subject. That starts off with today’s guests. Joining us:

Dr. Kim Vaz-Deville, associate dean of the college of arts and sciences at Xavier University and author of the 2013 book, “The Baby Dolls: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the Mardi Gras Tradition.”

Virginia Saussy, marketing consultant and charter member of the Krewe of Muses, whose landmark debut in the early 2000s helped spark a massive influx of women participating in Carnival on a more formalized structure.

Wayne Philips, Curator of Costumes & Textiles and Curator of Carnival Collections at the Louisiana State Museum. Wayne’s here to discuss an upcoming exhibit at the Presbytere celebrating women’s Carnival krewes (and that’s just this week!). So you can call today’s show our “Estrogen Fueled Carnival Episode.”

SEGMENT ONE: KIM VAZ DEVILLE, AUTHOR, “THE BABY DOLLS”
I was really excited to welcome our first guest. Kim Vaz-Deville, Ph.D. is professor of education and the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Xavier University of Louisiana. Her book, The Baby Dolls: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition was published by Louisiana State University Press in 2013 and was the basis for a major installation, “They Call Baby Doll: A Mardi Gras Tradition” at the Louisiana State Museum’s Presbytere unit in 2013. It is the 2016 selection of the Young Leadership Council of New Orleans’ One Book One New Orleans. Vaz-Deville guest-curated with Ron Bechet, Department Head and Victor H. Labat Endowed Professor of Art Painting, Drawing, and Community Art at Xavier University of Louisiana, an art exhibit titled “Contemporary Artists Respond to the New Orleans Baby Dolls” which showed work about and inspired by the tradition in Spring, 2015 at the George and Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art in New Orleans. Normally photographed on the streets of New Orleans during the ritual times of Mardi Gras, St. Joseph’s night and Super Sunday, photographer Phillip Colwart invited maskers to take stage portraits. Vaz-Deville curated these in a photography exhibit, “Philip Colwart’s Studio Portraits of the Baby Dolls of New Orleans”, on view 2015-2016 at the Shreve Memorial Public Library, in Shreveport, LA.

SEGMENT TWO: VIRGINIA SAUSSY, KREWE OF MUSES
Virginia Saussy has been a part of one of the most fascinating developments in Carnival culture in the past two decades. The emergence of the Krewe of Muses on the parade routes back in 2001 signaled the beginning of a massive influx of women into more formalized Carnival activity even though the first female Carnival krewe rolled 100 years ago. (More on that later in the show.) We now have Muses, and Nyx, and the predominantly African-American krewe Femme Fatale, and of course myriad marching and dancing troupes as we previously discussed. Virginia Saussy, a marketing consultant who’s an original member of the krewe, is here today to talk about how Muses helped alter the Carnival scene, and what we might expect from female krewes.

SEGMENT THREE: WAYNE PHILLIPS, LOUISIANA STATE MUSEUM
Finally, welcomed Wayne Phillips, who has served as the Curator of Costumes & Textiles and Curator of Carnival Collections at the Louisiana State Museum since 1998. Wayne is responsible for a collection of over 30,000 artifacts, including historic and contemporary clothing, accessories, and textiles of all kinds, as well as an encyclopedic collection of artifacts documenting all aspects of Louisiana Carnival celebrations statewide. Wayne has made strides in expanding the State Museum’s holdings documenting the LGBTQ community in Louisiana, with particular interest in gay Carnival krewes. In 2014, Wayne served on the Steering Committee that founded the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana, and he serves on the board of directors for the organization today. For this segment, Wayne discussed an upcoming exhibition at the Presbytere focusing on women and Carnival, tied to the 100th anniversary of the Krewe of Iris.

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. I want to remind everyone to keep the intelligent discussion going. Happy Carnival, y’all.

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM), Ep. 7: Boyfriend, Michael Tisserand, OperaCreole and Virginia’s Harem

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Over the past few weeks as we’ve gotten “PopSmart NOLA” off the ground, we’ve focused almost every show on a certain topic, whether it’s challenges facing the transgender community, life for artists and the Affordable Care Act, or how the creative community deals with sexual harassment and assault. But as the holidays approach, we took a little break and had a little fun. On Saturday’s show we welcomed:

  • Boyfriend, the rap-cabaret artist who needs to hustle over to St. Claude Avenue herself for her “Bounce Around the Block” appearance at the AllWays Lounge.
  • Writer Michael Tisserand, author of “Krazy: George Herrimen, A Life in Black and White”
  • Givonna Joseph and Aria Mason of OperaCreole, the amazing opera troupe — dedicated to researching and performing lost or rarely performed music, and sharing with the community the contributions of our people to this musical art form, in New Orleans, and around the world.
  • The all-female comedy troupe Virginia’s Harem, which performs Dec. 17 at The New Movement on St. Claude Avenue

SEGMENT NO. 1: MICHAEL TISSERAND

I was really excited to start off the show by welcoming Michael Tisserand, who’s been writing about New Orleans and Louisiana culture for some 25 years now, including a stint as the editor for Gambit Weekly (where I served under him as A&E Editor from 1998-2005). He literally wrote the book on one of America’s original music forms with “The Kingdom of Zydeco” and wrote the Katrina memoir, “Sugarcane Academy.” Now, after years in the woodshed, he’s come out with another definitive work, “Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White,” which captures the influence and complexities of the Krazy Kat cartoonist and New Orleans native.

We had Michael place Herriman’s life in perspective — especially as a New Orleans native who left the city as a young age, and his place in America’s pop-culture landscape in maybe the same way we think of such icons as Louis Armstrong.

Check out his reading from the book, as well. (I ran an excerpt from the book earlier this week.)

SEGMENT NO. 2: BOYFRIEND

We were really thrilled to welcome Boyfriend, whose rap cabaret features some fascinating influences — from her time behind the desk and on the stage at Rick’s Cabaret as well as burlesque performances with troupes such as Trixie Minx’s Fleur de Tease, but also rap music that eventually saw her open for New Orleans’ own Big Freedia.

One of the many cool things we discussed was the nature of art and identity and the ongoing debate about burlesque (and stripping) as empowerment.

And, how so much of her work is infused with wit.

SEGMENT NO. 3: OPERACREOLE

As noted in their biography, “Opera and classical music in New Orleans and around the world have always included the contributions of persons of color. Since the 19th Century, Creoles of New Orleans have made contributions to the music and culture of New Orleans. It is their participation in opera, as well as the music of Africa, Spain, and Haiti that contributed to the birth of jazz. OperaCreole is a non-profit company that’s dedicated to researching and performing lost or rarely performed music, and sharing with the community the contributions of our people to this musical art form, in New Orleans, and around the world.”

We were honored to welcome the dynamic mother-daughter duo of Givonna Joseph and Aria Mason to discuss how their work makes them something akin to culture detectives, given how much African-American culture has been lost over the years.

I also asked Givonna if there was a particular obscure work they found that they’re hoping to present soon, and loved her answer. (Hint: May!) 

SEGMENT NO. 4: VIRGINIA’S HAREM

Our final guests were from the all-female sketch group, Virginia’s Harem, which was formed in early 2015 and is comprised of Erica Goostrey, Alicia Hawkes, Kirsten Macaulay, Lianna Patch, Maggie Ritchie, and Emily Slazer. They met through taking classes at The New Movement-New Orleans, and that is their home base. Their shows are a blend of high-energy sketch comedy and short, low tech videos. Their aesthetic is accidentally 1090s-ish as it is shaped by their lack of technological expertise and an exuberant lack of concern about that lack of expertise. Their collective group personality is kind of like a weird, drunk aunt or Miss Havisham on one of her good days.

We asked the performers present — Erica Goostrey, Alicia Hawkes, Lianna Patch and Emily Slazer — to discuss their upcoming performance on Saturday, Dec. 17, at The New Movement for a “post-apocalyptic holiday romp.” Set in the very near future, “Season’s Greetings From the Bunker” is the holiday special no one asked for but everyone is living: manic, terrifying, and distinctly Trump-laced. Eggnog. Christmas carols. Nuclear fallout. Billy Joel. Santa Claus. Fascism. All of the holiday hits you know and love. Check out their Facebook event page for more info.

If you like what you’re hearing on this, the radio show version of “PopSmart NOLA” you can “like” us on Facebook. We’re also on Instagram at @popsmartnola, and I’m on Twitter as @dlsnola504.

Please join us next week for another edition of “PopSmart NOLA” — our special super-sized holiday edition, with special guest co-host and DJ Alex Rawls of My Spilt Milk and an appearance by the one and only Debbie Davis with “Oh Crap, it’s Christmas!” It’s all on WHIV (102.3 FM) — radio dedicated to human rights and social justice. END ALL WARS. You can also listen online at whivfm.org.

Thanks again for listening to “PopSmart NOLA,” and please remember to keep the intelligent conversation going.

HELPFUL LINKS

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM), Ep. 6: Brooklyn Shaffer, AJay Strong, Wesley Ware, Katy Reckdahl on transgender issues

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For Episode 6 of “PopSmart NOLA” we focused on transgender issues in New Orleans.

Our lineup included:

  • Wesley Ware,co-founder and and co-director of BreakOUT!, which builds the power of LGBTQ youth most impacted by the criminal justice system to affect concrete policy change to fight the criminalization of LGBTQ youth in New Orleans.
  • Katy Reckdahl, New Orleans-based journalist who profiled BreakOUT! for the New Orleans Advocate.
  • New Orleans stage performer Brooklyn Shaffer, who recently transitioned from male to female and returned to the stage after a nearly two-year hiatus to co-star in “Steel Poinsettias” at Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts.
  • AJay Strong, co-producer of Bella Blue Entertainment, which presents an average of 20 burlesque shows a month around New Orleans, including “The Blue Book Cabaret” at Bourbon Pub and the “Dirty Dime Peepshow” at the AllWays Lounge.

I profiled Shaffer and Strong earlier in the week with my “Trans, Planted” feature.

I also want to remind you that if you like what you’re hearing on this, the radio show version of “PopSmart NOLA” you can “like” us on Facebook. We’re also on Instagram at @popsmartnola, and I’m on Twitter as @dlsnola504.

Please join us next week for another edition of “PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM) — radio dedicated to human rights and social justice, and the end of all wars. You can also listen online at whivfm.org.

HELPFUL LINKS
Trans, planted: Brooklyn Bhaffer and AJay Strong look back at a life in transition and toward an uncertain future (PopSmart NOLA)
New Orleans organization helps young LGBTQ people navigate legal system, life (New Orleans Advocate)
Galvanized by election, transgender activists rally in New Orleans on Day of Remembrance (New Orleans Advocate)
Hundreds gather to support trans and gender non-conforming youth of color at Congo Square (PopSmart NOLA)
BreakOUT! — Fighting the criminalization of LGBTQ youth in New Orleans (Facebook page)
Louisiana Trans Advocates — advocacy, education and support
Trans Lifeline — support and crisis counseling to transgender people. Call (877) 565-8860 or visit the website
A history of transgender health care (Scientific American)
The psychology of transgender (American Psychological Association)

PLAYLIST
“Boys and Girls,” Blur
“Born a Girl,” Manic Street Preachers
“Walk on the Wild Side,” Lou Reed
“De Camino a la Vereda,” Ibrahim Ferrer