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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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?

Advertisements

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Continue reading

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.)

PODCAST: NOMA’s Vanessa Schmid explains “A City That Lives on Water,” one of the four components of “A Life of Seduction: Venice in the 1700s”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“A LIFE IN SEDUCTION: VENICE IN THE 1700S”
WHAT: Exhibition of costume, glass, handbags, masks, a puppet theater, and exquisite paintings by Canaletto, Guardi, Longhi and others from one of the centers of Western art
WHEN: Feb. 16-May 21, 2017
WHERE: New Orleans Museum of Art
MORE INFO: Check out the event page

Before the press preview of the new exhibition by the New Orleans Museum of Art, “A Life of Seduction: Venice in the 1700s,” I got a chance to sit down with the woman who put it all together. Vanessa Schmid, the Senior Research Curator for European Art, focused on one of the four components of the exhibition, “A City That Lives on Water,” which I thought was a nice connection to New Orleans (though you will find there are others in this amazing collection).

Schmid discusses some of the examples that fit into the water theme, although one image that particularly resonates with her — “The Redentore Procession,” oil on canvas, by Joseph Heintz, The Younger — is elsewhere in the exhibition. (It is an amazing piece; check it out in the gallery above.)

I will have more both on the exhibition (which opens Friday and runs through May 21), and will welcome Schmid as a guest on the next episode of “PopSmart NOLA” on Saturday (3 p.m.-4 p.m.) on WHIV (102.3 FM). You also can read an essay by Schmid about the exhibition in the the NOMA Arts Quarterly publication.

The exhibition is guest-curated by the former director of the Civic Museums of Venice, Giandomenico Romanelli. Check out the array of programming planned, including lectures, films and festivities, around the exhibition.

“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”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Continue reading

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.