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South by Southwest: Year of the Aspirational Hashtag

South by Southwest: Year of the Aspirational Hashtag

P.R. Nelson, also known as Prince, blew Austin’s South By Southwest festival away at a show hosted by Samsung last night. The concert was promoted with Twitter hashtag #thenextbigthing, though Prince may be better suited to hashtag #eternalpurplerockgod. It reminded me of the Super Bowl in New Orleans, where big shows rolled in the shadow of ever-bigger shows in a corporate battle for biggest. All with their own hashtagged branding message.

If last year was the year of the South by Southwest killer app, this was the year of the aspirational hashtag. Plastered on posts and building wraps all over Austin, hashtags brewed by marketing teams offered the chance to win entrance to not so secret “secret” shows. It’s the new ad on the side of the barn, secret show hashtags.

But at the heart of SXSW, Sixth Street is still full of musicians hoping to be next year’s Next Big Thing. Industry insiders gather to see what will still sell, whether it be some combination of branded streaming or old-fashioned touring until the wheels fall off. Labels are transitioning from disc to digital, commercials are the new A&R rep, crowdsourcing is the new cash advance and YouTube is the new publicist. In the musical instrument expo center, I saw a No Talent Required banner. Hoping that doesn’t catch on. The business model seems to be social media engagement for eventual funding for eventual product for even more social media engagement. And so on, in an endless loop.

In the heart of all this change, South by Southwest is still full of fans and musicians doing double takes in hotel lobbies to see who’s who. My husband Jeff was there to attend the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences gathering, and promote New Orleans CD Patrons of the Saint for Micah McKee and Little Maker. Micah’s been gigging all weekend and didn’t make it to Austin. He was playing a solo gig last year in New Orleans when author and music lover Allison Davis heard him and asked to buy his CD. But there wasn’t one. So she signed on as executive producer, and booked Jeff as producer for Patrons of the Saint. After a year in Blue Velvet Studios, it’s been independently released.

Now Wonder Days is in rotation on the soundtrack of New Orleans, WWOZ-FM, and CD’s are selling briskly at Louisiana Music Factory, on Amazon.com if you’re not in New Orleans, and on iTunes.

All this proves that as cynical as we can get about the prospect of anyone discovering anyone, it happens. After the Patrons of the Saint CD was released, Ogden Museum After Hours curator Libra LaGrone said she hasn’t been so sure a band would make it since hearing Mumford & Sons in a hotel lobby at South by Southwest. When you believe in an album, CD, download, or whatever we’re calling them now, that’s music to your ears.

So if you get a chance, give the album a spin. And watch for Micah McKee and Little Maker at next year’s South By Hashtag, or whatever we’re calling it by then. In the meantime, rock on.

Giant Grammy at Austin’s NARAS Gathering.

New Orleans Food and Music Bucket List: Experts Share Top 10

New Orleans Food and Music Bucket List: Experts Share Top 10

New Orleans is an embarrassment of riches in its food and music culture, as thousands of Super Bowl correspondents are currently reporting to the folks back home. One blessing from living in food and music central is the level of expertise to be found sitting right next to you on any given night. Since two of my BFF’s are experts, or BFE’s, it’s a good week share the latest news from their palates and eardrums. I asked Colleen Rush and Marc Stone for a bucket list of food and music respectively, and here are their choices:

Colleen Rush, author of Low & Slow BBQ, Master the Art of BBQ in 5 Easy Lessons and The Mere Mortal’s Guide to Fine Dining, and contributor to publications from Gourmet Live to Coastal Living has 5 favorites as current as they are varied. Anyone who advises you to shut up and eat the lamb neck has only your best interests at heart:

Modern, playful, ethnic-but-still-NOLA menu that isn’t just smoke and mirrors – chef Phillip Lopez is at the top of the new generation of New Orleans chefs. Love the aloo gobi, and the house-made charcuterie list (morcilla, in particular) is one of the best in the city.

Restaurant R’evolution at the Royal Sonesta Hotel
The most ambitious restaurant opening New Orleans has seen in years, from Louisiana chef John Folse and Chicago chef Rick Tramonto, R’evolution covers Cajun/Creole history, geography and gastronomy from a modern perspective. A few things stand out: Wine director Molly Wismeier’s list, Tramonto’s in-house aged steaks from Allen Brothers (on display in the restaurant’s Market Room), and the restaurant itself — a beautiful space to unburden your wallet.

Killer Po-Boys in the back of the Erin Rose bar
There’s a Po-Boy 2.0 thing happening in New Orleans, and Killer Po-Boys is one of the ringleaders. You’d never guess this dive bar a few feet away from Bourbon is home to some of the most inventive, tasty po-boys in the city right now. Don’t think twice. Order one of everything.

Two of my favorite places in New Orleans – Chef Chris DeBarr’s Green Goddess and Ed Diaz’s Bar Tonique – got married and had this baby. Not as dive-y charming as her parents, but Serendipity delivers the same far-out culinary meanderings and spot-on cocktails, and one of the city’s most interesting and affordable wine lists.

Toup’s Meatery
What the physical restaurant lacks in personality (and sound-proofing) it more than makes up for in meat domination. Solid charcuterie list, followed by meat, and more meat (porchetta, confit chicken thighs, double-cut pork chop). No concessions are made for vegans or food nit-pickers. Shut up and eat the lamb neck.


Marc Stone, a full time blues and roots guitarist and bandleader in his own right, has worked with many New Orleans greats and shares their music on the soundtrack of New Orleans, WWOZ-FM 90.7. Just back from a European tour, Marc’s as much a popular local disc jockey as he is a music historian. Here are his 5 don’t-miss performers of New Orleans music:

Benny Turner
The greatest blues singer I have ever worked with, the Real Blues incarnate. Younger brother of the late, great Freddie King and uncredited co-creator of Freddie’s classic “Hideaway”. He moved to Chicago from Texas in 1955 and played with all of the innovators of Chicago blues – Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, Little Walter and of course extensively with Freddie until Freddie’s untimely death in 1976. He is heard on many of Freddie’s classic live recordings and sings and plays bass with all of the soul and brilliant phrasing of his older brother, just in a deeper register. He was also band leader for New Orleans Blues Queen Marva Wright for over 20 years. One of the last of the originators of electric Blues, an absolute must see.

Walter “Wolfman” Washington
Indescribably brilliant and unique guitarist, vocalist and bandleader. His approach is drenched in blues, soul and and jazz. His musical style is completely his own, eschewing any of the cliches of New Orleans music like second line beats, but as pure New Orleans as anything you’ve ever heard, and funkier than a mosquito’s tweeter. A true spiritual messenger of music.

Henry Butler – solo piano
Henry no longer lives in New Orleans, but any chance to see this man in front of a good piano where his expansive genius is free to roam is a mind blowing and intensely soulful experience.

Mardi Gras Indian practice or Super Sunday/St. Joseph’s Day/Mardi Gras Day
To witness the amazing, “only-in-New Orleans” cultural phenomenon either in the dark neighborhood bars where the African American social groups known as Indian Gangs gather to rehearse their chants, songs and moves, or on the few special days when all of the Mardi Gras Indian gangs take to the street in their full regalia of gorgeous and intricate feather and bead suits, is a must for anyone who wants to experience all of the mystery and soul of New Orleans culture.

A second line parade with any or all of the great Brass Bands
The true heart and soul of New Orleans, out in the street. One of the most amazing communal experiences of music and dance you will ever witness.


I would add Dr. John to music and SoBou to food, as lagniappe. What are your favorites?

7 Days of Super Bowl: Media Tips From a Local

7 Days of Super Bowl: Media Tips From a Local

Welcome to New Orleans, 5,000 reporters, bloggers, Instagrammers, Pinteresters, Facebookers and Tweeters here to cover Super Bowl 47. Our streetcar lines are expanded, convention center renovated and rooms are entirely booked. Assuming you get here Monday, here are some tips for a week’s worth of NOLA:


Monday: Check-in

Four new hotels you’d be lucky to book are the W French Quarter, Hotel Mazarin, Hyatt Regency and The Saint. Hopefully your news outlet booked early so you don’t end up out on Airline Drive with fallen televangelists. With room secured, take in the Big Easy along with thousands of Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers fans. Mayor Mitch Landrieu has vowed that every orange construction cone will be off the street by Monday, pointing out that the state of New Orleans is notable “for a city that seven years ago was 15 feet under water.” Super Bowl-related renovations are everywhere, including boosted phone signals according to the larger carriers. Towers have been added so you won’t need a microcell booster to Tweet #sb47 from within the Mercedes Benz Superdome

Over at CBS Super Bowl Park at Jackson Square, formerly known as Jackson Square, CBS has signage in place for visiting hosts of The Talk, The Late Show and the Late Late Show. WDSU reports that the NFL’s Clean Zone sign restrictions are limited to the Mercedes Benz Superdome area and no longer affect the French Quarter and Central Business District.


Tuesday: Media Day
It’s Media Day, as indicated by the 47-foot po-boy in the Media Center. If you’re Perez Hilton, and someone has to be, the city will be riddled with celebrity sightings. In the Hollywood of the South it’s hard not to make a loop without seeing stars. We’ve run into the Jolie – Pitt family noshing at Verti Marte and I don’t know what a sandwich photo is worth, but with all the photographers huddled outside the deli there’s clearly a market for it.


: Free Day

Speaking of sandwiches, Adam Richman has been in town all week shooting a Tailgate Takeover to air Wednesday on the Travel Channel. Adam’s another regular likely to have a French Quarter pied-à-terre sooner or later. Once here, celebrities tend to flee when an influx arrives. As Midwestern transplant Tennessee Williams was known to complain: “Too many goddamn tourists.” To see tourists up close, this is as good a day as any to check out Bourbon Street. Bringing a full-body sized container of hand sanitizer couldn’t hurt. If, despite your best efforts, if you find yourself with a party rash stop by the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. They don’t sell ointments but it will give them a good laugh.

For a mental cleanse, buy some heavy reading at Faulkner House Books and take it for a spin in one of Tennessee’s favorite haunts, Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar. Visit Congo Square then walk cross the street for photos of legendary recording engineer Cosimo Matassa in his former studio, now a laundromat. Another way to pay homage is to tip the hell out of New Orleans musicians including the Paulin Brothers (pictured above). Visit Palm Court where the 101 year old Lionel Ferbos still gigs on occasion. The philanthropically inclined can check out the Musicians Village, former home of the late, great Bob French. You could be lucky enough to run into Musicians Village resident Smokey Johnson, godfather of the second line beat, holding court. And back to sports, the NFL Experience kicks off at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.


The Home Stretch: Some of the following events are invitation only with media registration still being accepted. Others, like the riverfront concert series, are free.

Thursday: The Big Easy Super Lounge with Willie Roaf at the US Mint; Woldenberg Park concert series kickoff; Madden Bowl with Lil Wayne at Bud Light Hotel; Micah McKee and Little Maker CD Release at the Blue Nile.

Friday: Super Bowl Breakfast at The Hyatt Regency honoring Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys; Drew Brees Hurricane Sandy benefit at the House of Blues with Nelly and Swizz Beatz; VH1 Best Super Bowl Party Ever featuring Train at the Sugar Mill.


Saturday: Lil Wayne at GQ Party The Elms Mansion; Stevie Wonder at the Budweiser Hotel bash; Miss America Mallory Hagan at Taste of the NFL benefit for national food banks at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.


Super Bowl Sunday:
You made it.

My City of Spirits: Bruce Springsteen Jams With Dr. John at Jazz Fest

My City of Spirits: Bruce Springsteen Jams With Dr. John at Jazz Fest

Dr. John, with an album that’s charting as high as any of his in the last 40 years, ended his New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival set by playing a song off his next album. The one after Locked Down. He was looking forward, and opening for Bruce Springsteen.

(Photo By Me)

Springsteen, looking back, referenced his band’s performance at the first Jazz Fest post-Katrina levee failure. It was a set that was cathartic if you needed to cry for a week or so, and back then who didn’t?

“The show for 2006 stayed with us a long, long, long time.” Springsteen told the massive crowd. “And I want to thank you for giving us the opportunity to do what our band was built for. But we got a new dawn. We got a new day. And we got new faces with us. And some old faces…” Spoiler alert: he brought out Dr. John aka New Orleans’ own Mac Rebennack.

“Back in the early ’70s we played on the same bill. Asking the good Dr. John to come join the E Street Band. Hey Mac!” Mac sang and played the R and B classic: “Something You Got” with the band, and Bruce looked as happy as a kid. “He comes out he sits in that groove, man, and all of a sudden… ”

“You ought to know / my my / oh oh / I love you so.”

Springsteen is the consummate entertainer. New Orleans was woven into his set, but not in the “Hello Springfield — you beat the hell out of Shelbyville” manner. In his Wrecking Ball album’s “We Take Care of Our Own,” the line: “From a shotgun shack to the Superdome” was belted out by a crowd miles from the dome. Post-Katrina, it feels like there’s been an endless stream of projects that arrived late, cashed in early and never really got it.

With Wrecking Ball, that feeling is aptly described though it was written for Springsteen’s home state. “Go on and take your best shot, let’s see what you’ve got” works for anyone who dealt with unscrupulous contractors, coming home and finding yourself replaced… all of it.

“And hard times come and hard times go and hard times come and hard times go and hard times come and hard times go”

Just because the litany is fatiguing does not mean the hard times are gone. Recovery is never-ending, and there’s no right moment to put a bow on it. Wrecking Ball doesn’t try. Neither does Jack of All Trades.

As Death to My Hometown soared, the set reached an Irish wake levels of catharsis.

“Anybody here back in 2006?” Springsteen asked. A roar. “This is a song about calling on ghosts and spirits and asking them to speak. And we’re in such a strong city of spirits, and such a strong city of so many ghosts, ghosts that have been powerful enough to haunt the rest of the nation and guard this town. And so we ask the spirits to inform us. To provide strength and faith to the living.”

“This is a song about things we lose that never come back. And it’s also a song about things that never leave. Things that stay with you for your life and to the next life, into the next world. Into the next place… ” Based on conversations with Mac, it could have been Dr. John speaking. Springsteen talked about everyone in the crowd who lost someone. So many of us did. That’s not brought up enough. Then he launched into My City of Ruins.

“Come on rise up … Come on rise up…”

Springsteen decried programs cutting back fundamental services. “I wrote this song in 2009 when there was no Occupy movement. New Orleans is no stranger to hard times. I know. This is Jack of All Trades.”

Church doesn’t stop once it’s on a roll. It was supposed to be a two and a half hour festival set, and Springsteen went overtime. It was cathartic but I wouldn’t call it closure. Post-Katrina, I wouldn’t call anything closure. But listening to Springsteen, Dr. John, all the legends with their new work; they seem to be sending signals about where we all meet up in the end.