As we enter into a new decade, we can’t help but think about the events that marked the 2010s. Even right here in New Orleans, both of our highs—The Saints first Superbowl win, Grammy nominations galore for the musicians of the city, the election of the first female mayor—and some of our lows—Hurricane Isaac, Deepwater Horizon, and the loss of so many beloved New Orleanians (Leah Chase, Dr. John, and Allen Toussaint to name a few)—have helped catapult New Orleans culture into the national and international spotlight. But for many of us music lovers here in what we simply call home, we know that a new decade means but one thing: more time for music.
For everyone turning to this monthly music roundup for the first time, welcome! There are about a kajillion live music shows in New Orleans on a monthly basis and we only feature between eight to ten shows each month. This means that outside of our short list, there are also a great many stellar performances happening at any given time. Please seek them out and go explore the musical voice of this city. That is a new year’s resolution I think we can all keep.
After features in two Spike Lee documentaries, one in HBO’s Treme, and a Grammy nomination, Hot 8 Brass Band is more than just a New Orleans brass band. Formed over 20 years ago, Hot 8 is a ten-piece funk-style brass band whose individual interests have weaved elements of contemporary R&B, rap, and bounce to create a wonderfully distinct and relevant catalogue of music.
The brainchild of singer-songwriter Jon Roniger, The Good For Nothin’ Band was born from the lyrics themselves you could say. Echoing the soft voices of the Great American Songbook’s jazz standards but with a twisted New Orleans-after-dark spookiness and cheekiness thrown in, the distinct personalities of each band member will have you drawn in before your first drink arrives.
Coined the “Songbird of New Orleans,” Robin Barnes was born and raised in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans and grew up with many of the city’s beloved musicians. Barnes pays homage to her musical ancestors every step of the way while also showcasing a distinct sound of her own, her latest single “You Give Me”—in collaboration with percussionist Alexey Martí is the first piece of music to be released exemplifying that shift for the singer, taking her well-known jazz melodies and infusing them with elements of African and Caribbean beats.
January 19: SLUGGER at Maple Leaf Bar at 10p.m.
When drummer Terrence Houston of The Funky Meters and bassist Noah Young of Naughty Professor met for a low-key rehearsal in Houston’s storage facility rehearsal space, what resulted was a new project and the addition of new members—Max Bronstein on guitar and Joe Johnson (of Tank and The Bangas fame)—to create SLUGGER. The music brings together fusion, funk, and gospel and as the band sees it, highlights the convergence of styles that makes New Orleans a musically and culturally unique hub.
Born in Baton Rouge and raised near Pensacola, DJ Nice Rack grew up to her local skating rink DJs playing 1980s Miami bass music. But it wasn’t until she returned to Louisiana by way of New Orleans that her sound and persona as Nice Rack began to take shape. While she very simply describes herself as a dance party DJ whose main objective is to get everyone up on the floor shaking their asses, her work and diligence in the music community has helped to create spaces for electronic music to grow and thrive in New Orleans.
January 26: Marina Orchestra at One Eyed Jacks at 9 p.m.
Founded in Knoxville in 2010, it wasn’t until 2015 that creator Justin Powers moved Marina Orchestra to New Orleans to help bring their feel-good crossroads between Latin clave rhythms and “good old-fashioned rock n roll” to more and more listeners. The massive range of global influences that these seasoned musicians bring with them have led to them sharing stages with such artists as Rusted Root, Peelander Z, and Future Islands.
Claire Givens was raised by an operatic singer and a classically trained pianist and choral teacher. Jeremy Phipps grew up in New Orleans marching bands and jazz groups. Bringing together her vocals and his trombone as the basis for their alternative pop group, the band has kept their description of the music as wide and open as their influences and how that defines their sound. Highly polished and looking for a way to incorporate all the feelings of New Orleans in a very non-literal way, People Museum is one of the best new bands you’ll see this year.
January 31: Kettle Black at Three Keys at 8:30 p.m.
Kettle Black is a double percussion discussion that fans out the African and Cuban influences found in New Orleans music to create an entirely new pocket for the music. The group features Luke Quaranta from Toubab Krewe on percussion, Raja Kassis from Antibalas on guitar, and master drummer Michael Skinkus, who has worked extensively with the late Dr. John and The Radiators.