When anyone thinks about New Orleans, in most cases two qualities immediately come to mind: Cajun food and jazz music. New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, it’s true. New Orleans arguably is home to the best jazz music in the world – also true. However, another genre is defining the current music scene here. Rock musicians are a force to be reckoned with in New Orleans and the bands erupting from them have a sound so unique – so New Orleans – that cannot be replicated elsewhere.
1. Happy Talk Band – Happy Talk (as they’re often affectionately referred to) is everything good ole rock and roll should be: raunchy, cool and bewildered. Raunchy in lyrical content, cool in demeanor and bewildered by their antics in New Orleans. They’re a little bit country, a little bit blues, mostly rock and 100% New Orleans. Happy Talk won Offbeat Magazine’s 2010 Best of the Beat award for Best Rock Artist, and judging from their high-energy rock shows, we can see why. Upcoming shows: Friday, Sept. 23 at d.b.a.; Friday, Oct. 21 at d.b.a., Oct. 29 at VOODOO Fest.
2. Morning 40 Federation – As can be surmised from their name, Morning 40 Federation is self-proclaimed “drunk rock.” Formed half-heartedly at first out of a dare, they were common house party and dive-bar staples but they have stumbled their way over the years into a full-fledged New Orleans rock band. Infusing their punk sensibilities with a New Orleans jazz influence, Morning 40 Federation puts their own spin on rock that only boys from the Ninth Ward could do. Upcoming shows: Oct. 29 at VOODOO Fest.
3. Rotary Downs – Rotary Downs is leading the indie rock movement in New Orleans, garnering attention from local publishing outfits as well as NPR who gave their 2006 album, Chained to the Chariot a stunning review. Their psychedelic, fuzzy, Pavement-meets-Beck style is a welcomed, fresh sound in New Orleans. Fantastic harmonies between lead vocalist James Marler and guest singer/percussionist Tif Lamson (also of break-out Louisiana band THE GIVERS), powerful instrumentation and even a light show make their concerts a sensory and emotional experience. Upcoming shows: Saturday, Sept. 17 at d.b.a.; Saturday, Oct. 1 at City Park for New Orleans on Tap; Saturday, Oct. 29 at d.b.a., Oct. 29 at VOODOO Fest.
4. Quintron – Though Quintron and his puppeteer sidekick Miss Pussycat could be in their own category, the driving force behind their organ and synth based “swamp tech” is definitely rock. Nationally known and reviewed, their shows in New York are just as popular – and by that I mean crowded with a bunch of sweaty, hyper hipster kids – as they are in New Orleans where they are local celebrities. Both Quintron and Miss Pussycat are also inventors. The Drum Buddy is Quintron’s original electronic instrument in shape of a car with headlights, complete with a steering wheel. Miss Pussycat crafts a parallel universe, populated by her hand-made puppets. Seeing is believing. Upcoming shows: Oct. 28 at VOODOO Fest.
5. Zydepunks – All the artists on this list put on some of the most head-banging, dance-inducing, sing-along shows in New Orleans, but the Zydepunks may – just may – take the cake. Yes, they are part Cajun Zydeco, part punk, and also part Celtic, Polka, Yiddish and other world music genres, but at the heart of it all, they are rock. Frontman Juan Kuffner not only belts out a handful of different languages with ease, but plays the accordion or the fiddle at the same time. The Zydepunks have something that will appeal to anyone, in any part of the world.