“I ate glass – mostly light bulbs,” Meschiya Lake told me, as she described how she came to New Orleans by way of a traveling circus. “I never bit directly into them,” she said. “I usually asked someone to crush up the glass beforehand. But, yeah, that was my act.”
Meschiya, now a successful New Orleans-based musician and songwriter, began her musical career at the age of nine when she won a singing contest in a South Dakota Steakhouse. But it wasn’t until the year 2000 that she was picked up by the Know Nothing Family Zirkus Zideshow and End of the World Circus, which traveled all over the country but spent winters in New Orleans. “The circus had a band,” Meschiya said. “At night we’d make a fire and sing old New Orleans blues music. That’s how I learned the repertoire.”
In 2007, Meschiya began singing with a band of street musicians called the The Loose Marbles. The traditional jazz musicians garnered a lot of attention from both the New Orleans community and the rest of the country, with write-ups in the New Yorker, among others.
In 2009, Meschiya formed The Little Bighorns Jazz Band. “We started out playing in the streets,” Meschiya said. “And we slowly started getting gigs in clubs.” The Little Bighorns play traditional jazz with a whole new layer of honesty, but occasionally mix in some original songs. “I was a teenage goth punk rocker,” Meschiya said. “I inject that passion into our performances.”
If you’re in New Orleans on September 7, check out Meschiya Lake & The Little Bighorn’s release party for their new record Fooler’s Gold at the House of Blues! Doors open at 8:00 p.m. and ticket prices range from $12 to $25. You can catch Meschiya’s regular gigs any time of the year. She plays on Tuesdays at The Spotted Cat, Wednesdays at Chickie Wah Wah and Fridays at Little Gem Saloon.
“I just want everyone to realize how important it is to support live music in this city,” Meschiya told me before we went our separate ways. “It’s such a part of the fabric of our culture.”
20 Questions with Meschiya Lake
1. Who is your favorite New Orleanian, dead or alive, real or imagined?
2. What first brought you to New Orleans?
I was part of a traveling circus that came to New Orleans during the winters. I was 20 years old and my act involved eating light bulbs.
3. In your opinion – what’s the best neighborhood in New Orleans?
4. City Park or Audubon Park?
I love both, but City Park feels more wild to me.
5. Describe the best meal you’ve eaten in New Orleans?
6. Where’s your favorite brunch spot?
The Country Club in the Bywater. They’ve got bottomless mimosas and the staff is awesome!
7. What’s your favorite po-boy? Where do you go to get it?
I like Gene’s Po-boys on St. Claude – they have the best cheeseburger po-boy! *Editor’s note: Gene’s Po-Boys closed August 4, 2019.
8. You’ve got friends visiting and it’s their first time in New Orleans – where are you taking them?
9. What’s your favorite neighborhood bar?
10. What is your favorite New Orleans cocktail and where do you go to get it?
I love the French 75 at Luke.
11. Snowball or Daiquiri? Where from and what flavor?
I like a daiquiri from Gene’s. They have one called the Child Abuse, which I highly recommend.
12. Best spot to see live music?
Chickie Wah Wah. It’s an intimate setting, and I find that there’s a really strong rapport between the musicians and the audience.
13. Favorite New Orleans musician or band?
14. Favorite New Orleans Festival?
Jazz Fest – it brings in a great crowd of music lovers. This year, they let me play before Patti Smith!
15. Favorite Mardi Gras parade?
Krewe of Eris, which parades in the Marigny/Bywater area. Out of the larger parades, I love Muses.
16. Where do you shop in New Orleans?
Trashy Diva – they have great lingerie, dresses, and shoes.
17. What is your favorite New Orleans museum?
18. Where do you go to watch The Saints play?
I have no idea what is going on in football. But the Saints are important to this city, and this city is important to me. I like to get together with friends for the games, and we’re usually at Mimi’s or Lost Love Lounge.
19. Describe New Orleans in one word.
20. When was the last time you fell in love with New Orleans and why?
It happens every day, in one way or another. I am just so happy to live in a place where, if a guy rides by on a bike in full red body paint at 2:00 p.m. on a Monday, he isn’t considered weird.