Monday, 30 June 2014

With Music Comes Stories: The New Orleans Report

The New Orleans Report

Back in October I had the good fortune to be invited to DJ at the official opening night of the Ponderosa Stomp Festival in New Orleans. The night is called the Hip Drop and is curated by Brice Nice, a great guy who some of you may have met on his visit to New Zealand a few years back.

This was the 6th Hip Drop and was held at a great bar called DBA on Frenchman St. I had last been in New Orleans in 2008 (I had actually seen Walter “Wolfman” Washington at DBA back then) and my last time in the US was in 2010, so I was really itching to get back there, spin some 45s, catch up with friends, buy records and of course check out the Ponderosa Stomp. The Ponderosa Stomp is a long running festival held traditionally over two nights. This year it was held at a great venue called the Rock N Bowl which is a bowling lane and music venue - great combo - of course the bowling option was closed while the Stomp was on.  

I started this American trip with a 7 hour stopover in San Fran, so I did what any self-respecting vinyl junkie would do in that situation: on-checked my luggage and then hopped a cab to Haight St to buy 45s. It was a Monday so my favorite shop Groove Merchant was closed, but across the street Rooky Ricardo’s was open for business, so I told the taxi to come back for me in 3 hours and set about digging. Made it back to the airport in time for my flight to NOLA with nearly 100 new additions to my record box.

I touched down in NOLA late at night (the Saints won on the flight so the other passengers seemed really excited about that…."Who Dat?" etc). Hopped a cab to the Hotel and tried to familiarize myself with the streets again as I was driven there. I had a couple days until the festival itself started but already a few people were at the official Hotel in readiness. The next morning I got my VIP pack and then went off to hit the Hard Rock CafĂ© for some late breakfast before hitting the Louisiana Music Factory looking for more 45s. LMF is a cool store located right in the heart of the French Quarter and is seen as something of a hub for the local scene. I spent the day there upstairs clearing out around 100 45s and got a heap of great titles for really good prices. I knew I had to get in quick before the rest of the Stomp tourists also hit the record stores (the reason I’d hit town a couple days early to be honest). I paid a visit to Drago’s that night for some of their must-try charbroiled Oysters; always a spot I hit in NOLA, words can’t begin to describe how good the oysters are and this is from a dude who doesn’t usually do shellfish.  

The next day I got up, started to notice some of the famous faces (classic R&B artists) had started to appear at the hotel. Cool. I took a ride to Jim Russell’s Rare records on Magazine, once a legendary record store and a must hit spot; I was saddened to see it closed with a great deal of the stock still sitting inside half covered by tarps, to try to protect it from roof leaks I guess. Realizing I wasn’t going to get anything there I traveled across the other side of the town to Euclid Records, a newer store but a very worthy stop and definitely a must hit spot for records in NOLA. I spent the day there and came away with another 100 or so 45s. They had just put a load of 45s out especially for the Stomp crowd and luckily I was the first to get to them that morning. It was at Euclid that I first ran into Carlos and Elisse, two fellow 45 collectors from Mexico in town for the Stomp too. It was a great day digging and James at Euclid was really helpful and friendly, even coming to check out my set at DBA the next night. That evening a few of my friends had started to roll into town so I got in touch with my friend Miles and we rolled way out to a great restaurant he knew called Jacques Imo’s, beautiful food and a great time.

The day of the Hip Drop saw everyone hit town, there were catch-ups and autograph sessions and photo ops with all sorts of people. Early that evening there was a special screening held of the Muscle Shoals documentary film. A whole bunch of us filed into a local art gallery for this special occasion and we were even treated to Fame/Muscle Shoals recording artist Spencer Wiggins being in the audience.  

Next up the Hip Drop. We all got there in the early evening and there was already a great crowd. The DJ lineup was incredible, some real heavy-hitters and deep collectors of the 45 world. The music policy incorporates Garage, R&B, Soul and Funk, as long as it is off of original 45s. Each DJ (invited from all around the world) has a half-hour set only to move the crowd. This years lineup was: Billy Miller and Miriam Linna from Norton Records in NYC; Miles Tackett from Breakestra/Funky Sole in LA; Beyondadoubt from Portland; Todd-O-Phonic from New Jersey; Pierre Baroni from Soulgroove 66/Soul-A-Go-Go in Melbourne; Kitty B Shake from Paris; Alex LaRotta from Houston; Emma Peel from Melbourne; the Alligator Chomp Chomp crew of Mitch, Matty and Pasta representing New Orleans; and myself from lil ol’ NZ. 

A special mention must be made of Tony Janda, one of the original Hip Drop DJs who sadly passed away recently. This Hip Drop was held in his memory and I have fond memories of talking 45s with Tony over the years, a great guy who had a real love and knowledge for the music. My friends Brice and Eric spun a couple of 45s in his honor and spoke a little about the man. A poignant but nice touch. 

Everyone played killer sets, I’d be hard pressed to choose a winner on the day and it was just incredible to be playing alongside some of these DJs and playing a packed out club jumping to vintage soul 45s again; a killer feeling.

After the high that was the Hip Drop we then had to face another couple days of the Hip Drop concerts, Record Fair and Music Conference. An overload of amazing experiences. I well and truly made out good at the record fair having had my friend Dave in Austin sort a local dealer to bring me a box of awesomeness that I got first hit at. Killer, so many great 45s. I must have grabbed at least nearly 100 more 45s for my collection. 

It was just an amazing few days getting to hang out with great like-minded friends again, trade records, talk 45s like the mega geeks we are and be treated to live performances by R&B royalty. Getting to see artists like Lil Buck, David Batiste, Irving Bannister, The Sonics, Baby Washington, Chris Clark etc. etc. (the list is long) was like a dream come true and then getting to actually meet a lot of them over the few days and chat about their careers etc. was too cool.  

The rest of the time in NOLA was a blur of friends, good food, records (I ended up coming home with 300 new addition 45s for my collection), live music and even karaoke. Hope I get invited back. 

Special thanks to Dr Ike for organizing the Stomp every year, Brice for booking me on the Hip Drop and all my other friends; Miles, Alex, Kim, the other Hip Drop DJs, Ricky, Eric etc. etc.

So many people. Such a time.

Written by Kris Holmes
Picured (R-L): Kris, Miles and Ricky on their last night in New Orleans, all wearing their respective soul night T-shirts.
Kris is NZ's deepest funk and soul 45 collector, and we're delighted to be able to include this piece written about his time in New Orleans. We're hoping to be able to entice Kris to write further stories about his travails overseas digging for black gold. Watch this space!
Also check his blog Greenville And Beyond.

* An edited version of this piece appears in Issue #4 of the Soultearoa Shakedown fanzine. You can read the whole issue, and the back issues, online here.

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