Having lived and worked in Los Angeles for almost 18 years, I had more than my share of red carpets and backstage passes. Moving to New Orleans, I assumed my social life would include a lot less of that. Many concerts here are open to everyone and you can say hello to the band without getting on a list or wearing a laminated tag. This weekend, NOLA played host to the NCAA Final 4 and a weekend-long free concert series, the Big Dance, bringing in bands ranging from the Black Keys to Jimmy Buffett. The giant riverside Woldenberg Park was fenced in and gated and security was in full effect protecting the bands from the enormous crowds. Luckily, I had friends in high places.
L.A. band, Vintage Trouble opened the 3 day concert. The band is still pretty new but they’ve been racking up awards in Europe and opening for bands like Bon Jovi and KISS. I’ve known drummer Richard Danielson for over a decade and I couldn’t be more pleased to see how well the amazing band is doing. Part soul, part rhythm and blues, part juke joint rockabilly, the music is new and nostalgic all at once.
I’d seen a number of videos, but never had a chance to experience Vintage Trouble live. Their energy and passion is infectious and they easily won over the crowd gathered to see KISS later. I danced and sang along and had an amazing time. The band’s fans are called TroubleMakers. Though I won’t be getting a VT tattoo, I count myself officially among them now. Then we got to join the band backstage and tell them how great they were.
Cowboy Mouth took the stage next then we all weathered the light rain to watch the pyrotechnics and rock force that is KISS. Formed 39 years ago, these guys have been rocking and rolling long enough to have 3 generations in the crowd. Face-painted kids on shoulders held up their horn-hands next to grey-haired rockers.
The next day, we were lucky enough to come by backstage tags again, this time from Blondie. Though Rapper’s Delight was the first rap song I remember hearing (1979), Blondie’s Rapture was the first rap song to ever top the charts. It would be decades before another female rapper had that pleasure. Blondie’s Deborah Harry is a strikingly beautiful woman whose cool is surpassed only by her talent. Her uniquely pure voice is as full of whimsy and sass and femininity and fury as it has always been. I loved hearing old favorites like Heart of Glass, Call Me and The Tide is High and the new music from the Panic of Girls album was just as easy to fall for. Consistent with the band’s decades-long sound, Mother and What I Heard were like favorites to which I’d simply forgotten the words.
Blondie became Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees in 2006, adding to an already long list of awards. VH1 even named Debbie Harry the 12th greatest woman of rock and roll and the 18th sexiest artist of all time. Amen to all that.
We had been joined by a few members of the cast and crew of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained and we stayed after to watch a few songs by the Black Keys. We headed up to the rafters above the stage and it was amazing to see the crowd from the band’s vantage. I can only imagine how it feels to see your audience in person that way. Wow.
I’ll admit I like NOLA better without all the fences and gates and laminated tags and VIP sections. I saw my neighbors, who I see nearly everywhere I go for music, and we were separated by barricades and yellow-vested guards. That said, it was an amazing 24 hours of music and I was front row for all of it. Walking home through the French Quarter after, we stopped to let a wedding’s second line parade pass. No passes, no barricades, just a brass band and an intimate affair being shared with the city.
Enjoy the video of Vintage Trouble and a very goofy video of some of the Django Unchained cast and crew and friends running around in the grass backstage during the Black Keys concert. Many photos follow.