Madison on the Bayou
NOW THAT VERSES five through 249 of Juvenile's "Back That Thang Up" are engraved like bedtime prayers into the brains of every Box watcher, can it really still be maintained that the music of young, black New Orleans is a hidden treasure? Well, yes, if you're talking about real bounce music--that quick bayou ragga that still dominates Master P's old housing project and not much else (certainly not his label). And yes, again, if you're talking about the second-line jazz that still spills out of the Treme--that oldest black neighborhood in America--with the regularity of silt flowing into the Gulf.
Native sons Coolbone tried to popularize the widely unheard sound of street jazz with a brass-band-hip-hop crossover last year. They failed, partly because the lower brass of New Orleans's jazz meritocracy remained unimpressed, partly because no one outside the city had a clue what they were fusing.
Now, picture a nine-plus-piece band of 20- to 23-year-old white Wisconsin kids attempting the same stunt. Picture them doing it at Mardi Gras. As you might guess, the Madison-based YoungBlood Brass Band weren't cheered for their brass balls when they took their adopted Dirty Dozen-inspired tuba funk back to the source. "We've had some bad experiences where people don't like us," admits drummer Dave Skogen over the phone from Madison, a week before a January 21 gig at the Cabooze. "But most people see that we give a nod of respect to this music--and add something new of our own. We don't just run up to them and say, 'we're trying to play your music.'"
Indeed, last year's Word on the Street may have found the ensemble sweating to climb the ecstatic peaks that Treme stompers the Rebirth Brass Band reach with such apparent ease. But the band has grown looser and more hip-hop, enlisting renowned Brooklyn-reared spoken-word MC Mike Ladd, as well as a Chicago DMC finalist, DJ Skooly, in its recent recording sessions. YoungBlood never embarrassed themselves in New Orleans, either, transcending mere homage on the strength of a remarkably agile sousaphone/tuba man, founder Nat McIntosh. Live, they sprinkle pop references to The Warriors and hip hop's hit parade, while also tipping the hat to Kermit Ruffins and AfroCubanismo.
Playing neo-second line in the snowy Midwest would make YoungBlood an entertaining cultural anomaly--if Madison weren't suddenly (and inexplicably) breeding New Orleans-style brass bands like mosquitoes. Aside from YoungBlood and Mama Digdown, there are half a dozen ensembles trying out modern Nawlins styles that are still foreign to most Northern jazz lovers. It's only a matter of time before locals welcome the contagion. Minneapolis fusion groovers Ebbn'flow make regular trips to the Crescent City for profit and inspiration. The Minnesota Cajun and Zydeco Music and Dance Association (more economically titled the Krewe de Walleye) already holds regular happenings for gumbophiles, including a dance on Saturday at the Oddfellows Hall in St. Paul; (651) 483-3368. As Mardi Gras looms, our jazz scene blooms. Tuba prodigies can reach me at (612) 372-3764.
WE RECENTLY RECEIVED a complaint that our ranking of the best local albums of the decade ("A Power of Ten," December 29) didn't include local glam-punks Flipp--as if that particular cultural onslaught needed our nudge. Fresh from hosting Teenage Rampage III at the end of last year, which saw local youngsters Headrush headlining at the Quest, our cartoon superheroes now follow through on their threat to hit the big screen.
They appear in the new cult-horror B-film Terror Firmer, and have contributed two songs to its soundtrack on GoKart Records. It's a good fit for the film's legendary indie studio, Troma Entertainment. Flipp's comically belligerent sense of theater will grace the local premiere on Friday at the Heights Theatre; (612) 788-9079. Rumor has it the Toxic Avenger himself will make an appearance.
Sharing the Teenage Rampage bill were the best local brass-rock thing going, 3 Minute Hero, who have their own onslaught to nudge. The band's Jonathon Tebeest appeared on an entertaining January 14 "Secret Crush" episode of The Maury Povich Show, wherein a fan confessed her love pangs for the drummer. Worshipers who missed the segment can catch the replay Saturday night at 1:30 a.m. at the Yorktown Cinema Bar and Grill in Edina; (612) 841-8418. This band-hosted party follows Hero's live serenades from their excellent new self-release, Operation Brown Star, at O'Gara's Garage; (651) 644-3333. Gifted reggae openers Dread I Dred will have the horn running over this weekend.
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