Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Catching Up with New Orleans Based Gal Holiday and The Honky Tonk Revue

For fans of Louisiana music, whether it be jazz, country, americana, swing, zydeco, cajun, or blues, and living in Southern California, we are blessed with great festivals and music clubs, that are constantly booking touring Louisiana based bands.  Thus, when "Where's Andrew" from National Geographic Traveler posted on his twitter account in November 2011 that he had just witnessed the best music in the New Orleans French Quarter, I was very curious and intrigued.  This was Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue fronted by Vanessa Niemann playing old-time countrified swing.  I found the band's website and YouTube videos, and saw that they had taken up a music residency in Los Angeles, splitting their time in New Orleans, and noted that in December 2011, they were doing some very late night performances at Taix in Echo Park.  I was planning on seeing one of those performances, but I was just too tired to make the late night trek to Echo Park, but then I got lucky, and Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue got booked for Harvelle's in Long Beach.  Playing Harville's under the Congregation Ale House was like being booked into a roaring 20's speak-easy.

I was mesmerized hearing and seeing Gal Holiday perform country swing at Harvelle's, and at times, it was like hearing Patsy Cline channeling Wanda Jackson's rockabilly, and below are the pictures from that night.  Her small space dance moves on stage became hyptnotic, and later learned, they were a trademark of her performances.

I had been out among friends at Harvelle's that night providing me the emotional support I needed during this holiday period, i.e. Karen Redding, my zydeco dance instructor and her dancing partner.  It became a magical night when Karen Redding saw someone whom she had been seeing at music festivals for 20 years, but had never really had an extended conversation.  He was there checking out the club with his dance partner Angela, and she took me out onto the dance floor, while the other's talked.  Listening to Gal Holiday perform, and dancing with Angela, was like I had just gone to heaven, after a month before having unexpectedly, losing my wife of almost 30 years, due to a sudden illness.  Angela had gone through something similar, and I remember her telling me, that I had already gone through the worse part of sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one.  I still can't forget those couple of dances, and I have gone on to take many more zydeco dance lessons from Karen Redding, and later joined by my girlfriend Kathy.  And if you look through this first picture set, you will see me with Vanessa Niemann, the heart and soul of Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue.

In March 2012, I had another chance to see Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue perform in SoCal  before she returned to New Orleans, and this was at Cinema Bar the oldest bar in Culver City.  The Cinema Bar is known for booking Americana music and Gal Holiday was a perfect choice, and below are the pictures from flickr set.

Trying to make it as an Americana alt-country artist in New Orleans, can be difficult with all of the other genres of music getting publicized and noticed, even with publicity from Offbeat Magazine.  Thus, I think that the objective of doing a  residency in Los Angeles, while splitting time in New Orleans, was the hope of building another fan base.  However, in New Orleans, Gal Holiday is a live performance legend, having performed at a number of Jazz Fests, French Quarter festivals, the legendary Tipitiana's, in the French Quarter, and various clubs out on trendy Frenchmen's Street.  Vanessa is such an accomplished singer that she even joined the Squirrel Nut Zippers for their performance at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and could be found singing with the 20 member all girls New Orleans Nightingales Revue at the 2014 New Orleans French Quarter Festival.  Vanessa like a number of the musicians trying to make it in Louisiana, is a transplant, with her journey starting outside Washington, D.C.

All of my visits to Louisiana have been post-Katrina, and I have now visited the State 14 times, with another upcoming visit.  During my visits in 2012, I got lucky to catch an outdoor performance of Gal Holiday, and a very poorly promoted second annual Slobsterfest in Metairie during August 2012, which had an incredible local line-up that introduced me to Amanda Shaw, Revivalists, and Eric Lindell, whom I have gone on to see several times, and like Gal Holiday, have performed several times in Los Angeles, and have been mainstays of one or both of Jazz Fest and the French Quarter Festival over the last several years.  I highly recommend seeing the Revivalists when they play The Mint in Los Angeles on May 15, 2014, and watch the schedule as The Mint is constantly booking Louisiana-based bands.

What was great about the Slobsterfest performance by Gal Holiday is that it was a full band, including slide guitar, which you can see on my TreknTravel youtube video channel below along with a another set of flickr pictures.

Most recently, I had the opportunity to see Gal Holiday at the 2014 French Quarter Festival. The rules for performing at the free French Quarter Festival is that you have to be a New Orleans based band (of any music genre) or be a Louisiana based cajun or zydeco band, along with a few invited bands from overseas that use New Orleans musicians to fill in for the entire band. Below is video that I took of their performance on the Absolut Louis-Louis Stage on the Riverfront Park singing The Rockin'Lady (from New Orleans), followed by my own video slideshow using the title track from from their latest CD Last to Leave, in which all of the songs (except for one cover) are written by Vanessa Niemann.  The slideshow uses my pictures from flickr that can be found here, and watch for a future post of the ExperienceLA on the 2014 French Quarter Festival.

If you are going to second weekend of the 2014 Jazz of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Gal Holiday will be performing on May 1, along with bands from all over the US and  a number of local bands that will have also played the recent French Quarter Festival.  If you get AXS TV (produced and owned by AEG, Mark Cuban, and Ryan Seacrest), then you can watch Jazz Fest at home.  It would be great for Gal Holiday, if she could be shown to a national audience, when AXS TV decides who to show, as she will play before Lyle Lovett and Marcia Ball on the Gentilly Stage (rebranded as the Samsung Galaxy Stage for 2014).

On my Trekntravel YouTube channel, you watch video that I have captured of a number of Louisiana based bands such as Amanda Shaw, Revivalists, Pine Leaf Boys, and Yvette Landry, and I will close this blog post below with Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue singing "You are my Sunshine" at Chickie Wah Wah's on Canal Street that I never realized had some Louisiana specific verses from co-writer Jimmie Davis who ran for Louisiana governor in 1944, singing it at all of his campaign rallies.  When I was hitch-hiking Japan in 1977, one of my hosts, had me do a sing along with his family, as this at that time was one of the only English language songs they knew, but not the Louisiana lyrics.

For those visiting New Orleans, Gal Holiday is now playing every Sunday night at Chickie Wah Wah with a $10 cover charge.  The club's policy is for the band to collect 100% of what is collected at the door.  This club is an easy streetcar ride up Canal Street from the French Quarter. You can also see my Chickie Wah Wah Gal Holiday flickr pictures here.  So have fun watching to my Gal Holiday videos and looking at these pictures of a very talented singer, and look for her on your next visit to New Orleans, and if we are lucky, she might get booked to again perform in the Los Angeles area.  Until then, you can always purchase and download her music from her website or set up a Gal Holiday Pandora channel.

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