Food and music are so intertwined here they are almost one in the way they command your psyche. They are as integral to New Orleans life as air and water.
So when I had the chance to have lunch with some of New Orleans most talented musicians as they recorded at Piety Street Studios, I leapt at the chance.
Many of the local Threadheads had been providing lunch for the performers, producers and crew recording the soundtrack to “Nine Lives,” the musical adaptation of Dan Baum’s novel. I was in town on Monday, Nov. 8th and, hearing there was no one available that day, I volunteered. It was going to be a little tough as I had no car, but was sure that Karma would provide and if not, there was always United Cab.
As I had anticipated, fellow Threadheads came through with Karma in spades. Upon hearing about my plans, Denise E who was in town from Pennsylvania came on board as my chauffeur. Then, on the Saturday before at the Mirliton Fest (held just across the street from the studio), Jada and Jerry Moran told me about Frady’s, a neighborhood food store right across the street.
Twenty minutes later, Kirk Frady agreed to prepare lunch for 10 to be picked up on Monday. Now, I should have known asking for 10 lunches from a Bywater grocer was going to result in food for twenty, but if you hang around music folks like we do, you know that still might not be enough.
On that Monday, we certainly got everyone’s attention as we paraded into studio’s kitchen with our groceries, especially Oliver, the studio “guard” dog. Paul Sanchez was there and the angelic chorus of Debbie Davis, Arséne DeLay and Tara Brewer were seated at the table working on an arrangement with Matt Perrine and Coleman DeKay. (Coleman and Paul are writing the theatrical adaptation and music for “Nine Lives,” my prediction for the 2012 Best Musical Tony Award.)
Paul and Coleman, after thanking us for coming, headed back into the studio to record a track with Vatican Lokey, a friend of Debbie’s who, according to all who heard him, has a mind blowing voice. Paul came out of the control room saying something like, “Incredible, I have to find somewhere else to use him.”
Meanwhile the ladies had commenced to chow down. One thing about musicians and singers, they ain’t shy around a buffet table. And Frady’s had made this a mega Bywater lunch hour.
There were “go boxes” crammed full of red beans and rice (remember, it was Monday) and an assortment of sides: turnip greens, cabbage, carrots, green beans, fresh fruit and berries salad.
In addition, Kirk had made a selection of over stuffed po’boys that were cut in thirds instead of half to make them easier to handle. Gravy-drenched, five-napkin roast beef; well-dressed turkey and cheese, meat ball (never had mayo on a meat ball before), hot links and more… and let’s not forget the lagniappes of smoked sausage, fried chicken and a couple pork chops.
We also picked up some OJ to go with Denise’s vodka and some Bloody Mary mix and ice, just in case. Yeah, you right! A little cocktail helps the psyche, too, don’t you know.
The feast also drew the attention of the Piety staff, whom we were also more than glad to feed. Being a former roadie, I can testify first hand that a fed crew is a happy crew.
After the chow down and getting to know some of these folks a bit first hand, Paul invited us into the control room as the ladies adjourned to studio with Matt.
They were getting ready to record the backing vocals and Arséne DeLay’s part for a duet. The song revolves around an Uptown girl bringing home her boyfriend home for the first time. Only he doesn’t realize just how extremely wealthy she and her family are as they pull up to the Rex mansion.
I have to admit to not reading the whole book as of yet. But I did buy a copy at Beckman’s on St. Peter before leaving town.
Anyway, Arséne’s voice is that of an angel or a siren. She can take you to heaven or have you crash against the rocks, either way you will be smiling ear to ear. Blended with Debbie and Tara’s in Matt’s arrangement of the chorus, I was almost moved to tears.
Knowing that in some small way I have and will continue to contribute to this production and other Threadhead Record projects is a great feeling. (Shameless plug) Debbie is the latest solo artist to join Threadheads.
New Orleans, its music, food and magic, will always have a place in my psyche.
Yeah, you right!!
Steve Moran, aka LBIFester