New Orleans' Ponderosa Stomp: A Photo Diary
Maybe it's age or my ever-increasing tailspin of stagnating taste, but I just don't find music festivals palatable in the slightest these days. Multi-day romps to summertime smorgasboards is for the birds. No matter if it takes place in Chicago or Austin, it's always hotter than Hades, the sound tends to be questionable and the mixture of mammoth crowds and massive stages leaves the user with a less than personal experience.
Photos by Brett Koshkin New Orleans' Ponderosa Festival thrives on 45s.
Then there's New Orleans' Ponderosa Stomp. Instead of concentrating on booking tomorrow's It bands, the petite, two-day nonprofit festival concentrates on highlighting artists whose contributions to music generally can't be heard on your FM dial. That's because for most of the performers' musical contributions and heydays happened some 40-odd years ago.
Now 10 years old, the Stomp has hosted everything from psychedelic warriors like Roky Erickson to the rockabilly stylings of Duane Eddy to this year's Stax Records Review, which featured Eddie Floyd and William Bell (amongst others).
The food isn't bad either.
The festival is a celebration of sometimes overlooked and many all-too forgotten artists, the session musicians and sidemen who all too often, sadly, have failed to get their due.
Some of this year's Ponderosa performers wrote songs later recorded by others who turned them into million-selling chart-toppers: Sir Mack Rice's "Mustang Sally" or Beaumont native Barbara Lynn's "Oh Baby (We Got a Good Thing Goin')," which was covered by the Rolling Stones.
On the contrary, this past weekend's festivities at downtown nightclub Howlin' Wolf were nothing but smiles and celebration.
Sporting a white-and-gold sequined suit, the prodigal son of New Orleans was in fine form for a tribute to J&M recording studio owner, Cosimo Matassa. The man spent his evening behind a baby grand piano and tickled all 88 keys just to prove he was as sharp as he's ever been. Renditions of Toussaint-penned or -produced songs filled the evening with covers of Lee Dorsey's "Yes We Can" and "Get Out My Life Woman," which may be one of the most covered songs to ever come out of Orleans Parish.
Octogenarian Parker joined Toussaint onstage for just one solitary song, his lone hit for the Nola label, "Barefootin." Parker's hip new dance never quite swept the nation, possibly due to the perils of dancing sans shoes. While the dance never found popularity, the song sure did and went on to sell plenty of copies in 1966. Parker inspired the entire Howlin' Wolf audience to shake and shimmy.