If Gambit Weekly were to crown a musical prom king and queen for New Orleans in 2008, they would be Lil Wayne and Theresa Andersson.
This year, everyone's favorite 5-foot-6-inch rapper laid claim to the mantles of Tupac, Biggie and Jay-Z and somehow backed it up, finally releasing a studio album to match his revered mix tapes — June's multi-platinum Tha Carter III — and headlining the Voodoo Music Experience alongside R.E.M. (Not to mention gracing the cover of Gambit for the first time. Mr. Weezy F. Baby, you have officially made it.)
Andersson, meanwhile, shook off her ill-fitting roots-rock trappings with Hummingbird, Go!, an alluring collection of melody-rich compositions that successfully recast the Swedish songstress as an indie-pop seraph. As evidence, the barefoot artist self-recorded a bootleg video for album highlight "Na Na Na" in her kitchen and hundreds of thousands of YouTubers tuned in — numbers typically reserved for presidential shoe-dodging and overly dramatic chipmunks.
But all this merely scratches the surface of Crescent City music happenings in the past 12 months. We also couldn't help noticing:
It Was the Year of Bounce
And not just because of Lil Wayne's banner year. Everyone from sissy rappers to Gretnese comedians espoused the virtues of the New Orleans-born hip-hop subgenre in Gambit's pages. Sissy Nobby and Katey Red gave bounce a healthy dose of high-heeled glamour, and Ballzack and Odoms lent it a much-needed injection of humor — and, well, puppetry. On the bigger stage, the message was clear: Bounce is here and it's queer.
From Kid-Rock ...
Either New Orleans Arena audiences are getting younger or we're getting older — fast. The cumulative crowd age at two of the biggest shows of the year — Hannah Montana at the New Orleans Arena in January and the Wiggles at the recently reopened UNO Lakefront Arena in July — might have come in under those of the relatively sparse reunions of '80s relics REO Speedwagon on Fulton Street and Chicago at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Other underage extravaganzas included "High School Musical — The Ice Tour," "Sesame Street Live" and "Playhouse Disney Live!" Milk toast, anyone?
... to Kid Rock
His 2007 song "New Orleans" might have been "a rare, soul-fed instrumental jambalaya" (so said Amazon.com), but 2008 was the year Robert James Ritchie — aka Kid Rock — fell hard for the Crescent City. First he rolled into town with Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird"-flinging bodies in tow for a tour-launching New Orleans Arena show in August. Then, on an SDT commercial, he proclaimed it "one of the cleanest (cities) I've ever been to." Turns out he's sticking around for Endymion. Prediction: In three years, Kid Rock will have a shotgun in the Bywater and a regular Thursday gig at d.b.a. You heard it here first.
Love In These Clubs
For Republic New Orleans, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The South Peters Street venue began the year floundering, scuttling a lone January show (Brooklyn's Fiery Furnaces) that had been scheduled for weeks ... due to a Mardi Gras parade that is an annual event. But it finished with a flourish, booking regular concerts from summertime on that included Andersson's CD-release party and notable touring acts such as Athens' Whigs, Austin's Okkervil River, New York City's Walkmen and Omaha's Conor Oberst. Elsewhere, the House of Blues seemed quieter than in years past (particularly at the Parish, which set records for 6 p.m. mall-punk gigs); One Eyed Jacks rocked steady, hosting several of 2008's most underrated shows (including a rare Silver Jews stop and a ravishing first visit by Scotland's Frightened Rabbit, who played to a dozen people in June); Tipitina's continued to mingle area stalwarts with national stars (December's Sweet Home New Orleans benefit featured members of Public Enemy, Los Lobos, Bonerama and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah); and the Howlin' Wolf had a particularly strong fall (packed houses for neo-folkies Fleet Foxes and glam-rockers Of Montreal). Smaller venues hosted significant names, too, including the Dragon's Den (Titus Andronicus, Ponytail), Saturn Bar (Jana Hunter, Dark Meat) and Circle Bar (Low Lows, Jason Isbell).
Which Fest Was Best?
This was the year the Voodoo Music Experience significantly closed the gap on the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for the title of New Orleans' preeminent music festival. Though depth-wise, the Fair Grounds fiesta maintained a healthy lead, the headliner footrace was a rout for Stephen Rehage and Co.: Voodoo's R.E.M., Lil Wayne and TV On the Radio handily defeated Jazz Fest's Billy Joel, Jimmy Buffett and Santana, each winded and well past their born-on date. (In fact, with Kanye West, Mary J. Blige and Rihanna anchoring July's Essence Festival lineup, Quint Davis' heavies actually placed third in 2008.) But Voodoo had its own growing pains. VIP customers that paid up to three times the general admission price complained of a lack of promised services, including grandstand seating, private restrooms and expanded menus. Tellingly, perhaps the wildest booking during Jazz Fest took place in a Faubourg Marigny warehouse: a daft, on-the-down-low super bill at 619 Frenchmen St. featuring M.I.A., ?uestlove, Holy F***, the New Orleans Bingo! Show, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and DJ Soul Sister. Rumor had it even actor John C. Reilly himself was there.