By night, Ron Rona paints his face white with a black square over one eye and assaults well-meaning concertgoers with sirens and high-powered flashlights. As the shady clown Ronnie Numbers of the New Orleans Bingo! Show, he's hosted the bizarre interactive theatrical cabaret that is Bingo! for several years, dressing in black and red to holler his ballyhoo to the crowds and lead the bingo games that punctuate the music, theater and film that comprise the experience. By day, he's not sure what he is. 'Hey, what's my job title here?" he shouts, bemused, into the offices of Preservation Hall.
'Grand high poobah, and master of all that he surveys?" comes the answer.
'Okay, I like that," he replies.
As part of a growing partnership forged between Bingo! songwriting mastermind Clint Maedgen " also a member of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band " and Ben Jaffe, the Hall's artistic director, Bingo!'s circus of performers has traveled the world over the past few years, adding its unique touch of downtown New Orleans mayhem to the trad-jazz revivalists to create a show that approximates the vaudeville spirit of the music's originators. After a successful weekend in 2006, when Preservation Hall booked its own tent on the Voodoo grounds, the collaborators have branched out to add the Bingo! Parlour " a stage, booked by Rona and friends, that will feature the oddities of bohemian New Orleans " including bands, aerialists and burlesque.
Like the NOOMOON Stage " the locally booked area that's been part of Voodoo from the beginning " and last year's Preservation Hall tent, the Bingo! Parlour's reins have been handed over to Rona with full discretion to fill the stage with whatever he sees fit " a leap of faith on the festival's part that shows a genuine interest in the bohemian underbelly of New Orleans. Underground legends and local stalwarts like Quintron and Miss Pussycat, the Happy Talk Band and the Morning 40 Federation are appearing beneath the Bingo! top, but so are too-weird-for-prime-time acts like experimental guitarist (and sometime Gambit Weekly contributor) Michael Patrick Welch, the White Bitch and clown singer Marygoround. Voodoo's bookers also funneled acts they thought would be appropriate over to Rona, like Austin's dance/punk duo Ghostland Observatory and the all-girl tribute band Lez Zeppelin. Call it the sideshow tent of Voodoo's carnival.
The Bingo! Parlour is a step in a cautiously progressive plan to take the full theatrical incarnation of Bingo! on the road, not just as a band, but as a complete experience one which it tested successfully during a three-day residency at the 2006 Bonnaroo festival sharing a tent with the Preservation Hall band and outré performers like the Bindlestiff Family Circus, which combines punk-rock flair with vintage freak-show chops like tattooed sword-swallowers.
Bingo! Parlour Previews
The New Orleans Bingo! Show
This rock 'n' roll cabaret has come a long way since its early days hosting a weekly gig in the back of Fiorella's restaurant on Decatur Street. Structured around frontman Clint Maedgen's evocative, starry-eyed ballads of downtown bohemia, the sinister clowns of Bingo's black-and-red-clad cast throw down with a full-on multimedia spectacle, including found-object percussion, sirens, spotlights, theremin solos, homemade movies and aggressive audience interaction.
Mr. Quintron and Miss Pussycat
Ninth Ward mad scientist Mr. Quintron and his blonde puppeteer companion Miss Pussycat are internationally renowned for shack-shaking underground house parties driven by his swirling organ and her clattering maracas and vocals " not to mention the Drum Buddy, a light-activated oscillating drum machine that provides the backbeat for the duo's maddeningly danceable soundscapes. Their latest effort is the relentlessly upbeat Jamskate, a whirlpool of vertiginous melodies and hyperactive beats that's perfectly evocative of P and Q's analog-meets-digital aesthetic.
Morning 40 Federation
The boozy, bluesy, brassy barroom assault of the Morning 40 Federation is the sonic equivalent of a shot of Jameso with a High Life back. Mixing rock, funk and trademark sloppy brass with cultivated hedonism, the 40s encapsulate all the dirty deliciousness of a bleary night out in the Quarter. Having recently finished recording an EP with the potty-mouthed godfather of R&B sleaze, Detroit's Andre Williams, the band appears both solo and with the Motor City madman himself as the New Orleans Hellhounds, along with members of Bingo! and Liquidrone.
Liquidrone is a project of the New Orleans Bingo! Show's Clint Maedgen that shares several band members but diverges from the more theatrical Bingo! Show. Maedgen and company travel ever farther into the experimental corners of the sonic universe. Pots-and-pans percussion and grinding space-jazz share space with spare and lovely ambient pop.
Combining covered, original and rewritten indigenous folk music from all corners of the globe with a high-octane attitude, the Zydepunks create a furious hybrid of multilingual world music and gutter-gypsy bohemianism into a stomping, sweaty frenzy. The group leads with accordion and fiddle to blend the indigenous sounds of Scots-Irish, Cajun, zydeco, Breton, Eastern European and Latin American cultures into a whip-smart pastiche of tradition and innovation that's as punk rock as it gets.
Happy Talk Band
Long considered the poet laureate of downtown New Orleans barflies, Happy Talk Band frontman Luke Allen weaves bittersweet folk-rock narratives that describe death, addiction, lust, love and sadness below Canal Street with understated, whiskey-damp grace. The instrumentation has been known to shift from a brash, hard-rock assault with multiple guitars, keyboards and electric bass to a quieter show featuring cello, stand-up bass and pedal steel.
Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship? (NOOMOON Stage)
This sprawling, brassy ensemble is comprised of almost equal parts musicianship and enthusiasm. Corralling at least nine members at any given time, ringleader and songwriter Walt McClements crafts dark, haunting melodies that draw on European carnival, musette and jazz funeral sounds joyfully enacted by accordion, French horn, euphonium, drums and a cavalcade of brass. Dr. John
The sly mojo man Dr. John seems to have as many lives as a cat. From a jive-talking, street-smart kid playing R&B guitar on sessions in Cosimo Matassa's legendary J&M Studios in the '50s, he evolved into the code-talking, gris-gris-laden, psychedelic piano man called the Night Tripper, and rumor has it, he got a Muppet design (Dr. Teeth of the Electric Mayhem) based on him somewhere in between. After four decades, the good doctor, aka Mac Rebennack, is still doing that hoodoo and keeping the faith.
Deacon John's R&B Revue (Preservation Hall Tent)
Bandleader Deacon John Moore has been pleasing crowds for more than 50 years with the squeaky-clean bounce of his jump blues band. He'll be holding down the fort at the Preservation Hall Tent for a special set backing up a number of local R&B luminaries, including Al 'Carnival Time" Johnson, whose elegiac 'Lower Ninth Ward Blues" single was the most heartwrenching song to emerge out of the post-Katrina floodwaters. Legendary bandleader and arranger Wardell 'The Creole Beethoven" Quezergue the studio force behind Jean Knight's 'Mr. Big Stuff" and King Floyd's 'Groove Me" " will also perform.
Mighty Clouds of Joy
After 35 albums in an astounding 44 years together, the venerable Mighty Clouds of Joy are as rambunctious and uplifting onstage as when they first started making joyful noise unto the Lord together. The quintet shouts out praise music with an energy level rock 'n' roll outfits half their age would envy. The Clouds combine traditional gospel with just enough funk and R&B influences to shake the body as well as the spirit. The group has garnered Billboard top 10 hits and shared stages with secular legends from the Rolling Stones to James Brown.
Founded by Mattvaughan Black on Lundi Gras 2005 as 'more an experiment in people, sound and rhythm than a musical project," the seven-member Noisician Coalition has grown to include up to 50 performers dressed in a Mad Max-meets-European-circus black leather and face paint. Black created all the modified bullhorns and synths, and the band also uses an electrified washboard, found-object percussive instruments and other oddities. A 30-member version of Noisicians will perform at the Bingo! Parlour and parade through the grounds. " Michael Patrick Welch
Stripping, Soaring and Setting Stuff On Fire
Besides music from the most exotic and extreme corners of New Orleans' underground, the locally booked Bingo! Parlour and NOOMOON stages also present performances both on stage and high above. Fleur de Tease's ladies of burlesque, led by the inimitably blonde Trixie Minx, strip and strut at the Bingo! Parlour. On the NOOMOON stage, the hypnotic sirens of Serene Serpentina perform their whirling tribal fire show and belly dance after the sun goes down. With the greatest of ease, the women of Aurora Aerial soar above the Parlour with death-defying trapeze antics and alluring aerial silk acts that are just as magical as anything Cirque du Soleil has on offer, but less Canadian.
- Shannon Brinkman
- The New Orleans Bingo! Show is at the epicenter of a Voodoo venue showcasing New Orleans' unique bands and performers.