Too many good bands out there rely on a lighting guy to make their show interesting," says Dirty Johnny, drummer for Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes. "We don't have a light guy, so it's all on us." Famous for energetic shows, distinctive facial hair and the hit song from the group's record Ya Heard Me, Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes will be all over the music scene during Jazz Fest, from the Fair Grounds to Cafe Brasil to the Maple Leaf to Rosy's.
A Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes' show is a dazzling spectacle, with dancers from the audience, sing-a-longs, over-the-top, gonzo, go-for-broke ensemble playing and screaming solos. "There are so many funk bands in New Orleans," continues Dirty Johnny, "we want to put a little dose of rock in there too." Between tours around the country, the band has been recording a new record in the woods of Covington. "It's in the home stretch now. Hopefully it will be out in the fall. We've worked up a new set of material for the live show from this. And (lead singer/guitarist) Johnny Sketch is playing electric cello on the gigs now. He's got a stand so he can play solos on it."
Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes formed while many of the members were at the Loyola School of Music. When asked how it is for trained classical musicians to play this hybrid of rock and funk, Dirty Johnny thinks for a moment and says, "It's like the difference between Rick James and Michael Jackson. Rick James is not fancy. It's cut to the chase. Michael Jackson had super producer Quincy Jones with these super horn charts. Rock and funk are simple forms, but we're trying to incorporate the Quincy Jones kind of thing with it. You can still do really out, cutting-edge, hip s*** over simple forms."
The live set can be full of surprises. "I don't want to give too much away," says Dirty Johnny, "but we'll have some type of matching uniform for the festival. And my mohawk will be standing up high. I may even dye it blue." Johnny Sketch & the Dirty Notes: 12:45 p.m. Friday, May 4, Gentilly Stage