When music hits, you feel no pain
WEST VAIL ” Pat Dolly’s grandmother once told her if you don’t support what you care about, it could disappear.
A New Orleans resident, Dolly is passionate about music, and following her grandmother’s advice, she helps to sustain it by volunteering with the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic.
“I personally have a hard time stopping this busy brain of mine,” Dolly said. “Music is the only thing I’ve found that joyfully overrides that busy brain.”
Founded by Bethany and Johann Bultman eight years ago, the NOMC is a nonprofit that provides low-cost health care to local musicians and their families. In exchange for a $25 co-payment, patients receive a full physical, lab tests and referrals for additional care.
But with the dilapidating aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina still pulling down on New Orleans, NOMC has shifted its focus a bit to try and attract musicians back to the city. It’s the organization’s philosophy that in order to revitalize New Orleans, you have to bring back the musicians. Affordable health care is one less obstacle for the players, but NOMC is branching out its efforts, hooking up musicians with gigs.
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“There are people who want to come home, but can’t not knowing what clubs are open, or if they could make any money,” Dolly said. “We pay the musicians $100 a gig to help get their own gigs going.”
Dolly said she specifically targets new venues, like restaurants and hotels that normally don’t feature music, to host the players. It boosts the venue’s business, she said, so when the grant money does run out that new venue might be a place that can hire the musician full time.
“We’re building new relationships,” said Dolly. “Someone running a restaurant that’s not necessarily a music venue might not know the musicians.”
NOMC is paying musicians to play at the soup kitchens, specifically the one in St. Bernard Parish, an area hit the hardest by Katrina. The kitchen is still serving about 600 lunches and 300 dinners every day to poor and middle-class people. These community members have either lost their home, are trying to salvage a severely damaged house or are waiting for city services, like a trailer, so they can move from their tents into something a little more stable.
“These are the people too exhausted to go out and hear music, but music is what they need to hear most,” Dolly said. “We had the Treme Brass Band play last Monday for lunch. Everybody was dancing around with their white handkerchiefs. It gives them a chance to leap up and do something fun before getting back in the muck and mire.”
Bagali’s Italian Kitchen and Sandbar Sports Grill are joining forces to throw a West Vail Fat Tuesday celebration. The $20 ticket includes admission into both bars and a souvenir cup filled with New Orleans’ famous hurricane elixir. Ticket proceeds benefit the NOMC, specifically the program placing musicians into soup kitchens.
“It not only gives the musicians work, but music helps people out in bad times,” said Stu Bucy, who owns Bagali’s with his brother, Scott. The Bucys hail from Louisiana.
Kenny La Grange, a New Orleans refugee who lost his home and is now working at Bagali’s, will be cooking up some “mean” turkey gumbo and serving it free to revelers, while supplies last.
Party starts around 10 p.m., and trumpeter Carlos Washington, members of local funk band Flux5 and jazz player Tony Gulizia and his brother will all play for the night. There will be three sets of music, and for the last part of the show, all the musicians will converge on stage.
Local funksters Little Hercules will play at the Sandbar for its half of the West Vail party. Sporting new drummer Brian Loftus of Santa Cruz, Calif., Little Hercules is gearing up for its tour to New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at the end of April, where the group will perform after-hours at the Maple Leaf, among other clubs.
“It’s important to get down there and start feeding that economy,” said Cristian Basso, Little Hercules bass player. “The media bombards you as disaster occurs, but as soon as they wear you out with information, people outside of the disaster seem to think everything is actually OK, the worst is over. But in a lot of cases, it’s not really true at all.”
Basso said Little Hercules has made a lot of musician-friends who live and work in New Orleans. He said the spirit is still there, and artists know that the city needs music to prop it back to its feet.
“They are not going to let this (hurricane devastation) stop them in what they believe in and what they do for a living,” Basso said. “It gave me a lot of faith.”
Little Hercules continues to advance its career, currently recording a new album to bring on tour.
“We really wanted to make a CD that had a live vibe to it,” Basso said. “We’re recording it a little differently, in the studio, but we are recording all the rhythm tracks live. It’s something people will appreciate from a radio standpoint as well as a funk standpoint.”
Basso said Little Hercules plans on playing its new music Tuesday, along with favorite material from Crescent City greats, in honor of Fat Tuesday. He even alluded to a parade between Bagali’s and Sandbar, and with it, a potential jam ” New Orleans style ” with all the musicians involved.
February’s last hurrah
WHAT: West Vail’s Fat Tuesday Party
WHEN: 10 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Bagali’s and Sandbar in West Vail
COST: $20 ticket includes admission into both bars, souvenir cup filled with a hurricane. Proceeds benefit the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic.
INFORMATION: Carlos Washington, Flux5 and Tony Gulizia play at Bagali’s, while Little Hercules plays at the Sandbar. Costumes encouraged.
Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14640, or firstname.lastname@example.org.